Rural Economic Designs, LLC

Building A Stronger Future for Rural Communities



Are your Social Media Posts Impacting Your Rural Community?

I live in a rural community and overall I love it.    I think that the community members tend to support each other through all sorts of issues; from a loved one being sick and needing help with medical costs, making sure kids have winter clothing, donating wood to those in need of heat, supporting each other during major disasters like we saw this summer with forest fires, and in general we are a solid community working together for the betterment of all.

However, a new trend is starting to emerge in my community which got me looking at other community’s social media pages; specifically Facebook.   It is somewhat astonishing to see what people will post on community pages and how harmful their posts are to the work that I and many others are doing in Rural America and to their own home-town community.


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In just my small rural community we have a number of Facebook pages for the community to utilize.  There is an Online Yard Sale site, a Eureka Small Business and Handyman Service Site, an “Air Your Grievances” site,  a Eureka Community Bulletin Board, a Eureka Kudos and Thanks, and a Eureka, Montana fire update and pics site.   Overall, each of these sites are serving an important role in our community.  They serve as a place to share information about activities, events, business services, sales, and so much more.

And, they are also serving as a place for people to be very aggressive in behavior and spew unnecessary negativity.  Hey, it is easy right, you are sitting in the comfort of your home and something irritates you… why not say what you want…what is the harm?

Well, the harm is that social media is a key tool for businesses and site selectors to utilize in determining investment.  It is a tool for potential employers to determine employees’ potential.  And, it is used to determine if a community is for someone to move their family to or relocate to for whatever reason; retirement, change of lifestyle, telecommunicate, or job opportunity.   For whatever reason, they have people are using social media to learn about your community… But your post could be sharing the wrong story and actually harming your community. 

If your community pages are flooded with discontent, false accusations, misleading information, and general arguments what is Facebook portraying about your community?

The other day I followed a chain from a woman, who obviously is upset.  She claimed that people have been stealing from her and though many responded with positive ways to address the situation, she and others were adamant that our community was crime-ridden and the law enforcement does nothing.  And this post is being shared!   YIKES!  and it continues to have more people posting on it so it continues to pop into newsfeeds of anyone following this public community Facebook page… double YIKES!   This is a community where I don’t even lock my car doors while running errands!

So, here I am reading this chain, and, mind you, I work almost daily with our law enforcement entities (which we have 6 different branches of) and they are each dedicated to the protection and service of the community, and I’m heartbroken.

Is this one woman’s perception really the reality? Do people really believe this about our community?  Or is this just an easy way to be disgruntled and is group mentality really at play?  Whatever the reason, it is harmful.


I was working with a potential business to move into our area over the last couple of years and they could be a game changer for our ever-present economic distress.   However, one of the comments that continued to be shared with me was “Your community is so negative”.   They were following our community pages.  And,  though they absolutely loved the local restaurants showcasing their specials, the call for recommendations for a service needed, the information on community events, and all the other positive and informational posts, they were focused on these negative long dramatic chains that were just feeding and festering this unnerving attitude.  I mean, we have an “air your grievance” page (which I do not follow!) … why can’t that be the center of this social experience of hatred, why does it have to spill over to the pages set up for the betterment of our community?

I’m appalled!  And, as I started researching to see is this just in my community or in others, I truly think it is an epidemic.  Rural America has so many things facing us and now this?!  How do we combat this horrible trend in social behavior that gives anyone with any type of a gripe a platform regardless of the truth or right?

So, my challenge to you… think before you post.  It is so easy, I know I’ve done it myself.  You are having a day of hell, and there is just that one person that treated you unfairly and you want to gripe about it.  We are all guilty of it… I think it’s human nature.  However, maybe do it off of social media?  Let’s make our community better by focusing on the good like the “Eureka Kudos” page does.  Maybe focus your attention on what is working and take the time to say thank-you! 

image from Sutherland Insitute on Economic Gardening









And if you really have a situation take it to the right people who can help remedy it.  You have a problem within your local community then be active and make a change for the better.  Proactively talk- don’t attack- but TALK to those in charge.  Call the Sheriff and tell them you were disappointed with how you were treated if that doesn’t work call the County Commissioner.  Everyone tends to have someone that they report to.

And as one wise man once said “Be the Change you want to See in the World”

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Though, I will add, make sure you know the whole story and the facts behind an issue before you jump on board!  You just might not have the whole story when you respond to someone else’s post!







Finding More?

Lately, I have been talking to a number of nonprofits that are struggling with limited resources and even more daunting, limited volunteers.  It seems no matter where you go there is someone somewhere asking for more donations, more time, more, more, more…. and is there an answer?

