Here’s a link near to my heart, forwarded by my mother. It is a story in the New York Times about the struggles of Superior Nebraska to stay alive as a town. Superior is presented as one of the more successful towns of the region, in that it hasn’t died, although neither is it growing. This is important to me, as I spent much of my early life in that town. My grandfather used to own the (I think only) furniture store in town, and as a small boy I used to go down the rows and sit in every recliner. I still own furniture we bought from that store, 30 years ago. When I lived there, the cheese factory and cement plant were both open and I remember the shockwaves caused by losing them. My grandmother worked at the cheese plant at one point.
This fits a little in with my earlier post about finding the cheapest place to live that I can still do my job. I wonder if Superior has broadband? They mention in the article that they have some fiberoptic infrastructure. When I was a grad student, one of my professors told me that more software companies should form in Louisiana, because you get the low cost of living. In his words “this is as close as you get to the third world in America.” Instead of outsourcing phone support to Bangalore, wouldn’t it be lovely if we outsourced them to Nebraska? Since one of their problems is distance from transportation hubs, they have problems with industry that involves physical goods so why not go for the gold and try to make them a hub for knowledge work?
All in all, these stories of the greying and dying prairie leave me very sad. I spent my boyhood in southern Nebraska and northern Kansas, and in a way I hope that they are always there, frozen in amber waiting for me to come back to them. The thought of my boyhood homes declining and becoming empty ghost towns is sad. It’s like part of my history is disappearing.