KYLE BLACK: The West Is Full (of Misplaced Frustration)

Why Transplant Hate and a “Locals Only” Attitude Misses the Mark

I’m trying to lovingly call it like I see it, and I think this “Don’t California my _______” attitude warrants me exercising the “see something, say something” approach. Fact: your state isn’t brimming to the edge, you’re not a target, and this recent surge of newcomers isn’t an anomaly unique to your community. History would argue otherwise.

Since I’ve likely already kicked the hornet’s nest, let me add salt in the wound: I’m a transplant, claiming a home 1,800 miles away from my birthplace.

But before you completely dismiss me, consider this—we likely share more common ground than you might think. I was raised by two schoolteachers in a small farming town in Pennsylvania, and those cultural roots are something I am adamant about not forgetting. Over the years, I’ve worn many hats: rodeo clown, violinist, farmer, hunting guide, fishery technician, house rehabber, and I’m currently knee-deep in construction management. Actually, just wrapping up building a new doctors’ and dentist’s office in rural Montana, 2 hours from any Walmart or airport.

I’m now living in my 6th state and have moved exactly 14 times in the last 4 years. I’ve seen a good bit of the country and sat around several fires with open ears and a closed mouth. People have a lot to say.

Author Kyle Black and his wife Kate

In my day job, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by blue-collar folks day in and day out—truly the people who keep the lights on in this grand country of ours. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, HVAC, roofers—you name it. And you know what? They’re content. Flooded with work, bills are paid, their pockets full, children well-fed, and not selling their souls to pay the mortgage.

One guy told me when I first moved here, “You don’t get it, people used to starve to death in Montana during winter. There just wasn’t any work.” Not anymore.

New Money, New Ideas

In my side job, I rehab old run-down properties. As much flak as the term “real estate investor” gets, there’s a whole other side of the argument that I don’t feel gets enough credit. What about when it benefits the town? Recently, I formed a partnership with a woman from Southern California where we invested in an old run-down motel in rural northern Wyoming and are in the process of converting it to affordable apartments. The building changed hands several times over the years, and finally sat on the market for months with nobody willing to take a chance on it. I could likely write a book on everything we’ve learned so far, but I’ll keep it basic. The first question we asked the realtor wasn’t “How much money can we make on this?” Rather it was “Does the town have a housing need?” As it turns out, the town was begging for affordable apartments, and I do mean begging. The going rate for a studio apartment in the tourist town an hour away last summer was $1,250/month. Crazy right? Even crazier when you learn that the minimum wage in Wyoming is still $7.25/hr and has been that way since 2009. The math ain’t math-ing.

We both nodded in agreement and jumped in. Now a year later, we have converted 4 of the 19 units into freshly remodeled studios, charging less than ½ of the price of the studio I referred to above. The residents of the town have an affordable place to live and in turn, the townsfolk have welcomed us with open arms. They’re even already asking us which building in town we’re going to renovate next.

I don’t say any of that to toot my own horn. I’m no hero and don’t need praise – but I do use it as a real-life example to show that there’s a very high likelihood that the people moving to “your town” could have honest intentions and aren’t there to drive prices up for the fun of it. I would even argue that new money and new ideas coming to a town can be a great net benefit.

In an effort not to ramble [more], let me wrap up with this: I understand the struggle and I’m not without empathy. I’ve lived long enough to see both sides of the coin. Life is expensive, increasingly so in recent years. It’s tough, people are grappling with grocery bills, and watching the dreamland they’ve aspired to own since high school get bought up by an outsider is a bitter pill. Maybe you were on the verge of buying a house, this close, and then values shot up. It stings, but it’s not any one person’s fault.

However, blaming out-of-staters for buying up land isn’t fair when it’s your own kinfolk selling it to them—likely for $200,000 more than they paid for it. Can you really blame either side? How dare they strive for a better life for their family, right?

This isn’t a unique occurrence; it’s happened before. Southern California in the ’80s, NYC suburbs in the ’90s, people lost everything in 2008, and now it’s happening again. It’s not about blame; it just is. If those blips of history aren’t enough to make you realize you’re not being singled out, need I mention the Indian Removal Act of 1830? We have it easy. The sooner people understand that this is their generation’s cross to bear, the sooner we can move forward.

The good news is you’ve weathered the storm. According to the census bureau – If you’re in Montana, almost 10,000 fewer people moved here in 2023 than in 2021. Idaho is slowing down too, Wyoming and even Colorado had less than a 1% increase in 2023. That’s healthy.

I’m not claiming to have all the answers, and I obviously don’t know your unique situation. But I know that blaming has never helped. I guess I’d just ask you to quit pointing fingers at them, try to understand that you’re not being targeted, and start thinking about how you can carry your own cross better. I’ll do the same.

P.S. – A note to the transplants

Congrats on the move, now hush-up. Whether you’re a fresh college grad throwing a dart at a map, a young family relocating to a new state, or seniors retiring to the place you’ve always wanted to move – I’m excited for you but go easy before you start talking about all the things your new town doesn’t have and how if they could “just change this one thing”….just zip it. There is a reason you picked this place, and a large part of what makes that place special is the people of that community. History, landscape, opportunity, etc. are all important, but without the everyday people, you’d be surprised how quickly it would lose its luster. Once you understand that the only currency that matters in a new community is relationships, the richer you’ll be.

Follow Kyle Black on Instagram.

Meet Kyle Black, a dedicated husband, traveler, and all-around outdoor enthusiast who calls Missoula, Montana home. Beyond his love for the great outdoors, Kyle is a passionate real estate investor committed to projects that enrich and benefit communities. With a keen eye for identifying opportunities, he's constantly brainstorming his next venture. The ideas don’t stop and he’s already trying to figure out how he can do a community-focused laundromat, an indoor batting cage, or any number of multi-use projects. Kyle is driven by a desire to make meaningful contributions to the places he calls home. His dedication to both his passions and his community underscores his belief in the power of thoughtful investment and sustainable development.

Previous Story

Are Rural Americans Being Penalized Because Joe Biden Doesn't Like Elon Musk? Starlink Denied FCC Funding

Next Story

South Dakotans Ask Governor Kristi Noem to Veto Carbon Pipeline Eminent Domain Bill

Latest from Unwon Opinion