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Can Tech Save Small Town America?

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the nice-work-if-you-can-get-it dept.

Businesses 219

theodp writes "Declaring that small town life no longer has to be separate from financial success thanks to technology, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos told North Dakota state officials to take hope in people such as Napster's Shawn Fanning. Interesting remarks, considering that Fanning conceived Napster in small-town Boston and the jobs Amazon's brought to rural areas don't exactly scream financial success."

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still mostly an exception (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526921)

I think ultimately whether a town (small, that is) can be a place to be financially successful depends on:

  • what constitutes a small town
  • what constitutes financial success

Limited anecdotal cases show one can set up shop and make money in small town, USA, but a lot of what drives economies and business requires socially connected communities, typically large (larger than small towns).

People are still social creatures, business products are still tangible, and communities larger than small towns provide optimal management and distribution. I'm not sure this will change much in the forseeable future.

Yes, some people may make their fortune in small towns, but it remains the exception. And some big-money companies may toss a financial bone at small towns, but it remains only that. They're not developing a community, they're saving money -- it's little more than rural out-sourcing.

And for IT folks considering putting out a small town shingle, you can do it, but you'd better be good, and you'd better be prepared to sacrifice most of the small town life you'd anticipate, because, to land big-money gigs, you're going to have to be good above and beyond to assuage the suspicions of clients, and you're going to have to travel a lot, because they're still going to want to get a lot of face time with you.

Re:still mostly an exception (4, Interesting)

pomo monster (873962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526995)

Funny, I was just reading a paper on this exact subject [frb.org] . A couple of economists, having noticed that similar businesses tend to clump together even on an intra-city scale, studied the pattern of business siting decisions in New York. (For instance, graphic design-related businesses are concentrated in Chelsea and along 23rd Street. Why?) Skip the boring regression analyses, which just formalize what you already know intuitively, and you have a good summary of why geography still matters--and always will.

Re:still mostly an exception (3, Insightful)

Gyorg_Lavode (520114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527170)

People are social creatures. But the outgoing aspect of it applies more to singles or couples without children. Couples with children have no time to go be social. They instead desire the benefits of a small town, (knowing your neighbor, letting your kids go out and play and not worrying, etc). Small towns a really the way outsourcing should be done. Put people who are raising families in smaller towns with less to do but a more friendly, (and inexpensive), environment.

I think that the angle for small towns is not small businesses working for big businesses, but big businesses setting up departments in small towns. A programming group set up in a small town should have better cohesion and while the big company can win the work on its big public image, the close-knit aspect of the small town center where the work is actually done can make the good product.

Re:still mostly an exception (2, Interesting)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527319)

Speaking of the family thing, I grew up in a small town in rural Alaska- about 10,000 people. It would be a great place to raise a family, except for two things. First, I don't have a family. I want one. But almost every girl who had anything going for her got the hell out of town as soon as she graduated high school, and never came back, and few single women move in to replace them. Lots of single guys move in, however. So overall you've got got stiff competition for a very poor selection of women. It's downright depressing to live in a small town as a single man. Alaskan women have a different problem, the saying goes, "The odds are good, but the goods are odd".

Second, what would I do? Small towns offer a limited number of potential jobs, particularly if you're educated and want challenging, interesting work. There are also fewer and fewer jobs, mainly because of technology. Because of better technology like hydraulics, radar, sonar, GPS, sodium lights, refrigeration etc. the fishing boats can now operate more effectively in more weather conditions, any time of day or night, and stay out for longer, and are better at catching fish. That means you need fewer boats and fewer crew to catch the same amount of fish, and fewer jobs in town. Same deal with farming towns: more labor-saving machinery means you just don't need as many farmers. I suspect that's why small towns are drying up: the jobs aren't there to support them.

Re:still mostly an exception (1)

masdog (794316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527383)

While you make a valid point, I think the Grandparent had a different idea in mind. With the advent of (comparatively) cheap bandwidth, big business doesn't need to have extremely large campuses that house 90% of their business operations. Instead of maintaining these large collections of buildings, they can est up little groups in small towns across the country.

This has a number of positive and negative effects. Companies will save money on maintenance since they don't have to maintain a collection of large buildings. They will also be bringing jobs to areas that don't have high tech jobs.

The downside is that with the lower cost of living, they won't have to pay programmers as much.

Re:still mostly an exception (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527486)

The downside is that with the lower cost of living, they won't have to pay programmers as much.


That's not really a downside as long as the scale is the same. Large nation wide companies have had regional pay differences for years, so while the absolute value of a rural salary might be lower not having to pay $300,000+ for a moderate house on a postage stamp size lot will compensate for it.


I know I'd much rather have a high tech job in a small town and have less pay than have the identical job in Seattle with more pay.

Bloomington, IN (1)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527177)

A lot of people make fun of Indiana but don't realize what a great place it is for tech companies. Especially Indianapolis and Bloomington. There are many many internet backbones that cross our paths and have access points in Indy and Chicago. Then it is also generally safe from earthquakes (unless you count New Madrid fault), tsunamis, hurricanes, and then the problems with bigger cities like terrorist attacks, etc. The cost of living is much lower here and you can use those savings to build up a more competitive business on the net against companies in higher cost areas. There is a decent talent pool here that is just waiting for high tech businesses to start up. Bloomington itself is a very liberal place not unlike New York or the west coast. There are already several online businesses based out of Indiana, I'm hoping more will pop up soon. Especially tier 1 datacenters, etc.

One of my goals with suso.org and other businesses I'm building up is to turn this area into the tech center it deserves to be. I'm currently working hard to release a unique and highly desired product that will help bring more attention to this area as a viable location for strong tech businesses.

I welcome you.

Re:Bloomington, IN (2, Funny)

winwar (114053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527211)

"Especially Indianapolis and Bloomington."

Of course neither is a small town. Unless you consider 69k for Bloomington small....

Re:Bloomington, IN (1)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527252)

Of they are not small towns by population. But they are two cultural centers of this region. Building them up is only going to help the areas around them, which are mainly small towns with a low population density. The midwest is mostly made up of small towns and rural areas with a few big cities in it. The east coast probably has a higher population density all over simply because it was developed before the advent of better transportation. The west coast tends to be mostly empty in between the huge cities. So when you talk about small towns, I think you are mainly talking about the midwest.