Last night I was visiting with a couple who attended a public input session for a local nonprofit.  They both serve on the Board for the nonprofit that is wanting to preserve the historic Community Hall in Eureka while promoting live theater.  It is a GREAT cause but as usual, when a public meeting is held, there was limited involvement from the general community.

Why? This continues to be a plaguing question for the communities and nonprofits we work with and though we would love to have that shining brilliant answer it is somewhat a complex situation.  However, at the very heart of it, we come back to Community Apathy… it is strong and it is apparently winning.

There are many different factors on why Community Apathy is occurring in rural communities across the US.   For us, what we observe, is there is just too much going on.  In the world where there is constant and instant entertainment are we just to overwhelmed as a society to be a community?

One of my overarching life goals on my vision board is to take more time to just be me and to truly connect with people through authentic moments unrelated to technology.   I am as guilty as anyone of replacing reality with a serious cell phone junky habit.  My constant demand on false connections through social media channels was overtaking my evenings where I should have been out enjoying time with friends, family and dare I say community!  No MORE!

Maybe if we all spent less time chasing the instant return and more time investing in long-lasting connections; and spending less time on Facebook or in front of Netflex, and more time in volunteering and participating in our community, we would find there is truly “more”.  And that “more” is a lot more gratifying.






Leadership- It isn’t about Being Tougher

Years ago, I was in a training about leadership in rural areas.  What I remember most download (1)vividly was the trainer spoke to us about the “lobster pot” theory.  This theory is about communities that are experiencing distress often will get lost in a cycle of despair where if any individual or group start to climb out of the distress, the remainder do whatever they can to prevent it from happening- similar to when lobster is being prepared one will try to escape but the others pull them back down into the hot boiling water; preventing the one from bettering oneself.

Though I’ve experienced this in the past I had honestly thought I had left it behind when I moved into my own business; silly me for thinking so.  A recent statement that was made in a public meeting was “is this that Tracy’s idea“- and though it wasn’t my idea I was merely trying to coordinate the community project, I wanted to stand up and yell “Who cares if it was or wasn’t my idea, the point is the project will protect ground water, improve and continue to provide a beloved community facility, and remove failing septic systems”. The point of the project is lost among the personal dislike of individuals (in this case myself and a couple others who has done so much for the local community).  Why does this continue to happen?  Is this because some are so lost in their own despair and hatred that they cannot imagine anyone doing something good, and right? Is it jealous of perceived power? Or is it merely a reflection on their own insecurities and self-doubt? Or is it their desire to use fear as a weapon to make themselves look important?

Who knows, but the best advice (supposedly) that I have been given is “what they think about you is none of your business and grow tougher skin if you want to be in leadership”… right?  Well, I’m here to say no- that isn’t the best advice.  I am a sensitive person and, though many don’t believe this, I am an introvert that sometimes struggles just being around people. Conflict makes me want to stay in my home binge watching Doris Day movies, but I’ve learned how to become stronger, not tougher, because of the conflict I’ve dealt with.   I have learned there are ways to be a good leader without having to “develop tough skin” and how to become stronger without becoming hardened.

Here is a bit of my advice on dealing in these situations and people:

1. You don’t have to grow Alligator Skin to be a Leader–  Time and time again, I’m told “Don’t take it personally.  Get tougher skin. They are the vocal minority and we know who you are and what you do”.  That is great advice but guess what… I am taking it personally because I give heart and soul to my work as I believe I’m making our community, State, Country, and World better.

I REFUSE TO HAVE ALLIGATOR SKIN!  I will continue to take these statements about what I do personally as it makes me stronger but it doesn’t make me harder.  I am more resolved than ever to push back, with positive affirmations and good work, against those that use fear and misinformation to bend people to their will.  I will become better because they make me understand what I don’t want to be.  I will learn from what criticism may be hidden in these blanketed statements of “fear mongrels” to improve my work and life.  I also will share my compassion for these individuals, who live with such passionate fear themselves, to find peace at some point in their lives; as it is such a waste for anyone to be filled with such animosity that they cannot even understand that there truly is good in the world.


And truly the most genuine thing any of us can do when a community leader is being attacked by the vocal minority… show up! Show your community leaders that the community is watching and they do care about the leaders who have put themselves out there.  So next time you read in the local newspaper or hear on the radio and you think “that’s not right” take the minute to send a quick email or  make a call to your community leader, send a note of thanks, anything to help them understand that though they took a beating that day for the community they are loved and appreciated.

It is a lonely spot being a community leader sometimes but overall, most of the community is paying attention even if they don’t say or come to anything.  It would just be really nice to get some positive affirmations as that goes a long way from preventing one of becoming “tougher”.

