Blame this column topic on my husband, Maury, even though it has nothing to do with viruses. Recently, Maury read an article on the online tech site, “Geek Wire,” and insisted that I see it. My readers are probably not surprised to learn that I don’t read “Geek Wire” regularly.
What grabbed Maury’s attention was Lily Katz’s article, “House Hunters’ Hunger for Small Towns Continues to Soar — Even as Interest in Big Cities Begins to Recover.” The writer noted that there is an “emerging migration trend amid the coronavirus outbreak; the shift toward small towns. Americans are shopping for homes in small towns — those with populations of less than 50,000 — at an exceptionally higher rate than they were last year and even last month.”
This sounds like a wake-up call for Huntington to recruit newcomers. Some readers may be snickering, thinking that Huntington, with its problems, could never be among the small cities and semi-rural areas that are attracting big city folks. The Huntington area offers many positives, but we have two drawbacks. We under-appreciate the “good stuff” here while highlighting the negatives, and we’re remiss in letting those outside this region know what’s right with Huntington. It’s time to do that.
Maury wasted no time in doing so. He emailed Ms. Katz, with just a short list of the many positives about the Huntington area, including Marshall University and its medical and pharmacy schools, the Marshall Artist Series, the Huntington Museum of Art and the Huntington Symphony Orchestra.
If his email were longer, he could have mentioned the extensive nature of the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District, which so many of us are enjoying during COVID-19 time, Heritage Farm and Museum, Blenko Glass, magnificent river scenery and religious houses of worship for every denomination.
Our climate is mild and not known for hurricanes or earthquakes. Our real estate market has homes for everyone, from small starters or rental units to the truly elegant. California transplants could trade in a two-bedroom home for a mansion here. Prior to the pandemic, our restaurants and re-developed downtown were highlights. With work and local support, they’ll be so again.
More people are disenchanted with high urban housing costs, long commutes on congested highways or sardine-packed petri dish germ factory public transportation. COVID-19 work-from-home schedules prove that with adequate broadband and computing technology, much office work can be done at home.
During the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, many city dwellers fled their urban East Coast homes temporarily. As more people re-evaluate their priorities for family and work, there’s more appeal to consider moving to less congested and more economical areas. Access to fresh air is newly appreciated.
Maury and I were raised in the New York City area, lived in suburban Washington, D.C., and Chicago and have now spent more than half of our lives in Huntington. City dwellers can be happy in Huntington. Many folks would enjoy living here; they just have never heard the good things about it.
A concentrated effort to recruit new residents would be great, but local agencies’ priorities now are health and economics. Until a formalized plan for recruitment could be developed, everyone can spread the word by traditional or social media. Now is a good time to recruit new Huntingtonians.