Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments

Six Myths about the Future of Small Towns

Myth#1: Towns that are "too small" have no future.

Mythology about small towns says that there is a certain population number that can support a community and no less. That number may be 2,500 or 1,000 or 500, depending on whose "expertise" is being quoted.

The truth is that there is no magical number at which a town can survive. Heartland Center research has shown that even very tiny towns with populations as small as 100 or less, manage to survive through thoughtful planning, entrepreneurial genius, and hardwork. No community should perceive itself as "too small" to survive.

In fact, small towns can use size as a competitive advantage. As with a small business, the smaller community can retain certain flexibility. Without the disadvantage of city bureaucracy, it can respond faster to new trends and changing marketplace opportunities. Like a small business, it can seek its own unique niche.

Myth#2: A community's location is key to its survival.

Dependence on proximity to a major highway, a large metropolitan area, or a significant natural resource is typical of industrial-age thinking that believe a community's success hinges on location. 

This type of thinking may have been more important in the past, when industry and agriculture employed most rural jobholders. Today, however,  with growth in the service, information, and governmental sectors, the old industrial age factors bear lesser importance. 

No the key is "what community leaders so with what is available." This translates as attitudes and behaviors of people in leadership. In other words, in an Information age, leadership, not location is the most important factor in community survival. 

Myth#3: Industrial recruitment is the best strategy for economic development.

Recruiting new industries is still the strategy of choice among many small towns and economic development experts, even though study after study suggests that industrial recruitment alone, is not a realistic long-term answer.

Too often, small towns have wasted time, energy, and money trying to attract new industry, only to learn that they have should have been working harder to keep the employers they already have.

Small towns that throw all their eggs into the industrial recruitment basket are taking a big risk. They're competing for a few expansion or relocations against thousands other other small towns just like themselves nationwide. They should be working harder to keep the employers they already have.

Myth#4: Small town's cannot compete in the global economy.

Too many people seem convinced that small towns cannot compete in the global economy. Yet small towns throughout American are home to amazing variety of highly sophisticated, entrepreneurial successes. 

Many rural communities have small manufacturers that are producing high-quality products for a unique marketing niche which extends beyond the local area to a regional, national, or even international markets. 

With access to toll-free incoming telephone lines and over-the-road package shippers, businesses can compete in the global marketplace. Because they are located in smaller and often less complex local business environments, they may be able to compete by moving quickly to take advantage of fast-moving marketplace opportunities. 

Myth#5: The "best people" leave small towns as soon as the can.

The continuing decline of population in most rural areas remains a problem. But this fact is often described in inaccurate and unproductive ways.

Too often, even rural people use the term "brain drain" as if it meant that anyone with brain would get out. They act if the "best and brightest" should leave to seek better opportunities in cities or get a higher education, never to return. 

It is true that many people find opportunities elsewhere but it's also true that many capable people stay in small towns or return to them. As small town leaders, they make priceless contributions to local quality of life, giving time and attention to civic affairs, service clubs, school events, and family matters. 

State and local leaders should stop acting if the "brain drain" means that not talent is left.

Myth#6: The rural and urban economics are not interdependent. 

Another myth about rural communities says that larger metropolitan areas are more important than smaller communities in our nation's economy.

It's not really news that rural industries such as: agriculture, ming, or land management are playing a smaller role in the rural-urban economic mix. This doesn't mean, however, that cities and counties could maintain their quality of life without farm products, coal, oil, and the natural resources available to the city and country person alike. 

Many city residents are nostalgic or sentimental about small towns but they often forget that our essential raw materials need dynamic rural infrastructures to get from rural to urban markets. 

Economic Development

Catron County Community Profile

Community Profile

Catron County is the largest county in land mass but has the third smallest population in the State of New Mexico. Catron County covers almost 7,000 square miles which is comprised of mostly rugged mountainous terrain. Less than 20% of the land in Catron County is privately owned with the rest of the land being publicly owned. Approximately 3,500 people make up the population of the county; this translates to two square miles of space per person. Reserve is the County Seat and largest town in the county and boasts a population of about 300. Catron County has a history of the ranching, mining, Indian and Spanish hide-outs, rodeos, and dark, starry nights. Catron County is the home to one of New Mexico’s working sawmills, hunters and campers getaways, geothermic and biomass energies, and majestic mountains and views. 


Gross Receipt Tax Rates

Municipality         Location            Code Rate

 Reserve                         28-130                   6.9375%

Remainder of                28-028                       5.6250%


Property Tax Rates

                                                           Residential                   Non-Residential

Cattle Indemnity                                                                         0.010000

Dairy Cattle                                                                                   0.005000

Sheep Sanitary                                                                            0.010000

Equine                                                                                             0.010000

Bison                                                                                                0.010000

State Debt Services                       0.001362                              0.001362

County Operational                      0.010993                           0.009892

School District Operational        0.000478                            0.000500

Municipal Operatioal                    0.002154                          0.002161

Please click the following community for their respective Local Economic Development Act (LEDA): Catron County and Village of Reserve.

Hidalgo County Community Profile

Community Profile

Hidalgo County is seated in the farthest southwest corner of New Mexico which borders Arizona and Mexico. Hidalgo County is known for their small population with vast spaces for growth. Hidalgo County’s heritage comes from mining, farming, and ranching. Hidalgo County boasts of being home to two ghost-towns, having an anti-terrorism training facility, and attracting activities such as: windsailing on dry lake beds, ranch tours, and hiking with the panoramic mountain and sky views. Hidalgo County has a great renewable energy opportunity with geo-thermal, solar, and wind already established. Please click here to review Hidalgo County's entire Community Profile.

Building and Land Inventory


Gross Receipt Tax Rates

Municipality                           Location                              Code Rate

Lordsburg                                23-110                                7.2500%

Virden                                       23-209                                6.4375%

Remaining County               23-023                                5.8125%

Property Tax Rates

School District                Residential                 Non-Residential

1-IN                                    0.022940                          0.025647

1-OUT                                0.020346                        0.022658

1-A-IN                                0.021683                        0.024777

1-A-OUT                            0.020346                        0.022658

6                                               0.013693                        0.015691

Cattle Indemnity                                                            0.010000

Dairy Cattle                                                                       0.005000

Sheep Sanitary                                                                0.010000

Equine                                                                                  0.010000

Bison                                                                                      0.010000

State                                             0.001362                            0.001362

General County                     0.009950                          0.011850

County Debt Services         0.000000                          0.000000

Lordsburg Schools                0.009034                           0.009446

Animas Schools                    0.002381                         0.002479

City of Lordsburg                  0.002594                         0.002989

Village of Virden                     0.001337                        0.002119

Please click the following communities for their respective Local Economic Development Act (LEDA): Hidalgo County, City of Lordsburg, and Village of Virden.

Grant County Community Profile

Community Profile

Grant County is nestled into the southwestern corner of New Mexico that encompasses 6,250 square miles of mountains and yucca-speckled grasslands with unique cities and towns. Grant County is nestled alongside 3.3 million acres of the Gila National Forest; the county has historic ties to mining, ranching, and agriculture. Grant County has grown into a diverse area, where a modern society coexists with the ever present culture and history. Grant County is known for friendly people, growing businesses, and a terrific year-round climate. This unique combination of climate, environment, lifestyle, and opportunity are drawing new visitors and residents from around the world.

Building and Land Inventory


Gross Receipt Tax Rates

Municipality                       Location                           Code Rate

Bayard                                    08-206                                7.2500%

Hurley                                     08-404                               7.2500%

Santa Clara                           08-305                                7.2500%

Silver City                              08-107                               7.3750%

Remainder of County      08-008                                6.1875%

Property Tax Rates

School District                     Residential                     Non-Reidential

1-IN                                            0.018283                                0.025385

1-OUT                                        0.016699                                0.022618

2-B                                                0.019152                                 0.025902

2-C                                                0.018584                                 0.024949

2-H                                                0.019200                                 0.024400

2-OUT                                        0.017901                                 0.02367

1-W Gila Watershed                                                                   0.005000

Cattle Indemnity                                                                          0.010000

Dairy Cattle                                                                                     0.005000

Sheep Sanitary                                                                               0.010000

Bison                                                                                                  0.010000

Predator Control                                                               0.005000 per head

State                                               0.001362                               0.001362

General County                       0.006112                               0.011850

County Debt Services           0.001752                                0.000000

Please click the following community for their respective Local Economic Development Act (LEDA): Grant County, City of Bayard, Town of Hurley, Village of Santa Clara, and Town of Silver City.