The article cites lots of reasons, like the cold and lack of jobs. But the biggest reason may be cultural:
...the family also found a cliquey community that treated them like outsiders. "For my wife, it's been a culture shock," he said.
Rural communities across the Great Plains, fighting a decades-long population decline, are trying a variety of ways to attract outsiders. But the Tristanis show how the efforts can fail even at a time when many people are desperate.
"It's been quite an experience, 50-50 at best," Tristani said. "It hasn't been easy. No one really wants new people here" [James MacPherson, "Florida Family Gives up on Small-Town North Dakota," AP via Yahoo News, 2010.02.15].
"Not everybody fits in a small town," says Tom Weiser, a Hazelton resident who helped develop the free-land economic development project. Unfortunately, that's the conclusion reached by every one of the hundreds of people he says inquired about the town's giveaway incentives.
Perhaps it is comforting to say some folks just aren't a good fit for a community. But small towns can't afford to be picky. Saying some people don't fit in our small rural communities assumes that there is a way our communities should be and that it is more important to preserve the status quo than to let our communities evolve to make a place for the new people we need to survive and grow.
Miami blogger Kyle Munzenrieder takes a harder hit at small-town culture. I won't go as far as he and pick Miami over the prairie... but he and I might agree that expecting new people to come rejuvenate your small town but not create any change is an contradictory recipe for failure.
Growth is change. You've got to want. From the sounds of it, Hazelton didn't really want it. Does your small town? How ready is your town—Madison, Howard, Flandreau, etc.—to embrace not just new homes and businesses and members of the tax rolls but new ideas and new lifestyles?