Are You Prepared for the Rural Revolution?

A workforce free to move about will be singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and demanding more from onsite installers in the coming years

Triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and 21st century technology advances, huge lifestyle changes will be coming fast and furiously in the coming years. The work-at-home revolution. A desire by folks to live wherever they choose. Spreading out. Downsizing. Saving money. Seeking peace and quiet. Returning to our agrarian roots.

Whatever the motivation, a movement is starting with city dwellers migrating to the country and building a future in new homes on larger plots of land or re-inhabiting farmhouses and long-forgotten rural homesteads. And these new-age country folks are bringing certain quality-of-life expectations along with them.

They want the level of infrastructure city services to continue out in the middle of nowhere. They also want to live a greener lifestyle, with a concern for clean water, renewable energy and construction best practices. And because they are relocating with the resources of the big-city jobs they have held for years, the telecommuters will have the funds to realize these objectives.

Where you come in

Enter the professional onsite installer. You can provide this new breed of customer with wastewater systems that will handle spiking flows, treat their waste effectively and efficiently, and provide systems that will satisfy stringent environmental expectations. Homeowners and the commercial businesses that follow them into rural towns will demand water reuse for irrigation purposes, recharging of the aquifer right at home, and capacity for potential wastewater service expansion in the future.

And you and your crews will give it all to them.  

But let’s backtrack a little bit. How do I know this rural renaissance is going to happen? That’s a fair question. Especially since if what I say is true, many of you will have to reevaluate your business plans to meet this rising demand. Looking ahead, you may want to hire and train new crews, buy equipment that allows you to work faster and more efficiently, overall invest a lot more money in what has been a lean and successful installing business.

So consider a few of these trends I’m seeing, and experiencing, and maybe you’ll agree with my premise:

The pandemic pushed many employers to a radical new human resources model.

Many millions of people used to trudge to large office complexes every workday. This necessitated people living near to their jobs or making very long commutes to work. Suddenly that’s no longer the case. Many employees were asked to work from home when the pandemic hit last year, and when telecommuting worked out fine, their employers encouraged them to stay home.

This happened in my family. My wife’s employer decided to allow anyone to work from home permanently, and a vast majority of the staff took them up on the offer. This meant the company could save money by consolidating its owned or rented office space and my wife and I could live anywhere we wanted to from now on. This outcome would have been unimaginable if not for something like the deadly coronavirus. And I doubt we will return to the centralized work model when the pandemic eases.

My wife grew up on a farm and moved around to several cities to follow her career. Now her career path likely will no longer dictate where she lives. So will she move back to the country and the rural lifestyle she had before? We’re not sure about that yet, but think of the millions like her who can now live in the country if they want to, and be nearer their extended families.

After living in the “rat race,” people yearn for the peace and quiet of small towns.

Let’s face it. Most folks associate big cities with noise, pollution, traffic and crime. If they don’t prefer the big-city amenities, many people would be happy to walk out their back doors and see farmland, quiet woods, or a lake or river. Seems like that is the retirement dream of many people already — why wouldn’t they make that dream a reality before collecting the gold watch and signing up for Social Security benefits?

People seek a lower cost of living and less regulatory hassles in their day-to-day lives.

Over the past century, people have migrated into cities because that’s where the work was and because fewer and fewer people could make a living off the land. That has caused the downfall of so many rural areas across the country. They have become ghost towns with empty houses and deserted Main Streets. Consequently, there is now a cost disparity between the crowded cities and suburbs and rural towns and villages.

Families can sell their homes in the city and buy houses with larger properties in the country for less money. Or they may buy vacant land and build a new house. There are fewer regulations over home construction and remodeling in rural towns and counties, so they are more often free to do as they please with a dwelling.

Neglected houses, new builds will require extensive wastewater infrastructure.

The repopulation of rural regions will bring along the need for untold numbers of septic system upgrades and new system installs. While municipal wastewater treatment systems, or the “big pipe,” cover most of the urban wastewater users, a great majority of homes and businesses in rural areas and small towns will require decentralized wastewater service.

That means a huge demand is coming at the same time installing companies are already busy and concerned about the future workforce. Installers frequently report to me that they look around at their competitors and see an undeniable graying of the industry. More installers are contemplating retiring than hiring a new generation of workers. Installers face the same challenges to attract workers as all the other trades needed to rebuild this country. So those who can make the argument that this should be an attractive career path will benefit the most.

Be prepared

As winter melts into spring, I ask you to think about the massive work and lifestyle changes that will forever alter the path of onsite installers. Consider the evolving health concerns and technological revolution that will let people migrate to live wherever they choose.

In the past year, installers have let me know their phones are ringing more with customers wanting to repair or install onsite systems. I’m convinced this will only intensify in the years ahead, with the growth of the installing community limited only by the added labor and energy at the working end of the shovel and excavator. 


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