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Rural Community Comebacks
Brandon Schielack
Pilot Sponsor & Lead
Have you considered where you are going to live after college? Will you reside in a rural community or will you live in a big city? Have you pondered where your degree might be more beneficial both to you and to the community in which you decide to reside? Have you thought about where you might want to raise a family somewhere down the road? Questions just like these often face college students prior to and after graduation. If you come from a small rural town, you might think your degree won’t be as beneficial in your hometown, so you may make the move to the big city, but this is no longer the case as rural communities recognize the importance of keeping and drawing people to the community. So rural communities are making a comeback!  

Leaders within local communities are working diligently to try and persuade students to move back to their hometown, with pride. In addition, they hope this causes special consideration fostering a move from a big city to a rural city. This is important to rural communities because they do need and want to attract people with different skill sets. The truth be known, local communities enjoy the benefit of showing them off to the community. Rural communities are appropriately proud of students who graduate and then decide to come back home as they recognize, HOME is HOME! Moreover, rural communities need different skills so that their community can continue to rise in population, employment and pride. When students move back, local communities’ benefit but if people are not moving back to rural communities how will the community continue to grow? What will attract students to move into those communities? With students moving back, they will be able to bring new things they have learned in school into the rural community.

As rural communities begin to make a comeback, it’s important they maintain up to date technology while providing full access to remote work opportunities that may exist. Providing accommodation to technology is critically important, as it allows the younger generation to help the older generation effectively utilize current technology to its full potential. In addition, accessing such technology while providing internet access within the community helps promote remote work opportunities, an effort that furthers a determination to maintain population locally. If the community provides Wi-Fi and internet access, it also creates an opportunity, even a need to open new businesses supporting such efforts to promote remote work too. This remote work can assist rural communities tremendously in efforts to entice students and individuals alike to move to rural communities as they will be able to work mainly from home. Not only does this help the population rise, but it can also help rural communities have more opportunities with more skill sets.

As rural communities continue to focus on comebacks, a top priority is to focus upon long term sustainability and long- term growth. It seems clear based upon current efforts that communities do fervently desire to continue efforts to sustain growth, as they simply do not want current efforts to simply fade away as quickly as they get started. Encouraging, even enticing people to be drawn back to and or to remain living within local communities is one of the most important things to be accomplished going forward, as it insures the future of their own world. With more people moving to rural communities after graduation, they will continue to make progress towards their comeback. No doubt, some people will still move to a big city rather than to decide to live in a rural community, but rural communities are now ready, willing and able to take the next step. Its an exciting time for local rural communities as a whole as people are beginning to recognize the tremendous opportunities that do exist to live, grow and prosper.

**** If interested in participating and working toward this vision of our community, please email:
Brandon Schielack at brandon@theplatforum.net or britney@theplatforum.net.
Thank you for your support!***
The Vision
Brandon and Britney Schielack
Pilot Sponsors & Leads

October 4th, 2022

How did a county in Rural Central Texas become a place to build businesses and raise families?

It's a story about collaboration, commitment and community..

Fayette County is a small quaint area mostly known for Antiques, the Chicken Ranch, and a train stop. What’s hidden among the largest Antique Fair in the world, the American Business Library, and backroads that seem to go on for miles is a community filled with some of the greatest talent in the country with kid after kid creating and building companies in their own backyard. The community not only knows each other, but they know what everyone is great at, resulting in productivity and youth empowerment coining the phrase “When you visit Fayette County, you travel the world.” This references one of the area’s first youth entrepreneurs and now head of PineCraft - a VR company that enables users to view the most pristine churches around the world - inspired by painted churches in Schulenburg. Visitors can travel the most remote areas of the planet in a safe museum environment in downtown Round Top, allowing a visit to museums and libraries across the globe without ever leaving county lines.

Guests from Houston and San Antonio can easily take a quick train ride to Flatonia to enter our county as well, home to The American Business History Library and Museum that showcases the epic successes and learning opportunities of business leaders of the past. It's a true treat for young entrepreneurs to help them learn about business as part of the ongoing Kids Entrepreneurship Program powered by The PlatForum. That's correct, we are innovating everyday at the more than 12 coworking locations across the county that include 4D printers, the most innovative AR and VR, and digital currency mining.

