Part 2: What Lies Ahead For 2021 And Beyond

February 9, 2021By Stephen V. Smith

In our first article about 2021 predictions, we looked at what may lie ahead for the broadband and energy sectors. Now we turn our attention to other trends of particular interest to rural America:

3) Broadband-Powered Rural Revitalization

For many people reading this, when I say “Green Acres,” the theme song to that television show will pop into your head and you’ll be able to sing most of the words. For those not familiar, I’ll give you the first few lines:

Greeeeeeen Acres is the place to be
Faaaaaarm living is the life for me
Laaaaaaaand stretching out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan just give me that countryside

Many of us who are blessed to call rural America our home share that sentiment. We love the space, the vistas, the lifestyle, and the people. My wife and I love the fact that we can sit on our back deck, looking through wooded acres and watching the creek flow by, yet are able to hop in the car and be in one of several major cities for entertainment, shopping, and dining within one to three hours.

While we recognize the challenges rural America faces, we wouldn’t trade it for life in the big city. I wrote about this in more detail on The Daily Yonder, so I’ll keep it short here.

I predict an increasing number of citizens will be drawn to our quality of life and look for ways to make a move to smaller communities.

This will become more practical as broadband becomes more widely available in rural areas. This represents an excellent opportunity for rural communities to attract people who want to work and contribute, raise their families, and support schools, churches, civic organizations, and the local economy. People who will open new businesses and bring fresh ideas to our small towns. Those communities that embrace this opportunity and take steps to position themselves for it will reap the benefits.

4) Arts Renaissance — Rural and Beyond

My wife and I haven’t been shopping or dining since late February 2020. And while we miss these outings we once took for granted, we miss live music even more. There are many wonderful music venues within a reasonable drive of our town, and some of our favorite experiences as a family have centered around live performances.

The live entertainment business has been decimated by the pandemic, artists and venues alike. And it’s not going to get better for several months, I’m afraid.

When we get the virus under control, I predict we will see the floodgates of pent-up demand burst wide open with a renewed interest in the arts unlike anything this generation has seen.

I predict this for a few reasons:

  • There’s pent-up demand. Folks are ready.
  • People need a distraction, a healing balm to help move past the hard times we’re coming through.
  • The arts create community, and people long to gather with others for shared experiences.

This won’t just impact musicians and venues, but will include theatre, festivals, museums, fairs, and other events where people come together to create, collaborate, be enriched by other creatives, and share song and laughter with fellow human beings. I can’t wait.

5) Worsening Virus, Then a Great Recovery

We have vaccines, and that’s the good news.

The bad news is that, from all indications, the virus is going to get worse before it gets better.

I predict that equation will look like this: 1) worse, 2) then better, 3) then much better.

There are several reasons why it’s going to get worse, not the least of which is the general fatigue of the entire situation and a weariness of continuing to follow public safety precautions. Of course, the medical community is juggling the fight against the spread of the virus with the fight against misinformation and conspiracy theories (can you believe this is still a thing well into the 21st century?), and this certainly has had an impact.

Further, while the speed with which science developed a vaccine is remarkable, it’s also obvious the real-world logistics of getting from the lab into arms is a tremendous undertaking. Unfortunately, while this is happening we’re going to see an increasing presence of the more contagious strain of the virus that’s shutting down the UK. Scientists are predicting this could be the new major strain in America by spring, and our vaccine program likely won’t be able to get far enough ahead of it to cut it off.

Why do I think this will get better?

  • We learn more each day about how to do this. I sat in on a webinar recently with CDC and FDA officials, and it’s obvious that we now know so much more about this tremendous undertaking than we did even a few weeks ago.
  • The Biden administration is focused on creating a more centralized, coordinated response effort that should scale immunization numbers quickly. If Congress can focus on the most important task at hand — putting this pandemic behind us — and not get tripped up by a Senate impeachment trial, I predict we will see a significant ramp-up in immunizations.

Now for the much better. Just imagine life when we no longer worry about getting infected with a virus that could kill us. Sure, the mortality rate is still a small percentage of infections, but I know many people who were seriously ill from COVID-19. Unable to work. Hospitalized. On a ventilator. And yes, dead. We’re on track to see half a million Americans dead from this thing.

Imagine when the specter of that horror is lifted from our society. Imagine the family gatherings. The travel. The public events. The shopping and dining. The entertainment. We’re going to be a nation in celebration. This will be good for our physical health, good for our mental health, good for our economy, good for our country as a whole. Remember what happened after WWII? Think that level of recovery and growth.

(Part two of three excerpts from the article, “What Lies Ahead: 11 Predictions for 2021 and Beyond” by Stephen V. Smith. The original can be found in its entirety on Medium. Note: Opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect the opinions of WordSouth and its affiliates.)