AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

David Burton
Civic Communications Specialist
2400 S. Scenic Ave.
Springfield, MO 65807

February 2, 2018

What is Your Hometown Advantage? MU Extension Training Focuses on
"No Place Like Home" Theme

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — What is the hometown advantage of your community? What is it going to take to get the best and brightest youth from your community to stay in town and establish their family there?

Those types of questions are something many rural communities in the Midwest are asking in hopes of finding solutions to community growth or revitalization. The topic of youth fleeing rural Missouri and a lack of community leaders was also a recurring concern in MU Extension's Community Conversations done statewide last year.

"Getting residents to work together and look at their community assets is something MU Extension has been doing for a long time," said David Burton, civic communication specialist with University of Missouri Extension. "But this focus on your hometown advantage goes beyond just looking at community resources or trying to land a big employer."


In rural Nebraska, these same concerns gave rise to the "Home Town Competitiveness" (HTC) program 15 years ago. That program has been described as a "come-back/give-back approach to rural community building."

The program is designed to harness the kind of local resources nearly every rural community already has available. Local task forces are organized around four HTC pillars: leadership, entrepreneurship, youth engagement and philanthropy.

Leaders in O'Neill, Nebraska decided to join in to find new ideas to combat an alarming 10 percent decline in population as recorded in the 2000 U.S. Census.

Community leaders worked together to form a broad-based coalition working toward growth by encouraging young people to return home to work, raise their families and start businesses.

For example, the community raised funds for college scholarships for high school students with the encouragement that the recipients consider coming back to Holt County in the future.

As another example, high school graduates are given a full-sized, personalized mailbox with a reminder that they are always welcomed home and an invitation to come back.

In the last five years, those efforts have begun to take off. Ten years ago, high school kids would not have wanted to come back. Now, the young people moving to O'Neill is steadily growing.

These former students are moving back and starting businesses and raising families and helping to stem the population decline that O'Neill had experienced previously.

In addition to its focus on youth engagement, O'Neill also has programs in place to assist. There was a community foundation network (think Community Foundation of the Ozarks). There were educational partners (like MU Extension and others). There were families that wanted to make a lasting impact on their hometown and did so with charitable giving.


One upcoming MU Extension program will touch on the rural youth brain drain issue. The Youth Civic Leaders Summit is planned for March 2-4, at Windermere.

The theme of "The Courage to Lead" has a number of Oz sub-themes, including "There's no place like home." A team from Wisconsin 4-H will be sharing the "First Impressions" program they do, that gives small communities direct feedback involved youth.

YCLS registration is open for teams of teens/adults from local communities, until Feb. 1. Registration can be completed online at

Source: David Burton, (417) 881-8909

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