Re:Bloomington, IN (0, Troll)

i_hate_robots (922668) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527270)

Wow, I went to Bloomington once. I turned down a street and there it was: an URBAN OUTFITTERS! I thought to myself, wow, It's just like being in ... NEW YORK CITY! Except it was different. Nobody was pretentious at all. In fact, you would never even think that everyone in the town had an unrealistic view of themselves or the town they lived in.

I sure hope people move in droves to Bloomington Indiana. Frankly, Bloomington and everyone who lives there are more cultured and open minded than, well, anyone else in America!

I think that I might just quit my job, drop what I'm doing, and sign up for art school at IU. Oh, and I might even start a band and join the local music "scene!" Then I'll probably start 5 tech companies, and take full advantage of the forward thinking community and all of its resources.

Thank God for Bloomington Indiana - the NEW YORK CITY OF THE MIDWEST!!!

Re:Bloomington, IN (2, Insightful)

blingingToad (787967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527328)

I have to agree. Having been to Bloomington, I think that there are two ways you could confuse Bloomington with New York:
1 - You have never left Bloomington
2 - You have visited New York

since if if you had ever been to Bloomington and New York you would find ample evidence that the local university is not sufficient to provide even one or two legitimate tech based companies with experienced/talented employees.

You must be heavily invested in the local area.
Too bad.

Re:Bloomington, IN (1)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527498)

local university is not sufficient to provide even one or two legitimate tech based companies with experienced/talented employees.
As opposed to, say, Bangalore?

But yes, your point is well taken. Thank God I sold my Microsoft stock before they moved to sleepy little Redmond.

Yes... and no (3, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526925)

On the yes side: It is nice to have access to things that you wouldn't before the internet. You don't have to travel to a mall or specialty shop. This makes living in a less urban city not nearly the negative it used to be

On the no side: The mom and pop shops have dried up, losing a lot of the local economy. Towns that cannot adapt die. Neighbors do not talk to neighbors as much (why go outside), and the "homeyness" goes away.

Bottom line: Things change. For those who can adapt, it is a good thing. For those who cannot it is bad.

Location doesn't matter any more (1)

typical (886006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527409)

It is nice to have access to things that you wouldn't before the internet.

Location doesn't really matter for a lot of professions any more -- software development being among them. I had a former boss who liked to talk about a particular project in which three people were in Europe, one in Asia, and two in North America.

I hear a lot of griping about outsourcing, but not about the benefits granted by that same technology. You not longer have to live in Manhattan to get a high-paying job -- you can do that same job while living in Podunk, Kansas, and have a fraction of the living expenses

It's silly to commute an hour each way for a job. That's two hours a day wasted, when you could be working remotely -- and who wants to work ten hours a day for the same pay instead of eight? It's not as if your employer derives any benefit from you sitting in a car for a chunk of each day.

Re:Location doesn't matter any more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527549)

I hear a lot of griping about outsourcing, but not about the benefits granted by that same technology.


Not a very honest statement unless you don't hear very well. We hear a lot of griping about outsourcing to India and Mexico, not to Kansas and North Dakota. People are generally positive about rural outsourcing. It's sending jobs offshore that people in the US have a problem with.

the answer to outsourcing (1)

iberian411 (947793) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526926)

could be rural america, not india. but this secret hasn't made it to the executive washroom yet.

Re:the answer to outsourcing (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527002)

Assuming that rural areas can have uninterruptable Internet connections (perhaps this means a bigger market for satellite systems) and easy access to those connections. I grew up in Vermont, as rural a state as they come. Stringing cables isn't easy and winter storms have a tendecy to make has out of power lines, phone lines, and cable connections. I wouldn't mind doing my job from Vermont as long as I was assured connectivity.

Re:the answer to outsourcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527083)

try Wi-max nutballs

Re:the answer to outsourcing (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527029)

This isn't true in Canada, which is by and large pretty rural. Call centres are a big deal out in New Brunswick, which is as rural as it gets - cheap labour, lots of people with their high school, and not many jobs going, so the call centres actually get a lot of good people for cheapo pay.

Re:the answer to outsourcing (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527136)

> could be rural america, not india.

It cannot be the answer, because in rural america people do not understand technology, but in India they do. Big difference.

Re:the answer to outsourcing (3, Insightful)

Mancat (831487) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527316)

Of course rural America understands technology. Let's see you operate or repair some of the newer combines, tractors, or farm implements. Rural America has always pushed the bill on farm and industrial technology. There is no reason why computers couldn't be next. Hell, Gateway sprouted up in South Dakota, of all places. If a tech company can come into fruition in South Dakota, it can happen pretty much anywhere.

Re:the answer to outsourcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527292)

Won't matter. Rural America isn't paying kickbacks or bribing Congress.

Real Question, based on headline! (3, Interesting)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526931)

Can technology ever solve social problems?

And now, for no additional charge, I provide the answer!
No!

Re:Real Question, based on headline! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14526972)

No wonder tech's don't help small town America -- they give the answers away for free...

blasphemy! (1)

hildi (868839) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527087)

the entire justification for playing quake 5 hours is that we need to learn l33t h4x0r skills so that the poor are given food clothing and shelter, and we are gods amongst men

Translation (5, Insightful)

The evil non-flying (947059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526932)

Translation: we can drive down wages and increase management bonuses if we do this. This has nothing, I repeat NOTHING to do with saving small town America. CEOs don't give a rat's ass about small town America. What they do care about is increasing their profits, and if they can use our nostalgia for the past to get it, all the better.

Re:Translation (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527121)

"...saving small town America."

Good points from all of you above, but one thing not brought up yet is this:
not all of STA (Small Town America) wants "saved". I think it would surprise a lot of people not in STA what the locals (majority of them) think about needing "saved"- they like it being STA. I have always gravitated to STA for the community and atmosphere of small towns, I just prefer it to the seemingly impersonal atmosphere of "Big City America".

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527427)

Well... I think the point of 'saving' STA is to preserve that atmosphere, not turn them into cities. If you haven't noticed, there's been a dramatic and nearly-universal trend of urbanization for the past 150 years or so since the Industrial Revolution. Bezos is saying that semi-skilled laborers can start moving back to the country if they can do their work remotely rather than in a factory.

Re:Translation (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527523)

CEOs don't give a rat's ass about small town America. What they do care about is increasing their profits

The Adam Smithian assumption is that greed will bring net benefits even if the business owners are selfish. Thus, being pushed by greedy individuals by itself does not mean it is a bad thing. However, in practice it appears we need a balance because unchecked greed gets ugly and may result in massive inequality. Equality coming out of capitalism may be just luck when it happens, for the theory does not guarentee it.

Re:Translation (3, Interesting)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527651)

Well duh. All businesses want to increase profits. In fact, I greatly suspect you're not much different, and you even do stuff to try to increase your own salary. Shame on you!

I would LOVE to live in a small town. I was born and raised in one, and I hate the big city life. I would gladly trade a third of my salary for the same job in a small town. No commute, no traffic, no crime, affordable homes, friendly people. Someone, please exploit me!

Manifest Destiny is over! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14526934)

We don't need to have people live everywhere. Not every small town should be looking for salvation. Maybe some places should close up and fade away. Typically these local salvation projects are built on eminent domain, sweetheart deals and the promise of an economic upturn that never materializes. If you are a one-company town, there are structural problems that won't be solved by your local government no matter how much you want to believe. We are not meant to have thriving towns everywhere.

Re:Manifest Destiny is over! (0, Offtopic)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527396)

Who is this 'we' you speak of, and why are _you_ presuming to decide where someone else is allowed to live?

Re:Manifest Destiny is over! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527464)

Nothing was mentioned about where people are "allowed" to live. Just whether keeping small towns going was a good idea or not.

Yeah but... (2, Funny)

jcaldwel (935913) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526941)

Where are you going to find knowledgeable development/admin,etc staff in an Amish village somewhere?

Re:Yeah but... (2, Funny)

petabyte (238821) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527145)

Where are you going to find knowledgeable development/admin,etc staff in an Amish village somewhere?

Well, I think the real problem with and Amish SysAdmin is that its pretty hard to admin a machine without buttons ...

Re:Yeah but... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527444)

Hire talent that is not stupid enough to not move from the horribly overpriced location they are at now. News flash for you... There are more talented people outside of california than ther are IN california. So hiring a knowledgeable development/admin person is pretty darn easy if rural Amish Village land.

Making $50K in rural america = making $350K in the valley/California.

No you can't do stupid crap like buying overpriced cars that have imported leather made from vergin cows that were pampered all their lives, but you can afford a chevy that drives as nice as that overpriced penis extender. but you can buy a 2500Sq foot home for a sane price.

These articles drive me nuts (4, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526959)

All of these articles drive me crazy. I ran a business in "small town" America -- it was a retail store. I made sure my prices were just as competitive as Amazon or other dotcoms, and the local customers loved it to a point.

Yet the small town was the reason I had to leave the business. They wanted more sales tax revenue (which made me less competitive than the dotcoms once you factored in almost 9% additional cost). They wanted to raise minimum wages, which made it impossible to stay competitive with the dotcoms. They wanted me to add a bathroom once I doubled my square footage (I was the most successful ma-and-pa retail store in that town's history). They wanted me to add an additional handicapped parking spot (which ended up occupying more than 22% of my total available parking spots even though I had never had one handicapped customer in 4 years of business -- we sold sporting equipment).

In the end, I wouldn't surive even if a paperwork error forced us out of business anyway. The demands of small town USA made it so I couldn't be make it in small town USA.

People move to small towns often to get away from the high overhead of living in the urban areas. Rural living can often mean rural salaries. Yet the rural communities that I ran 2 out of my 3 retail stores in were trying very hard not to be rural. Taxes went up (sales, property and residual regulatory user fees). Citizen services went WAY up (volunteer fire and ambulance squads because taxpayer funded unions).

In the end, small town USA will destroy itself by pretending it can mimic the high debt, high tax world of the big city. The only thing they don't realize is that they will chase away the customers that drove to small town USA to save a buck or three. Who will pay for the "gentrification" changes then? Tech companies? Ha!

Re:These articles drive me nuts (1)

MadBurner (607889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527059)

Ahmen!

Re:These articles drive me nuts (1, Insightful)

ranton (36917) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527079)

The article was not talking about small town retail stores. It was specifically referring to internet businesses bringing jobs to small towns because they do not need to be located in big cities. You say that these articles drive you crazy, but your entire response has nothing to do with the article.

Re:These articles drive me nuts (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527518)

Except that if a small town is just like a big city, only smaller, people will have no reason to live there. I'm pretty sure that was his point. Would you want to move to a small town if everything cost the same, and taxes were high, but they still paid you less?

Re:These articles drive me nuts (2)

ROBOKATZ (211768) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527620)

His point is still valid -- small towns will chase away big businesses too by eliminating the reasons they might locate themselves there.

Re:These articles drive me nuts (1)

ranton (36917) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527132)

You make it sound like it is impossible to run a small business in a small town, but I can walk down Main street in the small town I live in right now and find dozens of businesses that are making it. They survive with low prices, and must be paying their employees fairly good because they do not have very high turnover rates.

It is still much cheaper to live in rural communities than in urban areas, even with recent tax increases. I cannot believe that you are talking about people not having enough money because of taxes, and then also say that minimum wage is too high? In Illinois it is $6.50 an hour, that is only about $13500 a year! How can you possibly say that is alot of money? A one bedroom apartment with utilities can cost almost half that even in rural areas, how poor do you want your workers to be?

Your post mostly sounds like an upper middle class business owner complaining that he can no longer exploit Small Town America. Just because you cannot have as high of profit margins that you have in the past, you complain that it is society's fault; or maybe the government's. If you were the most successful ma-and-pa store in your entire town, you were never in any financial constraints.

Re:These articles drive me nuts (1, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527217)

They survive with low prices, and must be paying their employees fairly good because they do not have very high turnover rates.

Check again in a year. For 3 years now I have been interviewing small business owners all over the Midwest (urban, suburban and rural). In over 2000 face-to-face interview in 3 years, over 70% said they were taking out loans to support their businesses in hopes that things turn around.

In Illinois it is $6.50 an hour, that is only about $13500 a year! How can you possibly say that is alot of money? A one bedroom apartment with utilities can cost almost half that even in rural areas, how poor do you want your workers to be?

One employee at $6.50 an hour in a local business with a fixed customer base is not competitive with $6.50 in a state with lower regulatory costs that can keep people busy 24 hours a day.

How poor do I want my workers to be? I want them to be wealthy enough to spin off and run their own store/business. What a company pays an employee is directly related to how much the company's customers are willing to pay for the service or item they're selling. Local service businesses will find it more and more difficult to compete with the distance-support businesses that can offer the same product at a cheaper price.

Over the past 10 years I've seen people give up face-to-face service on many items in exchange for cheaper telephone (or even worse, mail) service plans. Not just in IT, mind you, but in almost every service imaginable -- vaccuum cleaners, electronics repair, etc. Of course I believe this is good for the overall economy by driving costs down -- including wages -- to those who can perform work more efficiently. The downside is that some workers will have to change their careers in order to survive, but that's actually a plus of the free market.

Business owners have never exploited employees, I believe it is vice versa. Wal*Mart succeeded by bringing less expensive goods to the consumer, but the consumer had to give up the information and service they used to receive from brick and mortar stores. The consumer made the decision to lower wages and incomes in their own area, Wal*Mart just met their desire for less expensive goods and lower overhead.

Over time, costs want to drive to zero -- this is normal. If our country stopped subsidizing the auto industry and the steel industry in this country in the 70s-90s, it would have allowed many of those assembly line workers to find new careers supporting cheaper and better cars from Asia. Imagine instead of 100,000 works subsidized to make cars inefficiently we'd have let them find new careers -- maybe as mechanics or installers of third party parts on these imported cars. Asia can make the cars cheaper and better but they sure couldn't support them.

Exploiting the worker is really just consumers of a market deciding they've found better deals elsewere. The worker should acknowledge that they're no longer efficient at their job and find something else to do. That's a reality. Horse shoers are long gone, when was the last time we saw an anvil? Yet you'd probably fight to make sure they make more money than the poverty line even though they aren't needed in their market any longer.

I don't mind that my shops had to close up -- I feel bad for my employees that my customer would no longer support. You'll see more "Main Street, USA" shops close down in the next 18 months, guaranteed. Some folks will run their lives into bankruptcy trying to beat a dying marketplace.

It's Communication (0, Troll)

Luke PiWalker (946528) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526971)

New communication mediums (namely the internet) decreases contraints on small towns as far as their ability to collaborate with other like minded tech people and their ability to get information. A large percentage of tech discourse takes place on the internet, and with a computer and an internet connection any small town nobody can get all the information they need to begin a project of their own or join up to help another team. We're not talking just small town USA here, but small town anywhere. India, Africa, China, wherever. As long as you can log on to the internet, you're good to go. Welcome to the global economy.

Re:It's Communication (1)

pomo monster (873962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527084)

Yes, but places like New York have the internet in addition to a rich community of very intelligent people living just down the block, or in an office environment, working one cubicle over. Places like these, places that give you more options than just the internet, will always command a wage and cost-of-living premium, and will always attract the best of the talent.

Basically, the internet--transformative though it is--doesn't upend 10,000 years of human habitation patterns.

I hate to disagree but, (3, Insightful)

M3rk1n_Muffl3y (833866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526976)

Jeff is more wrong than he is right. Tech companies are going to spring up in areas where techies are, that means mostly (good) university towns. Also, if the startups do get lucky, I think the newly minted founders would rather live in a nice(?) area than some backwater where the only hangout is some spit-and-saw-dust joint.

Startups around universities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527111)

That leads to some weird staffing. You get a lot of inexperienced college grads to don't have to move, just stay in their college apartment. Once they get married and want to move to the 'burbs to raise a family and find afordable housing (which is now over an hour away from Boston) the company in not such a convient location, commute wise.

Small-town ISP's, call centers, etc. (2, Interesting)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526989)

In high school I worked for a local ISP that became the states second-largest. They were, and are, very successful. They now offer wireless to most of the southeastern part of this state.

Yes, this state is in the midwest. It is not impossible to be successful in a tech business in the midwest. There are a lot of success stories you don't hear about. One area that has a lot of potential and success stories is call centers. People from the midwest have a very neutral accent and make good people to talk to on the phone - and have a far lower cost of living than many other areas of the country (exclusing possibly the south - not a shot at the south, its where I'm living now).

-everphilski-

Re:Small-town ISP's, call centers, etc. (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527004)

This is very true about the Midwest, actually. I've had situations where I had to talk to people in other parts of the country supporting a product, and more than once I was told that I was easy to understand and deal with.

I'm surprised we don't see more call centers in the rural midwest (not the redneck hick accent portions of course) -- the salaries there are very low due to a low cost of living, and the ability to communicate seem higher than a lot of rural areas I've been through in other parts of the US.

What town did you grow up in? Outside of KC or St Louis?

Re:Small-town ISP's, call centers, etc. (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527023)

Wisconsin

Re:Small-town ISP's, call centers, etc. (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527032)

Wisconsin

Mmmm, curds. My favorite place to take the broad on a date to is the Mars Cheese Castle. She once bought me a jar of Pickled Okra and a 29 pound wheel of Gouda. Damn fine people up there.

Re:Small-town ISP's, call centers, etc. (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527052)

Yeah, when I drive up north to visit friends (if I'm driving via Chicago) I generally stop in at Mars cheese Castle to stock up on the good stuff. The South just doesn't know how to make cheese. Otherwise prettymuch any Wisconsin cheese shop is decent...

Re:Small-town ISP's, call centers, etc. (2, Funny)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527068)

What town did you grow up in?
Wisconsin


This must be an example of that high communication ability dada was referring to. : p

Re:Small-town ISP's, call centers, etc. (2, Interesting)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527296)

Sorry. Not a big fan of divulging personal information on the public forum :)

But to cite some references, here are some (inbound) call centers in the midwest:

Company I used to work for went from a local ISP consisting of 4 guys in a basement (I was guy #4 at the time, 15 years old, my mom drove me to work) to outsourcing technical support for over 100,000 in addition to its own client base in three years. There are true midwest tech success stories; I know of others; they just don't get trumpeted on /. or the New York Times. That's just the one I was a part of.