2. Understand the Motivation of Jealous and Insecurity – I had to recognize and come to accept that not everyone will like or admire my work; that some will see it as a direct reflection of their own shortcomings (perceived or real) and attack.  The motivation of jealously and insecurity is strong and very dangerous; and are emotions that cannot be swept aside as they are powerful and often will cause undue destruction if not addressed; or better stated addressed in a conflicted manner.

Being super defensive in situations where people are “attacking” the work you are doing will do no good as you are not dealing with the rationality of a truly concerned individual… you are dealing with a handful of people, who have placed you or your project or team in the “threat” category. They are not rationally thinking what their actions are doing or the ripple effect of their decisions; they were in their own bubble caused by insecurity and for whatever self-doubting reasons they had only see the danger to them; rather it is real or not.

Dealing with a person(s) who is reacting to their own emotions of jealously and/or insecurity (I believe they work in a combined fashion) needs to be done outside of the collective good. Entering an argument with them publicly, though may feel good in the moment to defend oneself, will result in nothing more than making them even more determined to get you away from them, prove their point, or they will shut down completely.  Classic flee or fight syndrome and a complete loss for all of us involved.

By stepping back, recognizing that the emotion isn’t really  about you or the work and just letting the drama die down will allow them to control their own emotions over time and hopefully you can find a solution… though as a side-note if you are dealing with someone that is not  in it for the betterment of the community but using fear and misinformation to promote themselves into a perceived position of power; in my opinion it is best to walk away and let their anger fizzle out. They can burn their own bridges faster than you can defend yourself.

However, if behavior is truly misplaced especially if its insecurity take the time to LISTEN to what they have to say and respond individually (one on one, no public, no bosses) to their concerns.  Being a leader means understanding that some of the best conflict management is not getting tougher but getting softer so you can understand the underlying emotions and respect them.

My friends at Thrive have a wonderful class on Using Conflict.  Though I only attended an abbreviated version a few months ago I’d highly recommend it.  It is a great course on  how to handle conflict to better yourself and the work you are doing.

3. Learn to Let Go-  “Let it Go, Let It Go, turn away and slam the door”-  And at the end you have a choice to let it go and move forward or to let their hatred, lobster clawing ways destroy you.  I’ve fumed about things, I’ve vented to loved ones about how horrible these people are, and then I just found I was wasting so much time on them.   I was allowing these people who obviously are not in a good place themselves, have control over my life! Why oh why would I do that?  I made a promise to myself that my life would be dedicated to improving the world we live in.  I am passionate about helping others succeed and rural communities to thrive.  I will focus on being a change I want to see and though I am sure there will be days that I fume over a loss or an attack will get my Irish Temper flaring, I know in my heart that I’m stronger than ever before and that a new chapter will begin.

And at the end of the day… it really is the choice you make that will make you a better leader and overall a happier person.


Finding Inspiration

Earlier this summer, I had the rare opportunity to spend a day with my Dad in the Flathead; just the two of us.  I had a doctors appointment and he was dropping off his hand-painted glassware from Elk Camp Arts to the Crown of the Continent Discovery Center.

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I must admit, having parents like mine, has been a huge inspiration in my own business.  My parents, installed in their daughters early on that we really could do anything we want, and as of this year all three of their daughters are now business owners!  Working with and watching my father, as he built his art business over the course of more years then he’d want me to say, has shown me that hard work, dedication and passion, along with some solid Montana determination can result in fulfilling a dream.  There isn’t a day that goes by that my Dad isn’t pursuing his art dream and every day, more and more growth occurs.  Truly inspiring.

Along our adventurous day, we stopped at the Glacier Distillery in Corum, Montana.   I know a number of the Distillers in the State, but this little gem of a place has probably my all time favorite drink; The Daughter of the Sun, Cherry Brandy Liqueur.  If you haven’t tried it, and are over 21 of course, this is a must for your Montana Bucket List!  Victoria and her husband Nick, are an incredible couple with rich personal life stories.  Though, I do not know them overly well, anytime I visit with them I’m in awe of their passion for our State and for just living life to the fullest.  They have created an awesome business in a rural area, and give back to their community every day.  From creating local jobs and utilizing local products, the Glacier Distillery is an awesome business and one I encourage everyone to support.

Glacier Distilling “Daughter of the Sun” looks perfect in Elk Camp Art hand-painted Tumblers
As you can see, this day was shaping up to be pretty awesome.  As we ran the normal errands to Costco, went to the doctors appointment and generally did what one living in Rural Montana does when we make it to the “big” towns, my Dad and I reminisced about his childhood and mine, and how many things have changed.  It always brings a smile on my face listening to my Dad talk about days gone by.   He truly can make even the most stoic person break out in laughter with his stories; such a typical old cowboy my Dad.

