For the past decade or so, "brain drain" — in which the young and educated flee their hometowns, taking their brains and economic potential with them — has been the dominating narrative for the rural south. The problem is a vicious cycle, as the more people leave, the fewer reasons there are for the next generation to stay.
That's why it's been heartening to see so many Lake Martin area natives reversing that narrative, whether out of civic duty or the genuine belief they're making a good investment in an economically developing region.
Last week, The Outlook reported on Raven Tolbert, the Dadeville High School graduate who's back in town opening her new dance studio. Fellow Dadeville alum Bobby Hill, who spent several years working in the film industry in Atlanta, also returned to his hometown last year to start an arts nonprofit across the street from his alma mater.
Earlier this month, Emberly Zellers presented two new businesses for the Camp Hill Town Council's approval, a snack bar and a beauty salon in which hairdressers and stylists can rent a space. Nearby, 17-year-old Cameron Brooks is starting up a local newspaper, The Camp Hill Chronicle.
Locals aren't the only one making the investment — over the past year, Lake Martin real estate demand has surged as city dwellers seek respite from the pandemic. Last November, Alexander City Chamber of Commerce president Ed Collari observed an uptick in interest for office and co-working space as the remote worker base continues to grow.
Unlike the brain drain, these investments create a virtuous cycle, giving young people reason to stay and college graduates reason to return.