Technology, but not electronic (2, Interesting)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14526997)

Technology can save old small town America, but it will be the technology of the past. Organic farming will play a large role, as will the re-opening of hospitals and schools in smaller centers so there are shorter distances for people to travel. The Internet will lend a hand of course, but improving communication and the need to go large distances for some school classes where there are good teachers for some subjects. It will also spread problem solving, for things like how to combat thistle without spraying. People will work in the fields, and live healthier lives with better locally grown food. The field work will give jobs to children looking to get into trouble if they can't find something interesting, and a way to make money to boot.

If we want to keep what we had, we have to find new ways to bring about how we were doing it in the first place.

Yea, that's really success. (3, Interesting)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527005)

Did anyone read this link [lexisnexis.com] from the summary?

The folks get to ride a bus for 3 hours each day to/from work. Their shift is really a 12-hour shift because of this, since they get it at 15:00 and get home around 03:00. The day shifters get 9.50$ US/Hour, and night people get 50 cents more (a whole 4$ more/day; 1,040$ more/year).

Given 52 weeks with 5 business days, 8 hours/day, gives a salary of $19,760 before taxes for the day shifters. Is that above the US poverty line? In Saskatchewan (where most of basic healthcare is taken care of, and things like food are a bit cheaper), our poverty line is around $16,000/year. Any medical problem in the US is going to cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars -- I've seen what your drugs cost at the corner store. If you adjust it, I'd say they're probably pretty close to the poverty line.

Adjusting the 8/hour wages for the true 12/hour day with commute, the poor folks are actually earning $6.34 an hour, which is a lot closer to minimum wage. You can argue that the time on the bus isn't lost to them, but I don't see them being able to pursue most hobbies, clean their houses, or be there for their children in that time.

So, in fact, tech is not saving small town America. These folks are just as poor and not well off as any inner-city folks who have to bus for hours to work for almost nothing, while their children are home alone. They live in poverty, and they have no time to themselves for self development.

Re:Yea, that's really success. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527090)

No kidding -- that article was horrifying. People put up in motels like a corporate barracks and bussed in for 3 hrs. You can guess that to 'save costs' the motel is not going to be 4 stars, to say the least. Also By "seasonal workers" I assume that's a euphemism for exploited migrant labor. As much as I like Amazon, I'm tempted not to buy stuff there now. As a society, surely there must be a way to get books to people without this kind of exploitation.

Uh... Similar jobs in big cities are way less (1)

Nazmun (590998) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527110)

Most workers in unskilled (so to speak) labor get around that much. Infact they probably get paid more then inner city jobs. Most inner city jobs barely pay 6.50 per hour before taxes. Also i've lived in ny and even if you live outside of manhattan like in queens or something renting an apartment costs a huge deal more (2-3x more) then in rural areas.

Re:Yea, that's really success. (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527194)

You're from SK too? Two SK posts in a row on Slashdot, that can't happen to often.

Anyway people should feel free to look to SK as an example of both what's right and wrong with technology in rural areas these days. We have decent highspeed Internet service in many small towns that wouldn't be a blip on the radar of some areas in the States, yet Sasktel makes it work somehow. But there are some communities like Bredenbury that are supposed to be getting Wireless service, but no one in the community can access it, and Sasktel [the ISP] isn't addressing it, even though it's one of the communities they promised to provide Wireless to in their government ordained Community Net II project. Smaller towns, not on a major highway like 16 have DSL service.

Without good DSL, a small town will have a hard time competing on the Internet, there are just too many business chances lost when there's only dialup.

Re:Yea, that's really success. (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527269)

What people don't get is that the jobs discussed here have almost nothing to do with tech . They're seasonal warehousing jobs, which by their very nature are going to be low-paying jobs. Whether it's an Amazon.com warehouse or a Walmart warehouse, it's the same thing.

Is the fact that temporary, low-skill jobs don't pay very much supposed to be news?

Go save someone else (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527006)

'Small towns' dont need your 'saving'. Some of us like 'small town America'. We moved away from the city for a reason. you can keep it, and your concepts to yourself and leave us alone. We dont need the crime, filth, taxes, traffic jams, etc.

Sure mod me down, but im not alone in my feelings.

Re:Go save someone else (3, Insightful)

deanj (519759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527159)

How is this flamebait? The guy's being honest, and everything he said is true.

There's a big tendency in this country to suggest that anything that's not on the upper northeast of the country or on the left coast isn't worth living in.

I'm not sure how people can say that. When I listen to those people talk, they complain about (1) Housing prices, (2) how bad the schools are, (3) how bad the traffic is, and (4) the crime. (Basically, in that order). Then they turn right around and say how they could never live in "fly-over country".

But, you can get a damn big house for $200,000-$300,000 (like between 2000 and 3500 square feet), some great schools (if you pay attention to where you buy), traffic that actually moves at more than 20 miles per hour on the expressway, 4) lower crime rates.

Granted, no everyone likes small town America. If you tried it for a number of years, or grew up here, you gave it a shot.

But, if they don't want to live in a place they have no direct experience with, that's up to them.... however, ripping on a place when you have no experience with it... well, that makes you look foolish and very close-minded.

That's true...if all you care about is money. (1)

FatSean (18753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527210)

There are other concerns than cost of living. Namely, the quality of people you live arround. Rural areas have rightly garnered a reputation as being ingorant, intollerant and petty. If you're the weirdo in a city, there's a good chance you can find people like yourself. In some depressed backwater, if you can't escape...you are the pariah.

I mean..durr...Remember John Katz?

Re:That's true...if all you care about is money. (1)

deanj (519759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527390)


Rural areas have rightly garnered a reputation as being ingorant, intollerant and petty.


Interestingly enough, that's been my experience with people in big cities. Ignorant of anything outside of "city life", intolerant of anyone that doesn't agree with their personal/political view, and petty (& vengeful) in the extreme. Some of the people I've known in big cities (certainly not all...just clarifying that) have been the worse examples of human beings I've ever met. The weird thing was, they professed all these great ideals, but when it came time to their own life (helping others, charity, etc) they implemented none of it. They were vile.

