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Growth in rural America to be virtual event topic

Growth in rural America to be virtual event topic

Tuesday , Sep 22, 2020

September 22, 2020

Vilas County News Review:

“If rural America is dying, then why can’t I find a house to buy?” This statement, according to Ben Winchester, is being heard around the country.

Something is happening in rural America and the rural narrative is changing for the better, including Wisconsin’s Vilas County, according to Winchester.

The Vilas County Economic Development Corporation (VCEDC) is offering an exclusive opportunity to hear first-hand from nationally-recognized rural sociologist Winchester as he presents “Rewriting the Rural Narrative — The Brain Gain of Rural America.”

The special virtual event will be today, Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m.

Winchester is a senior research fellow at the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Com­munity Vitality, and a nationally-recognized rural sociologist who has been featured on PBS and in the New York Times.

The Vilas County Economic Development Corporation is at the forefront of Wisconsin’s North Woods initiatives to grow its economy and population, supporting current data and socioeconomic trends that the rural “narrative” is changing. . . for the better.

According to Winchester, the “rural rebound” has seen a tremendous increase in people moving from urban to rural living. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social unrest this trend is accelerating, particularly in vacation destinations like Vilas County where people can live, work and play.

According to Kathy Schmitz, executive director of the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation, work is no longer a destination that you go to every day, it’s a place, an outcome.

“Many people no longer need to be near their jobs to be effective,” said Schmitz. “They can now choose where they want to live, work remotely, earn a livable or even a high paying salary, and enjoy a rural lifestyle that includes lakes, forests, paved bike trails, and winter sports such as skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Not all rural is rural — Vilas County is often considered ‘the Poconos’ of Wisconsin.”

According to Schmitz, this population shift is supported by expanding broadband, increasing awareness of the benefits of working remotely, slower pace of life, safety and security, and lower cost of living and housing and, therefore, the “Brain Gain” of 30- to 49-year-olds moving to rural America.

“The continuing development of Vilas County’s broadband infrastructure, a leading initiative of the VCEDC, positions the VCEDC to attract entrepreneurs, expanding businesses, and remote workers who want to enjoy the beautiful North Woods lifestyle while pursuing attractive career opportunities, year-round,” said VCEDC Board Chairman Jim Tuckwell. “Vilas County is fast becoming a haven for knowledge workers.

Vilas County ranks 12th in the state in population growth since 2010, up over 2% since 2016 (U.S. Census Bureau).

Winchester will discuss how population and many other factors are leading to the positive rural narrative in America and Vilas County.

The virtual event will include a presentation by Winchester followed by a panel comprised of individuals who have moved to Vilas County to work both in the county and remotely. An audience Q & A will be included. The public is invited to attend.

To register, visit

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Want to learn why Vilas County is one of the best places to live, work, and play?

We can email you a PDF highlighting many of the wonderful aspects of our area.

Download this 8-page PDF article here: