Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By Cyndy Bolton

It certainly is a difficult time for those of us who are considering the next steps regarding our career's future in a small town. As residents here, we are weighted with the reality of slow-downs and shutdowns. These situations have become somewhat of a norm in our traditionally industrial environment. Economic development teams are addressing these challenging issues, but sometimes it appears as if the downside is winning.

Opportunities for professionals to thrive in our region are limited. I have to admit that I just lost a dear friend. She didn't die. After months of attempting to make an honest go of her home-based business, she realized that there were more opportunities to share her specific skills in a metropolitan area. I consider her decision to leave a great loss for our community. Not only had this person contributed to the tax base, but she also generously and modestly gave her time to numerous volunteer organizations. She will not commute, but has decided to uproot her existence here for a new opportunity elsewhere. I am happy for her, but not for us.

I have another friend who commutes every day of the week to Kingston for her job. She is committed to her occupation and realizes that there are not many opportunities for her here. She loves living in a smaller town, but is well aware of the time that her commute takes away from her valuable family time. If I do the math right (which is not my strength) , the commute subtracts about 520 hours per year from her family time. That's more straight time than three weeks vacation.

One last example on the topic is another long time friend of mine. She is considering continuing her college education from many years back. In order to upgrade she will commute to a college in another town. No big deal, a lot of us do this. The big deal lies in her potential future plan. She is weighing and considering her life after the kids are gone and wants to do something that will feed her soul. Good for her, not so good for us. The jobs that appeal the most to her are not in this community, but again are in larger centers. Another one bites the dust.

With my home based business, I have found opportunity here, but it is limited. I wish to stay and grow, but I am finding myself drawn to communities that have more job opportunity. Approximately 50% of my clients are outside of the city limits, about 25% are in another larger city. I am fortunate, though. Since I work from my home office, I only travel outside of this city when I need to meet with the client, the rest of my time is spent developing projects here in town.

Consider the impact if your skills weren't portable. Moving would then be an option for you if you were dedicated to staying in your field of expertise. If you choose to stay and work out of your field, you sacrifice your past training and experience. If you leave and take an offer of employment that is aligned with your training, you leave behind a void that will be hard to fill. This community needs to work not only at attracting new Canadians to sustain the tax base, but also to address the exodus of professionals who are choosing to leave due to lack of solid employment opportunities.

I have limited answers for this retention issue myself. It's a very personal decision with many factors for consideration. We must work together and create resolutions and address the fact that not only are we losing our young adults to larger communities as we did a generation ago, but our strong professional base may disappear due to lack of opportunity.