"This article appears in the March print edition alongside the cover story, “Can America Put Itself Back Together?”—a summation of James and Deb Fallows’ 54,000-mile journey around America in a single-engine plane. More dispatches from their ongoing reporting trip can be found here.
1. Divisive national politics seem a distant concern.
2. You can pick out the local patriots. A standard question we’d ask soon after arrival was “Who makes this town go?” The answers varied widely. Sometimes it was a mayor or a city-council member. Sometimes it was a local business titan or real-estate developer."
Ask yourself, who are Granite Falls' local patriots? How can I become one?
3. “Public-private partnerships” are real. In successful towns, people can point to something specific and say, This is what a partnership means."
4. People know the civic story. America has a “story,” which everyone understands even if only to say it’s a myth or a lie. "
Granite Falls has the cooperative story and we all know the founding story of Henry Hill.
5. They have a downtown. This seems obvious, but it is probably the quickest single marker of the condition of a town. "
I love this one!
6. They are near a research university. Research universities have become the modern counterparts to a natural harbor or a river confluence."
7. They have, and care about, a community college. Not every city can have a research university. Any ambitious one can have a community college."
Let's support MN West in any way we can! Encourage our students to consider our local community college.
8. They have unusual schools. Early in our stay, we would ask “what was the most distinctive school to visit at the K–12 level."
9. They make themselves open. The anti-immigrant passion that has inflamed this election cycle was not something people expressed in most of the cities we visited."
10. They have big plans. Cities still make plans, because they can do things." Plans for the whitewater park is a big plan and we just finished a big flood mitigation plan.
11. They have craft breweries. One final marker, perhaps the most reliable: A city on the way back will have one or more craft breweries, and probably some small distilleries too. "
The most reliable? Let’s get our cooperative brewery open!