Otter Tail County Minnesota fits almost every stereotype possible that can be made about the Mid-West United States. Every town has less than 15,000 people in it, what people in every other state call “casserole” we call “hot-dish”, there are small businesses everywhere, and everyone says hi to at least five people on their way to work. People are generally very friendly in the towns of this county, which I believe is caused greatly by a subtly simple and conservative lifestyle. Many Blue-Collar workers exist in this area, most especially in the 90’s. While in most other parts of the country White-Collars worker tend to make a great deal more than Blue-Collar, that is not the case in OTC. Blue-Collar workers can easily make as much as a college graduate White-Collar workers, at the cost of arthritis and callused hands. This contributes to a very easy-going community that is content and highly values hard work. However, when the finances seize to exist, that’s when a community such as this can fall apart. I’m going to explain what statistics show of poverty and median household income of OTC, as well as provide a perspective analysis from someone who has lived and been a part of the work force in Otter Tail County for forty years. Finally I’m going to explain why work ethic has highly influenced the economy of this area and that of our nation.
From 1995 to 2009 the amount of Median Household Income in Real Dollars as of 2011, according to the Consumer Price Index, has ended up only about 400 dollars higher in 2009 than 1995 for Otter Tail County. That’s bad news for any type of community. As consumers, we need money to spend to put back into the area we live, so it can thrive. When there is less money to spend, obviously less money is spent, thus driving businesses into the ground. Small businesses are the first to see the affects of these e.g. grocery stores, gas stations, and bakeries, all locally owned. The Percentage of People in Poverty in OTC almost exactly mimics the line of Median Household Income. Which means the higher the Median of Household Income the more people are in poverty. I thought this was very strange, but take into consideration the amount of unequal wealth distribution we have in the US. It makes sense that the rich would become richer, and the poor become poorer. The high point of both graphs being that the Median Household Income was the highest and the Percentage of People in Poverty was in the year 2000, the nation was at a very high point at that time and it correlated with this area as well. It then slowly laddered downward to 2009, and we are now at our lowest point since 1996.
I interviewed someone who has had an obscene amount of experience in the job market. She has worked since she was twelve years old, starting in a local grocery story, going to college, working at a clinic or hospital for twenty-three years, then finally owning a Home Healthcare Business for the past five years. She has lived in Otter Tail County for fifty-two years and has been working for forty of them. This woman is my mother Wendy Erlandson. What she has noticed in the past fifteen years is mostly small businesses closing down more than anything, “many struggling to keep business going, and just as many closing, the little guy can’t keep up”, she says, comparing local Service Foods Market to Wal-Mart, “it’s such a sad sight to see local places closing down, because that’s where most people my age got their start in the job market”. She sees the job market first hand, since she owns a business she has to hire people as well. Many people seeking work are ground level entries, meaning they have no experience and are unlicensed. “The biggest thing I’ve noticed that has changed about the workforce is how people held on to their jobs a lot more tightly fifteen years ago, now people treat jobs like a revolving