People in big cities are jerks. (2, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527507)

But they don't try to force you to follow their religion by encoding it into law.
I haven't heard of any black people in cities dragging white people behind their car.
I haven't head of any city people beating the shit out of a homosexual, and having their neighborhoood stand up for that action.
Very few cities are interested in making it difficult for poor people to get abortions. They may be apathetic, but at least they don't go out of their way.

If you have some links, I sincerely would like to see them.

I find that rural people do have a better sense of community. But only because they are all alike. Similar racial make-up, monolithic culture, fewer outsiders. Make that mostly white/maybe-black population more diverse and you see the same problems.

People aren't that much evolved from our tribal origins. We like to be arround those like us. Those dislike us cause stress on some very primal level (in my opinion).

Re:People in big cities are jerks. (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527533)

It's pretty obvious that you don't know shit about people who don't live in the city. If all you can do is trot out 'examples' based on stereotypes and little clipped-out stories from the Mass Media, you really don't belong in this discussion.

Oh but I do. (2, Interesting)

FatSean (18753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527623)

Went to college in Nashville, TN for a year, big mistake. Often went home on the weekends with friends, as the whole school emptied out and driving back to CT didn't help...well I didn't have a car anyway so I was stuck.

I've visted Caldwell County, Kentucky. A few places in Alabama. There is no culture. Life revolves arround church and the highschool sports teams. The towns would shut down during a fucking highschool football game. I mentioned in passing that I liked De La Soul. I got some weird looks, and someone said they didn't like Mexican music. Good thing I didn't tell them that De La Soul is black!

If you like simple, salt-of-the-earth people, then good on you. But sorry, marrying your highschool boyfriend and pumping out babies ASAP is no way to advance our species. For some reason they kept asking me how many siblings I had...everyone down ther ebreeds like three or four. I mentioned my only sibling, and that I would likely only have one or two children. Suddenly I was being lectured for being 'selfish'.

Yeah. Selfish. Whatever. I have no interest in people like that who just live for the purpose of existing and making more of themselves. Get a fucking goal.

They did a study here. (2, Interesting)

edunbar93 (141167) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527024)

I think it was the Canadian government that did a study of the benefits of internet access to small towns.

They basically found that it helps people find jobs in the cities faster, thus accelerating the exodus from the rural areas.

So yeah, I guess it helps small towns - by reducing the unemployment rate and breaking the cycle of despair and addiction that plagues so many of the people that live there.

Money in Vs. Money Out (1)

dysk (621566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527033)

In order to evaluate the health of a local economy, we just need to count the amount of money flowing into the region, and the amount of money leaving the region. If net money is entering the area, the local economy will prosper, if net dollars are leaving, the economy will wither.

For example, a manufacturing plant generally causes money to enter the area through wages to local employees, taxes, local services the factory utilizes, etc. A national chain retail store will cause money to flow out of the community because people spend money to purchase things brought in from outside the area. In retail some of this loss is offset by the wages the store pays, property and sales taxes, local services used, etc.

In the case of online shops, it is like chain stores except very little of the money is recouped (I suppose a little bit from shipping services), as online stores don't maintain a presence in the places they serve, avoiding paying local employees, local income and sales taxes, etc. All money spent on an online store is money leaving the local economy.

The only glitter of hope is that online stores will allow rural people access to information and technology which used to only be available in large cities. It is possible that the in-flow of ideas and equipment will revitalize the spirit of small towns, and that will help to offset the financial loss suffered by losses to local businesses.

Re:Money in Vs. Money Out (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527306)

Parent is correct with the money in vs money out assessment. When I drive in Texas, I get to see a lot of "highway fed" small towns.

Clearly gas stations provide some external revenue and pay at least a few local salaries, but the citizens of the town buy gas there too. Then there are the slightly bigger towns with a national chain or two, or even a Walmart. Again, they pay a couple dozen local salaries, but everyone buys stuff there. If it weren't for the 1-2% local sales taxes, I'd venture to say that the national chains would are a drain on the local economies they "serve."

p.s. I neglected to mention that most of these small towns actually see income from the sale of livestock.

Blogger came out of Nabraska (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527040)

Just another datapoint.

Cultural Capital Issues (2, Interesting)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527042)

Not to rain on this particular parade, as I'd love to see certain areas I've lived in remain viable, but one of the issues for knowledge-economy is intellectual openness. How many small towns are going to put up with educated outsiders full of "Ideeers" coming in and changing things? If they have some experience (i.e. upstate NY, which used to have Kodak, Xerox, etc), then it's a return to a more profitable era, but for other regions, it's going to be "you dress funny, eat the wrong foods, don't worship our God often enough and we won't even get started on your foreign car". The school systems are also generally in need of upgrading to attract the type of workers that IT or other high-tech needs, and that starts even more conflicts. In modern societies with functioning educational systems, this idea might work. In many parts of the US, it's probably not worth the trouble.

Look at places such as Binghamton/Owego NY (I'm sure you have your local equivalents); even with a moderate-sized public university present, approximately 3 hours from NYC and Philly, very reasonable property, and a skilled workforce downsized from IBM, you can't attract enough investment to do better than limp along here. No local tech business of any size has been started to replace what's been lost, and the local governments aren't willing to take any meaningful steps to either encourage entrepeneurs or relocation by established businesses. Extrapolate this experience to some former wheat depot in Kansas, and you begin to see the problem.

I would put more money on relocation to the inner-city, gentrification, and reuse of brownfields than I would outsourcing to rural america. A cleaned-up Joiliette or Gary, IN, would be far more attractive than Snakenavel, KS.

Re:Cultural Capital Issues (2, Funny)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527489)

How many small towns are going to put up with educated outsiders full of "Ideeers" coming in and changing things?

Hopefully they'll ram a pitchfork through the city slicker who comes into town chock full of ignorant stereotypes.

Re:Cultural Capital Issues (3, Informative)

technoCon (18339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527604)

i suggest that you tread carefully around the stereotype of the backwoods hick bigot lest you play into the city-slicker know-it-all stereotype. you have every right to disagree with the faith and values of Snakeville, KS and/or Islamabad, Afghanistan. but you would be wise to offer them the benefit of some doubt.

you can find competent knowledge workers among every race, creed, and sexual proclivity. i know some excellent software engineers who are "young earth creationists." their rational skills have been honed by virtue of defending their right to breath against eye-rolling Darwinists. in fact, out-groups are often the source of highly competent experts. it takes zero brainpower to roll the eyes and affirm conventional wisdom. and unless you're going to reengineer the Origin of the Species unconventional personal notions do not get in the way of the work.

i hope the a post-geographic society of smart folks collaborating where each person's talents are exercized regardless of their personal context. i tend to agree with you about Joliette and/or Gary (Grand Rapids, MI is quite comfortable), but if one can't work with a team-member from Snakenavel (and i'm not suggesting you can't), i won't want him on my team.

