Image via: john_fobes on Flickr.com
For all of you struggling out there under hard times, this is for you. For anyone with a dream to quit their job and open up their storefront but can't do that due to finances, listen up. The Mayor of Braddock, PA wants you to know you can have all that and more, if you move to his city, reports the New York Times.But first, we have to warn you that there are a few "hiccups." First, this town which once boasted almost 13,000 people, now has a population of less than 3,000. But maybe you're into smaller towns and knowing your neighbors, so we haven't scared you away yet. Many of the residents are unemployed, and the area has been designated a "distressed municipality." But before you give up on this town, why don't we give you just a few more facts about Braddock, PA.
Admittedly, the tax base is gone and many storefronts are empty. And then there's the fact that real estate prices fell 50% last year. Sure, sure, write this town off. But wait, don't leave yet, here's where it gets good:
The Good News
In Braddock, you can afford to purchase your own home. With real estate prices down 50%, you can get a steal on a home, plus have enough money to fix it up green. Though you have to hurry, because many of these are slated for demolition, and the mayor warns, "if struggling communities don't preserve their architecture, there's no chance of any resurgence down the line." Plus, Braddock is just down the road from Pittsburgh, so if you aren't a telecommuter or entrepreneur, then you can still be just a stones throw away from a major city to work in. But why would you want to do that with all of these vacant storefronts, which brings us to the next major point that Braddock has to offer.
Braddock needs new businesses. For anyone who has ever wanted to go it on their own, this just might be the place. With homes selling for just $5,000 (some repairs needed), families interested in pursuing their hobbies and passions can do that and not risk losing their home. Entrepreneurs can purchase storefronts and run businesses that in larger towns they couldn't have even considered. But Braddock also needs the basics - grocery stores, dry cleaners, beauty salons, and on and on and on - so if you don't want to try your luck at a rare hobby shop like underwater basket weaving, there is still plenty of room for you in Braddock.
The Mayor is Braddock's Biggest Supporter
When the Mayor of Braddock, John Fetterman, was elected in 2005 and turned around to see a town in need, he first created a website to advertise his town. What might have just looked like a slideshow of derelict buildings to the untrained eye, was, "a laboratory of solutions to all of these maladies starting to knock on the door of every community." The mayor has encouraged residents to plant community gardens in their yard to bring in income and also provide for more local, fresh food.
For those looking for an easy, cheap ride, this isn't it. Braddock still needs a lot of work and as anyone purchasing a new home or starting a new business knows, both of these take a lot of work. Braddock is no exception. But, then again, maybe Braddock is the exception. In much the same way that Greensburg has a chance to start over, Braddock, once a thriving steel town (the first plant opened by Andrew Carnegie was located here), can now become a community that truly supports local business.
At least you will get support from the Fetterman, a graduate of Harvard who came to the town in 2001 to work in a youth program and later won the Mayoral election in 2005 where he faced no opponent. At 6'8", Fetterman is hard to miss, and definitely not with all of the waves he is making. While his hands are tied, due to the "distressed municipality" status of the town, he is using his other resources to help out. He recently spent $50,000 USD to purchase an abandoned church and turn it into a community center. He also drained his 401K to purchase two more housing units next door for group housing for at risk teenagers and young adults.
Room for New Businesses
One new company to come to town, that is, an alternative energy company Fossil Free Fuel, and this will bring new jobs to the area, but also new ideas. The cheaper real estate allows new ventures a chance to get going without some of the high costs typically involved in a major city. But don't feel like Braddock is the only place where this is occurring. Small towns all over America are in need of and are experiencing a revival, of sorts. Instead of packing up the family and moving to the suburbs, families and singles are finding that they save money and have a better quality of life just by slowing down a bit and getting back to what is important, as cheesy as that might sound. Take a look around you. There might be a small down just down the road from you, that is still close enough to a major city, should you need it, but the right environment where you can thrive.
A recent NPR article noted something similar occuring in Phoenix (notably not a "small" town). Empty-nesters, singles and families are selling their sprawling McMansions in the suburbs and moving back into the city to enjoy a better quality of life. Getting home before the kids go to bed and not spending hours every day rotting away in traffic is worth downsizing their house, many interviewees noted. So small towns don't necessarily offer the theater, fashion week or stars on every corner, but is that what really defines quality of life?
More on Downsizing and Small Towns
Sustainable Small Town America
Local Food Rebuilds Small Town (And Inner City) America
Micro-Hydro Power Picking Up Speed As More Rural Towns Want to go Off-Grid
Transition Towns and Cities Emerge in the US, Too