I recall a visit to Carthage three summers ago in which a gal at the Straw Bale Museum talked about recruiting retirees to move to town as a major economic development strategy.
She was barking up the right tree: a new report from Money-Rates.com ranks South Dakota as the third best state in the nation for retirement. Based on life expectancy, crime rate, economic factors, and even climate, the only states found more appealing for retirees than South Dakota are New Hampshire and Hawaii. (Getting mentioned in the same sentence as Hawaii is almost always good... unless we're talking about new volcanoes.)
North Dakota is fourth on this list: North Dakotans pay more in taxes and living expenses, but they also live longer and currently have less unemployment. The report gives us a slight nod thanks to being a little warmer... but if you retire here, you'll still need to hire some strapping young lad to shovel your driveway out in the winter.
Iowa is the only other neighbor in the top ten, ranking fifth. Money-Rates.com doesn't make a full-50 list available, but given that none of our neighbors make the worst ten list, we South Dakotans appear to live in a pretty good neighborhood for retirement.
According to this report, Nevada is the worst place to retire. Vegas-land has the second lowest state and local tax burden in the nation (6.6%, compared to South Dakota's 7.9% and North Dakota's 9.2%), but the state has high crime, high unemployment, and below-average life-expectancy. Still, do you need to live longer when you can see Rod Stewart right now?
So add that to the economic development website, Carthage, and all you other South Dakota towns looking to boost your local housing market. Lots of old folks want peaceful small towns that are easy to get around in. They'll also create jobs, as they'll hire out more services, like snow-shoveling and RV repair. Build those straw bale spec houses, Carthage, and tell those retirees you are the new Florida!
Update 2010.11.11: Mike Knutson at Reimagine Rural picks up the question of recruiting retirees for economic development. He notes that lists are good fun, but getting readers of those lists to up and move to South Dakota still takes a lot of good salesmanship and local work.
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