Trading Places

Inside views on the jobs market

The economy’s effect on small-town America

May 11, 2009

This is part of a series of personal accounts about how people are surviving the recession. The writers are contributors to Associated Content. For more stories in this series, click here.

By Heather K. Adams

Living in a small town has its advantages, especially during an economic crisis.

Take a walk down the main street of Harvey, N.D., and you will find a menagerie of small businesses that are thriving. When the town has only the essential businesses, what’s left to close? Despite the recent economic downturn, Harvey manages to survive.

How does Harvey remain unscathed in a recession? Residents shop locally. When money is tight, who wants to fill up the gas tank and drive 75 miles to the nearest big city to go shopping or go out for lunch? In turn, local shops are stocking a wider variety of goods so consumers stay satisfied.

As a community-conscious consumer, when I made the decision to purchase a newer vehicle with my tax refund this year, I went car shopping here in Harvey. I spent $3,200 at Country Motors for a 1999 Buick LeSabre. Maybe I could have found a better deal in a bigger town, but I know the car dealer. I knew I could help Harvey’s economy and his small used-car dealership by spending my tax refund locally.

I work for the local weekly newspaper as a bookkeeper. In that capacity, I have noticed that local businesses are advertising more. They aren’t relying on word-of-mouth methods. Instead, the shops are getting more aggressive, trying to draw outside money into the community.

Thanks to the “Making Work Pay” provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, my take-home pay has increased by approximately $25 every pay period. For the first time since high school, I was able to open a savings account and invest in my future. Twenty-five dollars may seem a paltry amount, but over the course of just one year I will have saved $650. For a single mother of two children, not having to live paycheck to paycheck and being able to set aside money is a powerful feeling.

I have also seen an increase in the amount of county assistance I receive. Last year, making less money per month than I do now, I received $250 to $265 of monthly food stamps benefits. This month, even with the additional income, I received $350 to feed myself and two children. My friend’s food stamps benefits jumped almost $200 from last month to this month.

While the national economic crisis wasn’t felt as hard here in Harvey, I can say I have been breathing a little easier these past few months. For a community to survive a recession, it has to pull together, something in which Harvey excels.


As the economy has softened I have noticed more and more in my own business that people are a little tighter around the pursestrings. I think that good will come out of all thin, small town or large city. More people will be saving money and reducing debt. In the end we may all feel poorer but we might be richer both in wisdom and in our own ssavings accounts.

Daniel Simmons


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