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‘Too many people flee’: A dispatch from New Ulm

I love the town and the lifestyle. While life in a rural community can seem quirky to many, it just seems more grounded to me.

In between the major segments of our ongoing Rural Minnesota: Generation at the Crossroads series, we are posting interim pieces by or about young people we meet around the state. We connected with Bob Martens, 24, through Twitter. He used our online form (Are you under 25 and living in Minnesota? We have some questions for you) to tell us a little bit about his decision to stay with his family in New Ulm, where he works for Martin Luther College and runs his own web development company, deck78. He blogs about life and technology at Working Passively.

I work as the webmaster/technician for Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., where I was born and raised. I attended St. Paul’s Lutheran School, Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School and Martin Luther College, where I received my Bachelor of Science degree in education in 2009. I married my wife, Laura, in 2006 at the church where my parents were married. I lived on the our family farm for the first 20 years of my life. Now I live seven minutes from that same farm with my wife, son Jamis, and another child on the way.

Bob Martens and son
Courtesy of Bob Martens
Bob Martens and son

I love the town and the lifestyle. While life in a rural community can seem quirky to many, it just seems more grounded to me. Too many people flee these areas, especially those that many see as the “smart, college-educated” people.

We had moved to Milwaukee, where I worked as a “Genius” at an Apple Store, but we moved back after only four months. It was not the life we wanted to live.

I appreciate the green spaces that are all around the city and the opportunities that you have to take a step back and enjoy your family. The standard of living is very high, the people are great, and housing prices are still very low compared to years ago. We would not have been able to buy our house if we hadn’t moved back to a rural city.

Communities like ours could do more to encourage young entrepreneurs to stick it out and build. Providing low-cost office space or co-working facilities, along with programs to get them started, would be a step in the right direction.

I hope that we can get some younger people into positions of power in the city to start pushing for some changes, but would that be what is wanted? The city itself is relatively old and the people are as well, so I’m just guessing that New Ulm will get smaller over time unless something changes soon.