Communities all over the United States are disappearing Smaller towns are struggling to keep their population as the economy shudders.

Upkeep: Sustaining the quality of something. In the context of this paper, it would apply to towns that can't afford to provide upkeep for their public services.

Revenue: The Income of a company or an organization. Some towns can't bring this in, which causes community degradation.

Devoid: Completely lacking in every sense of the word. Degrading towns don't have somethings like hospitals or schools.

Standout: Exceptionally good, Excellent. Towns like Clunes turn their town in a unique destination based around books bring back quality to their decaying town in the process

Stagnation: Lack of growth or development. This is what community degradation is all about.

Tertiary: Third in a order of something. The third sector of the first world economy has overtaken the primary sector big time.

What happens to communities that stop growing?

Community degradation is when towns or counties have stunted growth, and an overall decline in local government development. Counties in West Virginia are a recent example of declining population. For instance, "Kanawha County lost nearly 1,200 residents last year, the most in the state, but remains the largest county by a wide margin" (Gutman). There are two forms of decrease in population, natural decrease and migrational decrease; West Virginian counties are deteriorating both ways. Additionally, some of the effects of community degradation can be seen in towns like Fossil, Oregon, where there, ”used to be four gas stations, three grocery stores, three car dealers, and a lumber mill. Now, there’s just one restaurant in town open at night” (Semuels). The local government couldn't even afford to pay for the upkeep of the school building, so children have to travel further away from home to get their education. The businesses couldn’t bring in enough revenue from the emptying town, so they had to close their buildings. Community degradation is a serious issue that has to be addressed by more people in order to know why its happening.

What are the major factors that cause community degradation?

Two of the biggest reasons why towns degrade are because of economic depression and a town's location based on the land’s geography and resources. Christiadi, an economist and demographer for the University of West Virginia, has given insight on West Virginia's declining economy stating, "one of the reasons is the coal production is declining, coal demand is declining.” West Virginia's economy relies on the primary sector for revenue, which focuses on the collection of natural resources, and it is the most downturned sector in the United States. Other countries are producing those natural resources, and the United States has already moved on to the tertiary sector of the economy. This leaves all of these resource rich towns without jobs, which in turn encourages people to leave their homes. It's not just West Virginia that’s losing a lot of people; other inland areas in the United States aren’t doing well either because of the disadvantage of living in areas with little access to population centers. Nebraska is undergoing a huge loss of population in, "the southern tier of counties from the Missouri River to the Colorado border are uniformly losing population" (Lincoln Journal Star). Most of the population of the world lies on the coasts of their respective countries. Coastal cities have much better trade opportunities because of easy transportation, and most jobs are located in these areas. The only exception being capital cities. If a town exists in areas devoid of these properties, then they would look less attractive to the majority of people. Because of these downsides, towns have to turn to different ways to bring in people.

Is there a easy solution to this problem, or would the effort be futile?

There are many possibilities to restore these communities, but they are proven to be either near impossible or problematic. The Bangor Daily News editorial board suggests that towns should, "invite and receive refugees directly to their area, if they wished" ("Here’s how small"). This problematic solution implies that bringing in refugees from the Syrian civil war would solve the problem of stagnated growth. However, the people who live in these areas generally don't welcome foreign refugees, because inland counties have people that have distinctly different values than city dwellers. Another possible solution may be to, "redraw legislative and congressional districts [in counties]" ("Census foretells challenges"). This would reduce the amount of counties in a state, but it could provide better state and federal services like police officers or repairing services. Previously, declining counties would have to provide to their citizens through their own funds, but merged counties could share their budget to slightly decrease the strain on funding. Transportation would still be a problem for small towns to and from the county's seat. Overall, this wouldn’t cover all the things needed to fix all these problems. Towns have to rely on their hardworking values to bring people back to their glory days.

Could small communities create unique town projects to bring in growth?

The appeal that most people want in small towns are some kind of unique feature that makes it stand out from the rest. For example, some Iowan towns people decided to buy their town bar, and, "pooled their money to fix it up, showing up after work to replace floors and walls on steamy summer nights" (Mcfetridge). This created a unique landmark for a forgettable town that needed something to standout and bring in new people. If a community can't afford to make such a project, instead, they could push for a annual local event. Clunes, a fairly large town in Australia, revived itself by creating an annual book fair event ("Town Revival"). Events are usually inexpensive to form (in comparison to building projects), and can create volunteer work and jobs for the town. Just like any economy, to succeed, small towns have to create an event like no other around the world to build an interest in peoples' minds.

Could people come in and revitalize these towns?

Building up a business in a area like this depends on what a it’s looking for when setting up shop. Businesses could take advantage of small towns, because, land is very cheap in rural areas due to low growth ("Town Revival"). Having cheap land makes it easier for businesses to expand their outreach. Unfortunately, expansion of consumer buildings is limited due to the lack of them in the most of these areas. The business would have to either build a executive headquarters, or provide a service that the decaying community direly needs. On the other hand, an Oregon town, called Fossil, has trouble attracting a new crowd, because it lacks any unique features. The author of the article The Graying of Rural America, Alana figured that, "There’s a lot of wide-open land there, but most people, and young people especially, live in the cities" (Semuels). There isn't a whole lot of opportunities for younger people to make big salaries in these declining towns. Small towns like Fossil don't have jobs like computer analysts, tertiary services, and so on. Towns like these just have to get super lucky to get any growth at all.

Fossil's Main Street

Gutman, David. "W.Va. losing population faster than any other state." Charleston Gazette-Mail, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. Accessed on 24 Jan. 2017.

"Here’s how small, shrinking towns in Maine could bring in newcomers." The Bangor Daily News, 07 Dec. 2016. Web. Accessed on 25 Jan. 2017.

Mcfetridge, Scott. "Rural residents pool cash to save last bars, gathering sites." Associated Press, 29 Dec. 2016. Accessed on 26 Jan. 2017.

"Census foretells challenges." ProQuest. Lincoln Journal Star Editorial, 2009. Accessed on 27 Jan. 2017.

"Urban planning." Encyclopædia Britannica, 12 May. 2016. Accessed on 30 Jan. 2017.

Town Revival. Perf. Tony Eastly. LANDLINE. ABC, 22 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed on 31 Jan. 2017.

Semuels, Alana. "The Graying of Rural America." Atlantic Media Company, 2 June 2016. Web. Accessed on 10 Feb. 2017.


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