Rural is cool: cool adjective: cool * er, cool * est slang: a. excellent; first-rate.

Author:Brown, Rachel
 
FREE EXCERPT

In 1981, country singer Barbara Mandrell released her Billboard-topping song, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool." If country has been cool in the three decades since, that's something Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wants to highlight. Late last year, he spoke at a farm forum and proclaimed that rural America is "becoming less and less relevant." One of the reasons he cited for this grim assessment was the fact that in the past four years, 50% of the nation's rural counties have seen population decreases.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But rural experts today--ranging from policy wonks and demographers to rural outsourcing consultants and executives--argue that rural America is not only relevant, it's cool. They don't dispute the numbers coming out of the Census Bureau, but they are quick to point out that it is literally only half the story.

Looking out over the entire rural landscape (encompassing 75% of the United States), one sees a tremendous amount of room for hope and optimism on numerous fronts that make rural America a great place to work, live and play.

Working in Rural America

While it's true that many young people are leaving farming and mining towns, many businesses and corporations are coming to town because they've discovered that outsourcing their work to foreign countries like India or China is more costly and logistically difficult than they originally envisioned.

The phenomenon of relocating to rural America is sometimes termed "rural sourcing," "inshoring" or "onshoring," but whatever it's called, it holds great potential for rural areas and the country in general.

Monty Hamilton--chief executive officer of Rural Sourcing Inc. (RSI), a domestic IT sourcing company--agreed that there are many reasons why rural America holds a competitive advantage over foreign countries, adding that rising salaries and turnover rates have made foreign employees much less desirable. "In recent years, salaries in India have gone up 15% to 20% annually" he explained. "Also, the turnover rate is tremendous because individuals do not have a commitment to any one company. A high turnover rate lowers productivity."

Collaborative Consulting, an IT consulting services firm, found that some companies with overseas operations see employee turnover rates as high as 40% a year. In a recent report, the firm stated that the cost of offshore and onshore resources will equalize around 2015 on a dollars per hour basis for some locations in the United States. "This does not take into account the true cost of offshoring with all of its challenges," the report said.

RSI is already feeling the results of this onshoring trend, Hamilton said. "In the last year or so, 30% to 40% of our new clients have been bringing work back to this country that had been offshore," he said.

For workers coming from an urban area to a rural area, Hamilton said they are often pleasantly surprised by the benefits of rural life. "They...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP