ST. PAUL — As the median age of Minnesotans creeps higher, the state's changing demography signals economic struggles for rural communities. Employers in small towns and rural parts of greater Minnesota face the challenge of replacing a wave of baby boomers approaching retirement as a burgeoning number of younger residents leave rural areas. A recent study by the State Demographic Center found that the number of deaths in rural counties has exceeded the number of births since 2000, driving down the population in each county by an average of 200 people per year.
ST. PAUL—When Lee Carlson entered his career in public education nearly 30 years ago, aspiring teachers could expect to compete with hundreds of other applicants hoping to work in a Minnesota classroom. Carlson described a "gauntlet" of applications and interviews before landing a job in St. James, a small town about 40 miles southwest of Mankato, where he still teaches high school English. This year, the community's 1,000-student school district offered its newest teacher a job months in advance of the September start date.