But we are talking past each other a little. I've focused on the local boy who chooses to telecommute from Hickville to the Big Apple, and you're talking about the city slicker who moves to Green Acres. If Snakeville, KS wants to prosper by attracting city slickers, then it had better make them comfy, otherwise they'll just up and move to Bugtussle. This dynamic could make for some interesting satellite communities...

Wrong question. (1)

jpsowin (325530) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527045)

Can Tech Save Small Town America?

The real question is, can we keep technology from ruining small towns... You can't save something with one of the problems.

Exhibit A = me (3, Interesting)

Spunkemeyer (805072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527073)

I just moved from Washington DC to a small riverfront town in Maryland to start my business. A large component of this decision -- aside from the reduction in stress -- was the ability to function on less money than I could in the city. A new business doesn't make a lot of money, but when your overhead is low you have more time to make it work for you. In the city, my overhead would have been too much. It's also cheaper to buy property in a small town than a city like DC.

Amazon is just too big for one town (1)

bender647 (705126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527089)

While it seems good for business to cluster all its activity into one campus, the effect on the employee personal life is terrible. Spending three hours commuting for eight hours of work, for example. I personally don't believe an employee is most effective working alone from home, but working in smaller satelite offices is probably the right answer.

Re:Amazon is just too big for one town (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527443)

These are people loading trucks and pulling orders from a warehouse. How would anyone do that from home or from a satellite office?? Besides these are all people who are temporary for the season and would probably have no other job if not for Amazon. With the commute at least they're getting a pay check.

Huh? (4, Informative)

AaronStJ (182845) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527102)

I don't quite understand the editorialization on the summary. Theodp tries to make it sound like Amazon.com's hiring practices are bad for rural America. But his links don't support that. They talk about having to bus workers in from out of town (as far away as the next state) to work seasonally in the warehouses.

But it's not like Amazon is turning down local workers in favor of out of town workers. According to one of the articles linked "more than 85 percent of the yearly labor needs are supplied by the local labor pool. Staff management works with local employment agencies, recruits at colleges and works with high schools to provide jobs for graduating seniors," and "we first start with the local labor pool, then broaden our search." Amazon is employing the locals and out of town people (which also help the locals by staying in hotels paid for by Amazon and patronizing locals businesses).

Amazon has also set up education programs to help potential-workers complete their GED, and supported other local programs. "Amazon.com has partnered with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Team Taylor County and Kentucky Adult Education to form the Go, Earn, Do program, which helps people earn their GED." According to an Amazon spokesman, "we've hired several graduates of the program so far and as the program grows we hope to hire even more."

So I really don't see Theodp's snarky objection to Amazon and Bezo's stand on how tech helps out rural areas. If anything, the articles he links actually support Bezos' claims.

Bezos' remarks on Shawn Fanning are on the mark, too. Sure, Fanning was in a Boston dorm room when he wrote Napster, but it's not like he needed the massive infrastructure of a huge city to do it, just an Internet connection. As Bezos points out, "that's the kind of thing people can do anywhere. They can do it in Seattle, they can do it in North Dakota."

So pretty much all of the editorializing in the summary is wrong, and doesn't seem to server any purpose other than to troll us. I guess I bit.

(An off topic ad hominem: theodp@ aol.com ? On Slashdot? Puh-leaze. I see September still hasn't ended.)

Re:Huh? (1, Troll)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527320)

You forget, this is /. - if the article talks about big-business, then editorializing has to focus on exploitation and deceit. They figure only 1% will actually follow the links anyway!

Screaming Financial Success (2, Informative)

crmartin (98227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527104)

Maybe it doesn't scream financial success to you, but the something like a call-center job is pretty good compared to a lot of small-town jobs.

Screaming Financial Success? (1)

Xthlc (20317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527106)

The jobs cited in the article are temporary ones that occur due to the Christmas rush. Amazon's order volume more than quadruples over the holidays. It's just not practical to employ those people year round; furthermore, if every man, woman and child in that small town signed up at the FC, they still wouldn't have enough workers.

A FC doesn't employ as many people as a traditional factory, I'll grant you that. But it's still a shot in the arm for many of the small towns in which they're located, and provides the kind of foundation industry that supports a richer local economy. Hey, look at all the money those motels are bringing in from temporary workers. :)

At last... (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527112)

...finally, there's good news for the Silent Hill chamber of commerce.

Tech or Online Businesses? (1)

Unholy_Kingfish (614606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527149)

From the article is seems to refer to online businesses. Yes, you can run an online company out of anywhere, but is it really cost effective if you sell physical items? Virtual items, no problem. Your only cost is bandwidth, which can be expensive in the boonies.

For a company as big as Amazon, having distribution points around the country works great, much like Netflix. But if you are a small time company trying to get started, getting your goods to your location which is 500 miles from the closest airport might not work very well. Your profits become less because it is all going to shipping.

With my company, getting our products cheaper means saving for us, better prices for the customer, and a better ability to survive. We wouldn't be able to do that if we weren't near a major port.

small towns will grow...FAST and that can be bad (1)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527163)

If several companies relocate emploees to small rual towns, thee towns will grow, becoming the dreaded "medium size City" these cities have all the urban problems like crime, taxes, clogged roadways, condtant swelling expantion and so on with none or little of the good stuff in the big cities like the arts, recreation and nightlife, dining, shopping and society in general.

Why? (2, Insightful)

jjh37997 (456473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527213)

Serious.... why would we want to save small town America? It's like asking if tech can save hunter and gatherers.... Small towns are a way of life that are dying out for a reason. What we should be doing is making the transition as painless as possible....

Re:Why? (0, Troll)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527648)

Let the rednecks feel like they still mean something. It doesn't hurt anybody, and they're too dumb to see what's coming to them anyway.