It wasn’t a large manufacturing company who came in and started supplying jobs, generating economic development. It was the infrastructure of a connected community who took what was already great, and made it attainable. The unique talents and resources within Fayette county, provided a support system for all community members, especially the youth. Now you can find multiple soft-skill programs, that work directly with parents and mentors to allow kids to innovate and create in their own backyards. This community is not forced to rely on the public education system, they can rely on each other. Companies like Lukes Pencils, the largest distributor of handmade pens and pencils in the country, WholeEarthVR saving lives a world away, and IronHands, a toy company bringing enjoyment to kids across the globe. Through a collaborative project in all major cities in the county, all food is locally grown and distributed 3 times a week, just another project innovated in Fayette County.

But how did this happen? When asked County Judge Webb, who took office 4 years ago, “This was a mindset shift from what wrong to what's strong” This was a countywide effort, where every person recognized and contributed their value -- knowing they had a purpose here. It wasn’t about money, or fame, or self-interest. We all decided to focus on just one goal. A goal to make sure we could provide a sustainable and supportive place to live, especially for our kids and then we simply did it. We built a tool to help plan, expose, categorize, connect, and educate our youth and community in a way that everyone was involved. We saw the potential of the product we built and began to license it to other communities to fund more tools that our community needed. It just took off from there.”

The PlatForum, built by the community of Fayette County in a collaborative effort, is today being used by Texas counties as part of their Economic Development Efforts. With The PlatForum as their tool, the EDCs were able to receive funding for these impactful projects. To date, over 5000 projects have been started within those counties including Fresh For All -- a program ensuring there is enough locally grown food to be distributed to residences 3 times per week. Within 12 months of implementing The PlatForum in Fayette County, the school districts saw a 12% increase in student enrollment and participation, a near 0 unemployment rate and a 50% decrease in criminal activity. Now, 4 years later, still near 0 unemployment rate, and most students now not only perform in school but are involved in community and business projects outside of school -- learning the skills necessary to develop socially and professionally. These statistics are holding true to counties across Texas.

When asked [The PlatForum Co-Founders], “What was the moment you knew this was going to work?” Their response was, “When people [community members] started utilizing the value available to them locally by hiring each other, and trusting in each other, by borrowing each-others cars, coworking, asking for help and receiving it, things began to change. We knew then if the people [community members] wanted to live this way the municipalities and education system would have no other option then but to integrate with the approach.” The PlatForum is built as one large community, but also small micro-communities run by local churches, non-profits, and service groups like the Rotary Club. The micro-communities allowed the kids to interact with mentors in a safe productive community policed by community leaders. “Once we had a majority of the organizations involved, it was easy to see which kids were left out. This is when the true value of The PlatForum came in. We, as a community, knew which kids needed the immediate resources and were able to focus. One of our goals and commitments for everyone, from toddler, to kid, to young adult, to college-aged, to young adult to family, to grandparent was for 1 hour a week to be committed to mentoring someone. We made this process easy and the rest took care of itself.”

The experience of Fayette County is one of true innovation and collaboration and it is exciting to watch. In a days time, book a ticket on the next Amtrak coming from Houston, hop in a shared-ride to the painted churches in Schulenburg, visit the now year-round Antique fair in the Northern part of County, and ride to Fayetteville to experience the VR Museum that takes you to every continent in the country while experiencing small town flair. Have lunch with the locals at My Office, play a few rounds at the newly built Frisch Auf 18 hole Champion golf course, head back to Flatonia for a cup of coffee at the iconic Olle Hotel, and easily hop back on the Amtrak. But, we bet you’ll stay awhile.

**** If interested in participating and working toward this vision of our community, please email:
Brandon Schielack at brandon@theplatforum.net or britney@theplatforum.net.
Thank you for your support!***
Because Community Matters
Brandon and Britney Schielack
Pilot Sponsors & Leads
Younger generations are the drivers of job creation. Rural America is raising these generations, graduating them from high school, then sending them off to college, with most of them never to return. There is a desire for rural communities to innovate, and generate small economies that will support all generations. Through the rise of remote work, and the shared economy, we can make this happen without industrial infrastructure, but through a new infrastructure of community connections, and trust.
More than Coworking. It's Community.
Brandon and Britney Schielack
Pilot Sponsors & Leads
Before internet and social media, the square served as the place for community members to gather and learn about local happenings, to celebrate, and to connect. 

We want to re-energize the Fayette community by utilizing idle assets and identifying the resources and talents of our community members. With the rise of remote work opportunity, the work-commute no longer needs to consist of sitting in traffic for hours on end, wasting life away. Now, we can live in smaller communities, and be offered the same opportunities. 

The work-commute is a simple stroll to the local coffee shop. This is the lifestyle that will enable all generations the opportunity to choose rural.

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