Thursday, September 27, 2007

Drawing Knowledge Workers to Rural BC

The technology exists now so that it is possible for someone to live almost anywhere and be a knowledge worker. Given this state of affairs, what is it that rural communities in BC can do to attract these people?

The starting point has to be showing people what the small town advantages are:
  • Lower housing costs
  • Safer feeling community
  • Better outdoor rec
  • Closer connection to the natural world
  • Feeling of community
  • Less pollution

All in all, there is a lot these communities have going for them. What they do not have are the amenities of the big city.
  • Movie theatres
  • High end foods
  • Good restaurants
  • Live music
  • Cultural institutions
  • Universities
  • Sports facilities
  • Better shopping

There are many things you can not get in a rural community, but as I look at the list above I can see that the amount of time I use any of them is actually very limited. I would love to spend more time in high end restaurants, but that costs a lot of money and being in Victoria the selection is not that good to start with. I have seen very little live music.

So the allure of the urban amenities are things that most people with children simply do not make a lot of use of.

As to the shopping, from a rural community in BC it is not that long a trip to get to an urban centre to shop there.

But how do you sell these advantages?

I have thought that various small towns should do innovative marketing campaigns to make people aware of them. One idea I had was to have a pickup load of fresh new apples driven down from the Fraser Canyon and then given away at the SeaBus terminal to the various commuters coming into Vancouver. You had out the apples and some info on inexpensive real estate and the wonders of a place like Lytton or Lillooet. You have the mayors there to hand out the apples. Get people to notice the town, get them to build up an image of Arcadia in their minds. Sell the dreams people have of getting out of the urban rat race. You can also sell people on the dream of financial freedom.

The biggest single debt anyone will have is their house. Buying one in Victoria will set you back around $500 000. Buying a house in a small town will run you about 1/3 that price for more house. You can pay out the house in rural BC in 10 years and be living debt free. You can afford a lot more to do in your life once you no longer have to pay for housing.

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