Call centers are on the way out, anyway (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527301)

First, since the "do not call" list, outgoing call centers are a dying breed. And anyone who works in one now is working in a criminal enterprise.

If someone calls your inbound call center, it's because your web site didn't work for them. As web sites get better (not "Web 2.0", but really good order tracking), there's less work for the call center. Of course, many call centers are already offshored. So that's a dead-end job.

Re:Call centers are on the way out, anyway (1)

woolio (927141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527485)

outgoing call centers are ... a criminal enterprise.

And sadly, it is only a small divsion of a larger criminal enterprise named "Marketing".

Amazon in Campbellsville (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527356)

I grew up in Greensburg, KY, about 15 minutes from the Amazon location in that article. The main source of jobs in the area used to be a Fruit of the Loom plant in Campbellsville, and when they went out of business unemployment in the surrounding counties soared. Amazon is I think the largest employer in the area now, and people in the area are glad to have them there.

That article was talking about there being so many jobs during the christmas rush, that they can't fill all of them locally and have to bus people in from elsewhere. The locals who work there are happy with their jobs & pay from everything I've heard.

HUH? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527405)

Firat off... Boston a Small town? WTF???

Boston is NOT a small town unless your definition is whacked. Small town = 10,000 or less residents. Most prople consider small town around that range.

And unless you are in a small town that is wired very VERY well you cant get broadband there making ECommerce damn near impossible based out of othe small town. sorry but managing your online business model with a 33.6 Dial up connection (22.4K if youre lucky and the sun is shining but usually lower and never near 56K because of distance and line quality) is completely impossible.

Get fat pipes cheaply into small town rural america and then you can see that happen. until then. having your own business in a small town = buying a gas station, running a service that the small townspeople need, or a resturant/store. Computer shops in small town america = out of business because they do not have the $$$ to blow $600-900 every year on that useless Pee-Cee thay have for the kids. Making $40,000.00 a year in small town rural america = upper middle class typically. (compared to the $120,000.00 a year in Detroit and Chicago. you can live the same lifestyle just without the useless things like a BMW or Mercedes) I had LAKEFRONT property with 2 jetskis and a powerboat on that salary as well as was able to afford to hire a maid. In Detroit, you cant touch lakefront for under $250,000.00 a year and I hope your spouse has a +100K job as well you poor sap.

few telecommute friendly companies (1)

SideshowBob (82333) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527463)

I live in a small town in the Midwest. I was recently laid off by a small company that isn't doing well financially. I'm educated, I have 11 years of experience in the software industry, and I would come (comparatively) cheaply for someone with my experience. I haven't found a company yet that wants a telecommuter, even for short term contracts. Given that my former employer is basically the only local place that is suitable and I don't expect them to make it to the end of the year, I foresee a return to the west coast for my wife and I.

It just makes no sense, given that software is the ideal telecommuting job, that so few companies are willing to work with that arrangement. Maybe I haven't spent enough time looking, but I'm not optimistic.

Blame it on Globalism (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527478)

Small towns would otherwise be a viable place to perform many tasks that are now outsourced to 3rd-world nations. Outsourcing has instead resulted in jobs that require a high-degree of human interaction, and this means big fat smelly crowded terrorism-prone cities. Offshore Outsourcing has screwed us.

Yes if it is wired (or less) (1)

jhines (82154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527491)

If everybody is wired up, or has wireless access, many people benefit.

Small towns are located in counties who are responsible for infrastructure over a wide area. The ability to have utility meters, and things like lift stations be monitored from afar. School busses, inspectors and police with laptops can report in. The combo of GPS and wireless is a boon to farmers.

Wireless co-ops should be a big thing in rural areas.

Huh? (0)

jfz (917930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527529)

Since when was Boston a small town?

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527591)

Ever been there? Most provincial place imaginable. In every way that counts, Boston's a small town. It's just a very big one.

I don't think it can (2, Interesting)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527539)

The problem here is that the technology "capable of saving small town America" is also available to everyone NOT in small town America as well. In fact, the same advantages that make large towns work better than small towns make the Internet work better for large towns than small towns. How many small towns have cheap and widely available broadband Internet access? Geography and demographics play an important role in availablity here. Sure, the cost of living and real estate may be cheaper, but the prices to bring high speed internet to Colby, Kansas might not be attractive. The theory is that even better technology can help fix this, but so far I haven't seen anything worthy of mention.

Another problem is the attitudes frequently found in small town america. There are people who worry that success will drasticaly change the atmosphere, either through large jumps in population, building and the likes, or that prosperity itself will destroy the values and way of life they appreciate. There's even a few who worry that prosperity will bring an increase in taxes. You can see the influence taxes wield in small town america just by looking at the local school district budget. Expecting entrepeneurs to spring forth from this environment is silly. For most of the guys I know that come from small towns, they'd just as soon live in a large metropolitian area and make a million dollars a year than do the same in their hometown. And even if there was a couple entrepeneurs thinking of a product on the national level, there simply aren't enough local human resources compared with the suburbs a few hours drive away. Try finding a competent graphic designer for hire. Or webmaster. Better yet, try finding an unemployed network engineer that lives locally. And you'd really have troubles convincing a potential hire with a family of three to move.

Napster was successful because he saw a common problem and came up with a fairly common solution. Napster didn't invent mp3 trading; he took the already prevailant method of ratio uploading and FTPs and mp3 search engines and combined them all, removing the designations between client and server. And he couldn't have done it without access to subsized internet from his University dorm room. Furthermore, all the guy did was invent a better way to steal things; there wasn't even a profit motive! Universities are the one place small america can look to for a pooling of young mobile talent; but Uni towns rarely resemble the small town america we know. Firstly, they're not exactly small. 30 thousand students alone means we're starting to break the definition, and doubly so once you figure in people in jobs serving those students etc. Manhattan, KS for example, has about 40 thousand people living in it. Sadly, the cost of living is almost the same as the suburbs of KC in Johnson County. If you've got an idea that needs a lot of part time people though, Manhattan's your place.

mo3 up (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14527605)

tangle of fatal the time to 8eet

Saving..? (1)

jxyama (821091) | more than 8 years ago | (#14527606)

Who says small towns need to be saved..? Is financial success the only way to be saved..?
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