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Rural thoughts on raising the minimum wage

Many states have raised the minimum wage today. 18 in fact. Several of them to over $10 an hour.  Read about it here

Now don’t get me wrong- I don’t begrudge anybody a chance to make a decent living. I would have loved to be on the receiving end as a worker and as an employer would have been ecstatic to be able to pay my employees more.

3789566982_320590780eBut I do believe that these states did not really try to take their rural communities into account. In particular isolated rural communities.And if they did, it was only to spare a second to think to themselves ‘they don’t have enough people to matter’..

I’ve lived in several incredibly tiny rural communities in a couple of the states listed. We owned a business in one.  A little town of a hundred  people, 135 miles from the city (700K ppl), and 45 miles to the nearest ‘urban’ center (3500ppl) . Our nearest communities had 27 and 300 people respectively.  Those numbers have not fluctuated all that much in the years since we left.

Many rural businesses cannot sustain a fair sized increase in minimum wage. -Not even if it’s over a number of years.

I know many will say “Oh- What’s a buck or two?” – A couple dollars multiplied by 30 -40 hours a week adds up.  On top of that the employer will now pay a higher unemployment tax, FICA and workmans comp.  – all of which can hinder the ability to pay an employee a higher wage.

Those same dollars can also spell the difference between whether that rural community continues have a hardware store, market, café etc…

Here are some scenarios–  Bobs Hardware is a busy little place servicing several tiny communities. Bob needs help.- he hires Joe to come work and pays him the elevated wage. Joe is happy. For a time. -You see, Bob has to either sell more or cut Joes hours to afford the wage.

Bob can’t really sell any more than he already is because he doesn’t have the same traffic an urban or city business attracts. Bob is 145 miles from people. His customers are the farmers, ranchers and families in his area. And they can only buy so much.  So Bob cuts Joes hours.

Or.… Let’s say Bobs Hardware already has several employees. The minimum wage goes up. Bob has to choose. Does he cut everyone’s hours? Or does he let two go and keep Joe? And if he keeps Joe, is Joe going to up and quit because Bob expects him to work harder for the new wage?  Even if he pays a little more than the ‘new wage’- Joe may eventually build up resentment of having to do more work.

Or… Bobs Hardware employs Joe. The wages go up.  Bob can no longer afford to have even one employee. So Bob, who’s already run his rural business for decades l6939468522_bc879c5f3f_bet’s Joe go. Bob can no longer do all the work himself and cuts his business hours which in turn loses some revenue. Eventually Bob just throws in the towel and closes leaving communities without their only hardware store AND an empty/shuttered building on Main Street.  That in turn leads to lower property values for the entire community. And potentially lost revenue for the gas station, since the local farmer filled fuel on his way home from Bobs Hardware and grabbed a coffee at the cafe. In the meantime, Joe was let go and job opportunities in a town of a couple hundred are slim. Joe has moved to the city for work taking what disposable income he had with him, and quite possibly his kids out of school and money out of the donation plate at church that helped fund local causes or 4-h etc. 

Or… Bob raises his prices significantly in an effort to afford his wage increase and in the process actually loses business. – Many rural folk will save ‘it’ for a trip ‘to town’ when ‘it’ is no longer cost effective to buy locally. At the same time, when those folks go to town they will spend the entire day and do ALL their shopping and stop at the café to boot, bypassing their own community all together.

I have witnesses every one of these scenarios over the years.

**99% of small business owners in rural communities WANT to pay their employees better. They genuinely love their towns and the people within and want them to survive and thrive.

**A huge number of those same employers work tremendous amounts of hours themselves “FOR FREE” so they CAN employ someone from the area. (we did)

**Sometimes in lieu of money they find other creative compensation.  We did.  If we hadn’t we wouldn’t have been  able to be open enough hours to even pay ourselves a meager living.

So while I don’t necessarily think the new wages are bad, I do think they will force some hard decisions in rural communities.

In equal numbers, some businesses will find a way and some will not. Some will close. Some will hang on- for a while, maybe longer. Some will thrive.

Next time we’ll talk about some of the creative ways we’ve seen businesses in tiny communities thrive.

~Katy~

Katy is a rural and small town consultant with Tait and Kate Consulting  ~Helping rural communities grow and thrive~

 

 

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Holiday Hi-jinks

Thanksgiving through Christmas… a time of hi-jinks in some households… Oh wait! That’s MY house!

It all started waaaaaaay back in grade school.

My brother– who is older and wiser- was in the 3rd grade I was in 1st- Back14720441_10205492732676054_2000626829392313656_n then teachers asked kids what they were doing for whatever holiday it was (Easter, St Patty , Thanksgiving…) This particular episode it just happened to be Thanksgiving. His teacher asked the kids to find out what they were having for dinner… all afternoon Stace pestered my mom. Finally she said “Damnit! We’re having hot-dogs, OK???”  – Which definitely was OK, since he loved hot-dogs.  The next day at school the teacher goes around the room… one family is having turkey, another ham, one a roast…. and then she gets to my brother… and he cheerfully states “We are having Hot-dogs” … and she goes on. Not another word was said.

On Thanksgiving, we are all seated around the table, ready to feast and the doorbell rings- My mother answers the door and behold! The PTA is standing there with a Turkey and ALL the trimmings for the poor family that has to have hot-dogs.  To say that my mother was a trifle embarrassed is an understatement.

And if you knew my mom,  being embarrassed was the worst thing that could happen to her. She would have rathered the house burnt to the ground with everything in it, than have one of us shame her.

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       Christmas memoriesMy dad hates (with a capital H) chocolate covered cherries.  A fact I didn’t know until I was 20!  When I was but a tot, my mom thought it would be funny to tell me that Daddy looooooooved chocolate covered cherries. She also knew that once I latched onto an idea- I would never let it go. For nearly 20 years I ritualistically bought my dad the dreaded cherries every single Christmas. And he would always dutifully open them and make a great production of eating one ,  andmy-mom-001 then putting them away. I had no idea he absolutely could not stand the until he told me in my 20’s!

Way to go mom! The gift that kept on giving….

 

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My boyz-  One was brains, one was brawn. Their playroom was in the basement. We had 12717707_10203960472890517_6806557131203881872_na storage place under the stairs- one year we hid all their Christmas presents in there. If the Brawn hadn’t acted guilty one day we would never have known they had been playing those presents for nearly a month! The Brain had found the presents and taken them all out of their boxes and had the Brawn flatten the boxes and the lift the toy chest on top of them.  We took them away and told them ‘NO DAMN CHRISTMAS FOR YOU’ and made them watch from their room while we opened ours.. and then they got to come have their’s back!

The following year we threatened them with certain shortening of life  if they pulled that stunt again…. We found a large box and wrapped it in the shiniest paper we could find and wrote The Brains name on it really big…. just for fun… ON Christmas Eve we told them if they even stepped one toe out their doors before we got up… it would be all over.

Not long after midnight we heard the pitter-pat of little feet… and waited.. a few minutes later we heard a loud WOMP! WOMP! WOMP!  Hubby had put one tiny toy in that huge box and weighted it with rocks and wire so if it touched it would flip over.  Startled, the Brain yelled “That’s NOT funny”!! and then laughed all the way back down the hall.

And yes there are plenty more tales!

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Merry Christmas ya’all!Christmas memories

~Katy~

 

 

 

 

Trunk or Treat and the demise of neighborhoods

Trunk or Treat is really catching on.  This is where folks line their cars up, decorate the trunks and the little people walk around on Halloween getting their candy in one place. One street. One part of one street.17544

Now I’m not against the concept. I see it’s merits is places like San Francisco, New York City and the like, where many folks may live in high rises or such. I can also see how it makes parents feel safer if they live in a ‘bad part of town’. Or the ease of just stopping in the parking lot at your kids school. And very micro towns- this nay be a good way for everyone to get together in the evening.

But mostly I see it as the nail on the coffin, so to speak, for neighborhoods.

I just caught a local interview on the news and the young mother said she is glad it is in the school parking lot because she “recognizes other parents and children”. To me that implies that while she recognizes them, she doesn’t know  them.  It also implies that there is no value to her in knowing the neighbors on any level.

james halloween 001I am old enough to remember when everyone went door to door. Parents visited with each other on sidewalks as we ran up to “trick or treat”- Parents also made it a point to introduce themselves any new or unknown neighbors, as well as inviting them to upcoming neighborhood events and shindigs.

