Editor's Viewpoint: It ain't just the South that's rising again


Smaller cities are seeing an influx of businesses and Boomers for many of the same reasons.

Shortly after John Kennedy took office, Americans were introduced to Mayberry, N.C., and its sheriff, Andy Taylor. It was 1960, and the South was being invaded by an army of businesses looking for a low-cost place to set up shop. My hometown, Atlanta, became the epicenter of the boom.

Now, businesses and retirees prompted by a stalled recovery, are beginning a similar invasion, but this time into smaller cities and towns across America. Yes, the last census showed more people are moving into urban areas, but only so many job opportunities are being created by businesses trying to preserve their bottom line.

Small communities have become a haven for retiring Boomers, many of whom are leaving big cities for small towns with lower costs of living, good restaurants and cultural activities. Sooner or later, the Boomer boom will be over, but there will be retirees right behind them looking for the same things, and by that time those smaller communities will have found a new source of income to nourish and maintain.

Now, Wall Street is looking to Main Street for similar types of advantages served up to Boomers. Seeing a way to cut costs, banks and investment firms are moving mid-level jobs, such as trading and accounting, to smaller communities in Utah, Florida and North Carolina. There, $100,000 salaries shrink in half, but the draw to potential employees is a good standard of living.

Businesses keeping jobs in the U.S. instead of offshoring is appropriately called near-shoring. It’s a movement that is likely to accelerate, according to Goldman Sachs, the Boston Consulting Group and a Pepperdine University professor who annually ranks the best cities for employment — all of whom were interviewed for a New York Times story this month. Leading the near-sourcing trend a couple of years ago, one major New York law firm began offering entry-level jobs in smaller cities. Interestingly, although fewer lawyers graduating today are finding jobs quickly, the job market for them is excellent in small towns.

If those trends continue, many smaller cities and towns across America may be in for an unexpected business boom because of the good jobs there. To enhance its already considerable record of attracting jobs, North Carolina sends its secretary of commerce, armed with incentives, to New York City several times a year, meeting with companies that already have sites in North Carolina, as well as new prospects.

Speaking of North Carolina, I applaud how the New York Times announced the death of one of that state’s favorite sons, Andy Griffith. The story credited him as the “Sheriff Who Gave Stature to Small-Town Smarts.” So, congratulations to those smaller cities that finally have been recognized for the smarts they’ve always had and to the businesses and Boomers who see their value. Now, I want to see those communities use those smarts to balance development with the quality of life that brought the development in the first place.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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