Remote workers would offer much needed diversity to small cities

Recently, a bill aimed at saving two paper mills, one in Wisconsin Rapids and one in Park Falls, was passed in the Assembly. Three Democrats joined Republicans in passing the bill, which now will advance to the Senate.

Being a Wisconsin Rapids resident, I see the bill’s passage in a positive light. I remain cautiously optimistic because I know the cooperative looking at purchasing the mill still needs to raise more money, and what is more concerning for me is that Verso could just refuse to sell the property. Even if the best of outcomes is reached, the fact remains that if my hometown is to survive, then it must diversify.

While a massive loss of jobs has been blamed on COVID-19, the pandemic has created an interesting opportunity for communities like the one I call home. While many workers are returning to the office, others are requesting more remote work opportunities and are looking at relocating to more affordable, family friendly towns and cities.

While a worker shortage may be disproportionately felt in lower paying industries, the need for employees has created an opportunity for workers in general to negotiate what they want, whether it is higher pay, or more time to spend with family. Workers have the power right now if they choose to use it.

For those who aim to continue to work from home and relocate out of metropolitan areas, a city like Wisconsin Rapids can be very attractive.

Our small city has many enticing amenities for young families, including excellent schools, an aquatic center, multiple theater venues, recently updated parks, a minor league baseball team, a trail system, as well as several lakes and golf courses. We also have reliable broadband and many medical facilities, which is not something that every small city has.

There is a little something for everyone, and actually so much more for families than when I was a kid… and that was in a time when our local economy was booming.

I look at what we have, what has been recently built, and I think of what a shame it would be if we didn’t have the population to use it. I want others to see the opportunity that I see. For too long, Wisconsin Rapids had been on a trajectory to become one giant assisted living facility.

Per capita, we have one of the largest populations of people over the age of 65 in the state. In order to offer this demographic a better standard of living, we need people from other demographics to set up residence here, and I am not just talking about people whose work it is to care for the aged.

We need a strong tax base, but we also need the vibrancy that only diversity can offer. We need problem solvers, future leaders who actually have an eye to the future, and we need them like yesterday!

Housing and utilities are very affordable here. All in all, we have a relatively low cost of living. We may not have many shopping venues, but a person can order the stuff they need online just as they would from pretty much anywhere else. We do have some unique, one-of-a-kind stores that sell locally produced items, and we live smack dab in the middle of a local food mecca.

The city is surrounded by small and mid-size farms, orchards, and cranberry bogs. We are also seeing an exciting transition to renewable energy with various solar projects underway. In so many ways, there has never been a better time to call this place home, and I am hoping that there is more than a remote chance that remote workers see this.