Otter Tail County Rural Rebound Initiative (RRI) Coordinator Erik Osberg joined Ben Winchester, University of Minnesota research fellow, at a seminar in northern Maine. The event was hosted by the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) and other strategic partners who are working to increase the population of northern Maine. The goal of Osberg's RRI work is to make Otter Tail County top of mind when people are looking for a place to relocate.
For the past few years, Winchester has been traveling around the Midwest sharing the story of the "Brain Grain" or the recent migration of 30-49-year olds to rural areas. He has also shared this message in rural areas of New York and North Carolina. The Otter Tail County Rural Rebound Initiative is working to capitalize on this in-migration.
According to Winchester's research, the top three reasons newcomers move to rural places are; 1. A simpler pace of life. 2. Safety and security. 3. Lower housing costs. Osberg said they have researched the cost of living data provided by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and have found: a family of four, with two full-time employed adults, can live for roughly sixty five cents on the dollar when compared to the seven county Twin Cities Metro Area. "I'd argue that the quality of life in Otter Tail County is hard to beat. Rather than planning that next vacation, we are looking for folks who want to build a life they don't feel the need to escape from."
"Hopefully this event will spark new ideas to solve an ongoing issue in Aroostook (Maine) and Washington County," said Jon Gulliver, director of investor and community relations for NMDC. "The presentations by Ben Winchester and Erik Osberg provided valuable information in how to tackle the daunting challenge. I believe all the attendees benefited from the insights of our visitors from Minnesota."
Osberg has served as RRI coordinator for Otter Tail County since January of 2017. "At the end of the day, our job is to write our own narrative." said Osberg. "For far too long, the local, regional and national narrative about rural living has been negative. While it is true, we have obstacles to overcome, people want to move here for what we are right now, not what we used to be. We believe that by focusing on our strengths as a region, people will begin to see all the opportunity that exists here."
"We are thrilled Erik was able to join us in Maine to talk about his work with resident recruitment." said Jill Henrickson of the Minnesota Housing Partnership who helped organize the event and invited Osberg to speak. "Participants loved his approach to his work and were very engaged, asking lots of questions. Erik's energy and passion for this work and rural communities are contagious." Learn more about the Rural Rebound Initiative at ottertailcountymn.us/department/economic-development