It’s no secret that the current state of the economy seems to be favoring large cities. The same is true when it comes to population growth.
A recent article in the Washington Post highlighting a small town that’s thriving in spite of these challenges should give some hope and inspiration to those of us who call Yazoo City home, however.
The Post examined the town of Hamilton, Montana, where the population of 4,728 has grown about 10 percent since 2010. That’s not the experience of most small towns in America these days so it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s working for Hamilton.
One factor noted is that the town is only about an hour away from the amenities offered by the state’s second largest city, which has a population of 75,000. That sounds a lot like Yazoo City’s proximity to Jackson.
One of the great selling points for Yazoo City is that the short drive to all of the things that the Jackson metro area has to offer without the inconveniences of big city life.We don’t have the traffic jams or the crime rates that come with big cities, but we’re a short drive away from cities that offer amenities small towns don’t have.
Another factor is that Hamilton is in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains that offers plenty of outdoor activities.
Of course Yazoo doesn’t offer mountain views, but we have some beautiful scenery, and outdoor activities are abundant. We have great hunting and fishing opportunities, and there is quality public land available.
Best of all, the real estate is very reasonable compared to many other regions.
Another factor cited is that Hamilton is home to a federal facility that researches deadly diseases. That creates 450 good-paying jobs.
That sounds a lot like Yazoo City’s federal correctional complex, doesn’t it?
The Post article doesn’t go into a lot of detail about what Hamilton had to do to keep many of those federal employees living there instead of commuting from larger areas, but that could and should be a goal for our community. Even if it’s a very long range goal, we can focus on improving our weaknesses such as a shortage of the kind of housing many of those employees expect and doing a better job of marketing our strengths such as the good real estate that is available at attractive prices and the quality of our public schools in the county. Continuing to improve public schools in the city and county is an obvious top priority.
Another major success factor for Hamilton is the investment in the community by a couple of young people who chose to create their business in their hometown. Two young men in Hamilton created a microbrewery that sells over $1 million worth of beer annually with a reach far outside of their community.
That sounds a lot like one of our own young people. Joseph Mohamed came home and turned the former Southern Bag building into a thriving business. Thanks to his vision a building that was becoming a major liability for Yazoo County as it was empty and neglected, has become a growing business.
Perhaps Mohamed’s investment in his hometown, and the success that followed, will inspire other young Yazooans to chase their dreams at home. We should encourage those efforts any time we get a chance.
Every business starts out small. We should encourage every homegrown business and support them whenever possible.
Quality of life is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to attracting talented people. That’s why it may sometimes seem like we’re beating a dead horse in this newspaper when we continually focus on things like improving our parks and cleaning up blighted property.
Most of us who live in Yazoo do so because this is where we want to be. We like the small town lifestyle, and in many ways Yazoo offers the best of small town life. There are many others who would feel the same way if we did a better job of sharing our best qualities and improving on our weaknesses.