At a time when many rural communities are losing population in a mass exodus to the cities, something different appears to be happening in Estherville.
It seems as though the community is gaining population.
Estherville Lincoln Central superintendent Tara Paul said at Thursday's Rotary meeting that the Oct. 1 official count showed the district up about 25 students from a year ago - and about that same number since Oct. 1. That's more than a blip on the screen. It's a major infusion of state aid money.
So who are these new people? Well, a lot of them are young professionals.
The Estherville Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Wednesday went to Brinkman And Reed CPAs to welcome Michael Woods, an Estherville native, and Emily Bruns, an Estherville native. Leading the Ambassadors was chamber executive director Lexie Hash Ruter, another young Estherville native.
Does anyone else see something a bit odd about this? All young, all professionals, and all finding great jobs in a relatively small town?
Actually, it's extremely unusual and defies that rural exodus that has plagued rural areas for decades.
Something is happening to area - something good. The economic engine is running, and it's going into high gear.
Empty storefronts are few and far between, and the ones that are empty have art in them, thanks to Estherville Art Center volunteers. The new Casey's is a showplace and shows a lot of confidence by a major cooperation in our community. New residential building continues on the westside. Iowa Lakes Community College added two new programs this fall - water quality and HVAC - both of which are in high demand for employees.
The community infrastructure is getting a lot of improvements too, thanks to Excel Estherville, and we have an improved Highway 9 between Estherville and Armstrong with a new overlay and widening between Estherville and Spirit Lake coming next summer.
Long-dreamed-of plans for a campground appear ready to become reality and there's a new trail at Fort Defiance State Park. Whenever the weather turns even halfway decent - and even when it's not - the Lincoln Park playground is packed. Plus there's a new pavillion in Thoreson Park.
Probably most important - for a lot of folks - is that there are help wanted signs displayed throughout the community.
These are all very recent improvements - and all within the last year or so. We might not notice them right away, but add them all up and it's a vast improvement over what the situation was 10-15 years ago.
Despite the latest economic downturn that started in 2008, Estherville is open and ready for business. The community is growing, with young people and young families comprising the bulk of that growth.
The next few years are going to be very exciting.