First printed in the Lincoln Sentinel in July, 2015
I have a story. It’s a good story. It’s the kind of story locals like to hear but for some reason are rarely told. But it’s also the kind of story that frequently goes against our better judgement and often times proves us wrong.
It’s not my story but Grant Heller’s story. Grant is the owner of Heller Chiropractic Clinic in downtown Lincoln and he told his story during the last ‘What’s Up Luncheon’ organized by the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce. His story goes something like this…
He grew up in Hunter, Kansas, to a hard working farming family and graduated from Sylvan Unified High School in 2005. Not having any particular career goal as he headed into college, he somehow fell into chiropractics and the Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City.
In 2012, as he was preparing for graduation, one of his professors asked what he planned to do next. Grant’s response was to move back home and start practicing. Knowing how rural ‘home’ was, the professor basically said ‘you’re crazy’ and then tried to give Grant a lesson in economics. He said there would be very few opportunities for him back at home, the low population numbers and demographics meant not enough potential customers to support a practice, and the lower rural incomes meant he would be making far less money than in the city. There was no way he could make it.
Grant didn’t listen to the professor but two of his good friends, also from very rural areas, did listen. Grant started practicing in July of 2013 in Lincoln, while his two friends started practicing in larger communities, one in Missouri and the other in Newton. After two years, Grant owns his own successful clinic and his two friends, who bought in to the professor’s economics argument, couldn’t make it. For them the competition breaking into the industry was too fierce, they were associates doing the grunt work for the owners, and it was going to be very difficult and very expensive to work their way up the ladder.
How many of us have been the professor and in our ‘better judgement’ have told our local kids there is no way to follow their dream and make enough money to earn a living here? I’m guessing that many of us have, perhaps not in those specific words but perhaps in our actions, the way we raise our eyebrows or shake our heads or sigh deeply as a way of discouraging any thought of even trying.
There is opportunity here. I say it every day. I SEE it every day. And there is a small but growing number of people who are just like me and are getting ready to do something about it. The newly coined Lincoln County ‘Home’ Team (a group organized after last fall’s countywide strategic planning session where retaining our youth and developing entrepreneurship was determined as a top priority) is organizing a Career Day on November 10 for our three area high schools: Lincoln, Sylvan-Lucas, and Tescott. The day will highlight the many stories of successful people just like Grant and show our local kids that whatever they want to do in life, they can do it here! They can be successful here!
But organizing a Career Day isn’t the only thing happening around here with this same goal in mind. Another group is working through the alumni association to reach out to younger graduates and reconnecting them with each other and their hometown. And yet another group is creating a new countywide website featuring stories of people who have chosen to live here and are very successful in their careers. In fact, google “rural by choice” and you will see there is a broader movement in our area of youth not accepting others ‘better judgement’ and setting their career path to head home.
By the way, Grant’s two friends, they quit their good jobs in bigger cities and started their own practice in their hometowns. Both are quite happy and very successful.
If you have a story like Grant’s and would like to be a speaker at the upcoming Career Day, please feel free to stop by the LCEDF office in the county courthouse basement at 216 E. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln, give me a call at 785-524-8954, or email me at [email protected].
Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation