Each year, the National League of Cities celebrates our cities with populations of 50,000 or less. Across the country, our small towns, villages, and cities are the heartbeat of communities. While a large proportion of the United States continues to be urban, a growing majority of Americans live in small towns with populations between 2,500 and 50,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These are the places where government is personal and strong foundations for community are built.
Here are four reasons we are celebrating Small Cities this July.
- Innovation: With a smaller scale of government, local leaders and stakeholders, like businesses can respond quickly to opportunities and challenges that arise. Small cities are taking advantage of technology and finding innovative and creative solutions to issues like transportation, housing, and education. As some major urban centers begin to burst at their seams, neighboring small cities are seeing growth, and several are responding with innovative answers.
- Government is personal: In most small cities and towns, the local elected official is a neighbor and friend; someone you are likely to pass on the street or meet at your favorite restaurant. Additionally, residents are very invested in the governance of their communities. From potholes to a new community theatre, residents in small towns and cities are often some of the most engaged in the decisions that are made by their local leaders.
- Self-reliance: Learning to do more with less is often a mantra for many small cities. Many are using technology and creativity to maintain their community connections and support their businesses.
- Community is key: In many small towns and cities, building and maintaining community involvement is always a focus. These are the places where neighbors help each other, mom and pop shops flourish, and Main Street is the gathering place for birthdays, festivals, and celebrations. The saying is true: everyone knows everyone, but that level of intimacy helps to build a community that cares and takes care of each other.
This month, NLC will highlight all these qualities of our small city members. From Burnsville, MN where they host a global festival to celebrate the diverse members of their community to Lexington, SC where a new theatre has pumped life into downtown.
About the author: Melissa Williams is a communications and marketing specialist with NLC. She supports the Center for Member and Partner Engagement.