My own kids went house to house.  We went back and forth between country and city living- so some years we drove the kids into ‘town’ (we were 3 miles from the nearest neighbor and 16 to town) so they could go with their school chums… all of a hundred folks lived ‘in town’.

Last year I was giving a talk on community involvement in a local small town, right before Halloween. The City Auditor stated she was taking her children the next town over for trunk or treat. Why? Because there were new neighbors on the corner she didn’t know and was afraid to let her kids go up by themselves. So- my first question back was WHY haven’t you already introduced yourself? followed by Why not go up with them???  She chose to take her children 12 miles away to the town with under a hundred people from her own with nearly 500- It kinda baffles me.

Way to go- making your new community member feel unwelcome right out of the gate.  

In a rural or small town setting Trunk or Treat also takes away from the joy of the home bound who have prepared for days for little ghosts and goblins and princesses and unicorns to come to their door. Many of the older folks know every family around, whose kids have allergies, whose like nut rolls and whose love candy corn and make individual bags for them. I know Mildred (in her 90s)  would have been desolate if the kids hadn’t made an appearance- She’d been known for decades in the neighborhood.

Imagine how you would feel if you went all out, quite possibly hoarding bits of your fixed income so you could have treats for the kiddies, to have no one show up. That would probably be disheartening. And what of the new family? Don’t you think that attitude by your new town would keep  person or family  from participating in  other ‘community’ things during the year?

Trick or Treating is almost a rite of passage. It is tradition. It is neighbors being neighborly. – (And trying to out do each other!)

It is community.

It’s OK to do both- To Trunk or Treat at a location, but try  to be neighborly too. You don’t have to cover blocks… but it would be nice to knock on your neighbors door and say “Trick or Treat” or “Welcome to the neighborhood”

-Katy-

A Thanksgiving Tale – A lesson in sarcasm

Once upon a time in a far off land….There was a beautiful Queen and a little Prince andmy-mom-001 Princess.

It was Thanksgiving in Sacramento in about 1972…. At school all the classes were talking about Thanksgiving and what it means and what all our families were doing and practicing being Pilgrims and Indians.

The teacher instructed the class to find out what they were having for Thanksgiving dinner and share with the class the next day.

The little Prince pestered, and pestered the poor Queen until she finally snapped.

Prince: Ma! Ma! What are we having for Thanksgiving??? Huh? Huh?

Queen: I don’t know yet…..

Prince: Well?? Huh? Huh? Ma! Mommy! I NEEEEEEEEED to know RIGHT NOW!!!

hot-dog-79kpjx-clipartQueen: Damnit son, we’re having Hotdogs. Okay?? Hotdogs.. Got it????

Prince: What? Wow! Really??? I loooooooove hotdogs! Cooooooool!

The little prince went back to school the next day and each child told what their family was having. Some were having Italian, some were having roasts, but most were having turkey and all the trimmings. When the little prince was asked what they were having, he cheerfully said Hotdogs! mom-stace-me-001

Apparently that wasn’t an acceptable answer.

On thanksgiving when the  Queen and her King and  the little Prince and Princess were sitting down to dinner, the doorbell rang.

The Queen was taken aback when she beheld several of the teachers from the school holding out a turkey and all the trimmings for the poor little Princes family that were only to have hotdogs!

…….. Now- anyone who knows our family KNOWS my mom would rather the ground open up and swallowed her whole instead of being embarrassed. EVER. 

Imagine the teachers surprise when they beheld us all eating a turkey dinner! They were sputtering that my brother said all we had was hotdogs and my mom was about to round on my brother….

me-kidLesson: Watch what you tell your kiddo-s. It WILL come back to haunt you!

~Katy~

Big Rigs are Big Boy (& Girl) Toys

This fall my husbands business  was a sponsor of  the Hammer Down Big Rig Truckimg_7883 Show in Mandan, North Dakota.

What started as a get together of friends to  tell tall tales and do ‘burn outs’ in the shop parking lot, morphed into this brand new annual event. A neat fact- All grass roots! There were no major sponsors- just all the ‘guys’ pitching in.