On our route home, through Whitefish, Montana, we saw the signs for the local Farmers Market.  Now, this is also should be on everyone’s bucket list for a Montana Summer as the Whitefish Farmers Market is such a wonderful experience.  Crafters, food vendors, fresh produce from the surrounding area, live music, and good community vibes make this a great stop along any route.   So, of course, we stopped!  IIMG_5289[1]t was an absolutely wonderful way to end this Father/Daughter day of fun.   While walking through, we found all sorts of treasures but I’d be mistaken if I didn’t tell you about this young girl who was just truly beautiful inside and out.  Though, I don’t know her name, she is the owner and creative person behind Cutie Pies.  I pretty much fell in love with everything about this young business and entrepreneur.  She is the classic entrepreneur that every Economic Developer/Business Technical Assistance Provider would want.  Well presented, solid idea, business knowledge and an outstanding product that was well packaged.   If you are in Whitefish, you WANT a Cutie Pie!  I personally tried the Strawberry Apple and it was bursting with flavor and hello… look how cute it was packaged… I almost didn’t want to open it! Just absolutely wonderful.

Now this day didn’t just happen, its been a good 5-6 weeks ago.  But, it is still a day that is lingering in my mind.  I go back to it, and will continue to revisit the memory, for not only was it a special day with my Dad, but it was full of all these great businesses and individuals.  Finding inspiration isn’t always easy but there are days like this one, that will stay with you long after the photos fade.  The feeling of connecting with like minded entrepreneurs was thrilling, and I continue to seek this type of connection as a cornerstone in my professional and personal life.  Truly, for me, inspiration is finding moments of time that you can store away and remember the scents, excitement, sounds, and textures; so that anytime when life gets a little dark or a little harder than you like, you get hit hard and knocked down a bit, you can pull that moment up and remember, overall life is pretty dang amazing and take on a new day.


~A tribute to Our Moms~


On this weekend, while the sun is shining and mountains are calling, we find ourselves taking a bit of a break from the company to celebrate the women in our lives that we call Moms.  For me, growing up in rural Montana and enjoying the lifestyle that many only hear about on movies, I had three amazing women who encouraged and provided strength to me over the years.

This Mothers Day is the first time that we won’t have our Grandmothers with us (or at least on earth with us) and though there is a saddness in our hearts, it is a perfect time to reflect how much our mothers and grandmothers give to all of us.

Rural Economic Designs, LLC is a tribute to my grandmothers and my Mom.  Sandy, that’s my Mom and I in the middle picture, is an an amazing woman.  She has support the development of Rural Economic Designs in more ways than one.  Not only did she spend extra time designing and remodeling our office but she is now working part-time for the company. She provides research, office administration, and in all truth a bit of sanity!  Seriously, she is running errands for us right now on a Saturday just to make sure that we all can spend a day of free-time tomorrow!

My grandmothers, were individuals who raised families and showed me what hard work and dedication really meant.   My Grandma Wilcox worked side by side my grandfather from farming to their janitorial company, to many other trades over the years.  Growing up in Rural New Mexico my Grams had a special talent for taking a loaf of bread and making a meal from it to feed a small army.  No one ever went hungry when Lily was in the room. She was kind in a way of a true southern woman, but she had bit of a fiery temper from time to time when needed.  She loved fiercely and gave all she had to her family and friends.

Grandma Mac, (my Dad’s mom) lost her husband way to early.  With three young men to raise, Grandma worked odds and ends jobs, was a beautician, and could make the most beautiful afghans you have every seen.  As years flew by and her sons started raising families of her own, she took the road and spent her time traveling mostly in the Mountains of Montana and Wyoming.  Working as a camp host most summers she was content to be in her motor home and be completely dependent on herself.  The stories she would tell of the people she meet and places she saw always made me smile.  I was lucky to of spent some time in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming with her just exploring  during a summer off of college.  It is one of my favorite memories of her and I truly believe that some of the love I have for the mountains and solitutude came from the time I spent with Grandma Mac.

As a woman owed company with a full female staff, Rural Economic Designs, wants to recognize all Moms and Grandmas out there.   The strength and perseverance that we have here at Rural Economic Designs, is largely attributed to these three woman.   My advice for today, is if you really want to get something done gather a group of Mom’s and brainstorm it out with them.   Mothers have a unique ability to find solutions even in the darkest of hours especially when building a future for their children.

Happy Mothers Day everyone!



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