November 13, 2008

Nebraska Rural Living Website is Innovative Development Tactic for Rural Communities

One of the most innovative rural development tactics tried in recent years is a slickly-produced Web site designed to extol the virtues of living in Nebraska's small towns. Since it was launched as an e-magazine in 2006, Nebraska Rural Living has seen a steady rise in visitors, today averaging some 12,000 a month. A recent total redesign of the site with new graphics and cutting-edge Web applets is intended to amplify one of NRL's core messages: small towns aren't necessarily Hicksville.

"Every month, we showcase busy, interesting people living a rural lifestyle," said Betty Sayers, who founded the site along with her sister, Nancy Herhahn, in 2003. "You can live just the kind of life you dream about."

Nebraska Rural Living offers readers profiles of "livable small towns", stories about successful entrepreneurs, essays about living rural, restaurant reviews, and suggestions of things to do, among other features. The site also contains current listings of houses and commercial property for sale and links to jobs and business resources.

"We want people to understand that the only barrier to living the small town way of life is in their heads," said Phil Soreide, editor for the site. "Our small towns have salt-of-the-earth people, big trees, wide streets, affordable housing and good schools, but we also have high-speed Internet, modern healthcare facilities and decent jobs. You can live here if you want to."

Marketing rural areas and small towns to bring in new residents is the reason behind a bill passed in the Nebraska Legislature this year. According to the bill's sponsor, State Senator Tom Carlson, "We haven't done a good job of marketing the good life you can have in Nebraska's small towns - a life where you feel connected to your neighbors but still can do just about whatever you have the imagination and will to do."

"NRL reaches an audience we want to reach," adds Monica Boyken, executive director of the Phelps County Development Corporation, a sponsor of the Web site. "We don't know of anyone else who's connecting with 12,000 visitors a month who want to read about living in rural Nebraska."

"We know our small towns have a lot to offer. We just have to spread the word."