It was beautiful fall day for ND- 90 degrees! And far img_7871more trucks than expected showed up! By the end of the week it was announced they had 75 committed and ended up with just under 100.

~ I personally think they came for the Truck Races~   that’s right.. These folks took their Big Rigs on the dirt circle track and went for it…

Can you hear the song in your head???

It was a dark of the moon… on the sixth of June …and a Kenworth pulling logs… cab over Pete… 14322306_1078795705535236_8587227473011778332_nwith a refer on…and a Jimmy haulin’ hogs… we was headed for bear on I-1-0…about a mile outta Shakey Town…I says Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck… and I’m about to put the hammer down.       ~Convoy~ by CW McCall             

This turned out to be a great event! Young and old alike had a 14370382_1082207555194051_5035067683291304675_ngreat time reminiscing about “way back when I was hauling…” and telling tall tales about close calls and impossible feats.

 

Lessons?  Of course there lessons… Never underestimate your audience and Always be prepared for anything.

See ya there next year!

~Katy~

 

 

 

 

What does your entryway say about you?

An entryway says so much about a building. It is space that is often overlooked, but sets the tone for what is ahead.

mercat_window_2015

Urban Indigo    Oakland, CA

What does yours say about you? It can tell us what type of business is in there. If it  is open or closed.

Is yours welcoming?  Does it tell a story? Spark the imagination? Tempt you?

An entryway can also be art. It can be so many things!

In Berthoud, Colorado a joint effort between the city, 11261827_1529547420689260_6503898361766391575_obusinesses and homeowners produced Entryways of Berthoud to showcase art and their community. They invited folks to submit photos of entryways and these were then turned into notecards and posters.

An entryway for a business has many functions and is an important part of the establishment itself.  It may act as the local bulletin board in a rural community, or set the tone of the business.

An entryway can provide a striking entrance with uses of color and architectural details. Or lead into a more formal atmosphere with more subdued touches.

dscn2265

Chop & Wok Scottsdale, AZ

 

Similar to the beginning a chapter in a book, an entryway establishes a story that has yet to unfold.

An entryway is also a very affordable way to change a businesses dynamic.  It is a spot where risks can be taken, and even on a limited budget, have a remarkable effect.

img_8317Think about the places you frequent. How do they make you feel? Welcome? Not so much?

We like our homes to be welcoming and inviting. Our businesses should be too.

How can you use your entryway to enhance your business or community?

~Katy~

Katy is a rural and small town /small business speaker, consultant, advocate & writer.  She believes many small communities can grow from within using resources already at hand and creative strategies and leverage those to attract new families, businesses and customers.  Do you want Tait & Kate to come speak to your community or group? Email us at info@taitandkate.com

 

 

 

 

 

A tale of 3 cities….My first adventure in small town advocacy

Okay- so maybe not quite “cities”…. Cope, Anton and Idalia  are technically listed as OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“villages”

I happened to land in Cope in a quirky twist of fate… You see, many years ago, we bought acope4 001 café sight unseen on a handshake at a football game in Denver. That’s another story.

Cope had a population of 97. We helped grow it to 101.

Now, if you’ve ever lived in a very small rural community, you KNOW that revenue is hard to generate and so is entertainment.

We had the bright idea of starting “Café Racing”one summer.  We had a little go- cart, and cope4 001so did another family in Anton (pop 20) and another in Idalia (pop 115 +/- at the time)

So, we decided that to drum up business for each café in our towns,we would race around the café in Cope one weekend, and the other towns the following weeks… and then repeat.  ~you could call it ‘Redneck Revenue’~

It only lasted a few months, but it was fun and did what it was supposed to do.

~Yes~ our little homemade go carts were wildly unsafe… kids strapped in with old back braces screwed to plywood and borrowed bike helmets…. But we all made it safely  and the kids still talk about that summer.

Café Racing  was a lesson in cooperation and collaboration with other towns. It was the start of “could be’s” Which led to other adventures….and bright ideas

cope3 002

Part of the “Toasties” café crew ~ Carmen, Dale, Jens & me

 

Now I am using over 25 years of gained knowledge to help others get things started in their communities and learn to connect with neighboring towns.

~Katy~

 

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