As the Madison City Commission prepares to make its case to the public for building a bike trail to Lake Herman, the commissioners might want to keep a copy of this blog post on outdoor amenities in their back pockets. Mike Knutson at Reimagine Rural summarizes a USDA/U. Tennessee study on "The Rural Growth Trifecta: Outdoor Amenities, Creative Class and Entrepreneurial Context." Say Knutson and the professors:
- More people are looking to move out of urban areas (in other words, there are more fish coming! Cast your line, rural economic developers!)
- Rural towns with outdoor amenities draw more creative folks, see more entrepreneurial action, and generate more jobs.
- Rural towns lacking outdoor amenities tend to draw more folks who fill factory jobs but fewer folks who create new jobs.
Of course, manmade features like recreation trails would only make up a tiny portion of outdoor amenities. The study measures outdoor amenities by the following characteristics:
- January sunshine
- January temperature
- July humidity
- July temperature
- topographic variation (hills! vistas!)
- water area (Lake Herman!)
- mix of forest and open space (plant more trees... but not too many! the optimal forestation amount on this scale appears to be between 41% and 64%)
- tourism (visitors and residents are attracted by similar features)
Source: David McGranahan, Timothy Wojan and Dayton Lambert, “The rural growth trifecta: outdoor amenities, creative class and entrepreneurial context,” Journal of Economic Geography Advanced Access, May 17, 2010.
Uff da. With everywhere but the Black Hills and the Badlands falling into the bottom quarter of the outdoor amenity scale, most of South Dakota has a hard row to hoe in selling itself to the migratory creative class. I would suggest that we need to make the most of what watery, woody, hilly places we have. In other words, run some trails out to the Vermillion Hills, keep Lake Madison as clean and accessible as possible, and for Pete's sake, don't chop down those shelterbelts!
Also worth noting in the study:
- The third and fourth sentences: "Traditional strategies of promoting exogenous growth through the recruitment of employers are now much less effective. Routine and lowskill functions are increasingly outsourced to low-wage countries." As LAIC director Dwaine Chapel comes asking the city commission tonight (and county commission tomorrow) for our tax dollars, perhaps someone ought to discuss a shift from the failing strategy of recruiting those big outside employers.
- The lit review notes that folks in small firms tend to move into self-employment more often than folks in large firms. Now there is some self-selection involved—entrepreneurial types gravitate toward small firms in the first place. But recruit and/or seed 40 little firms that employ ten people each, and you lay the groundwork for more independent entrepreneurship than if you recruit one big firm that employs 400 people. (This sounds so familiar!)