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Rural States Need More "Tech" to Remain Competitive

Economically, the digital era favors big cities over small towns or rural America, but that is changing as more people consider quality of life in their career moves. (yesmagazine.org)
Economically, the digital era favors big cities over small towns or rural America, but that is changing as more people consider quality of life in their career moves. (yesmagazine.org)
April 2, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – Rural states that want to compete with more urban areas need to attract millennial workers who are well-educated and bring technical skills to the employment mix, according to one expert.

Since the recession a decade ago, larger metropolitan areas have, for the most part, seen more economic and job growth than small towns or rural areas. Mark Muro, senior fellow with the Brookings Institute says if rural communities want to compete with big cities, they need to embrace high tech faster.

"Really all jobs are now, to some extent, digital jobs,” says Muro. “Every job is involved with computers. People in rural places or small communities have to get much more adept and aggressive at adopting technology."

Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill to make Iowa more "Future Ready." House File 2458 recommends that 70 percent of workers in the state have education or training beyond high school by 2025.

The legislation also aims to strengthen the state's workforce by establishing summer post-secondary courses for high school students that are aligned with high-demand careers.

Muro says the digital era, with its emphasis on automation and globalization, currently favors the biggest, densest cities over rural areas. But he's also convinced that eventually, that could change – as people consider cost of living and quality of life when they decide where to live and work.

"Hubs like the Bay area will become uneconomic and the housing costs, and traffic and other problems will outweigh, for many, the need to be there."

Muro notes that the rural-urban divide began as early as 1920, when the number of Americans who lived in cities overtook those who live in the countryside.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA