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Here’s another story about a once factory-driven community trying to hold on until it can re-invent itself.

In this case it is the local hospital that is providing stability – as an employer and as provider of social fabric to a place that otherwise could easily have lost its bearings.

Once home to vibrant downtowns, along with thriving local manufacturers and merchants, small towns were traditionally strongholds of the American middle class. In recent decades, many barely managed to hold on as young people migrated to cities and those who stayed behind had trouble even finding work.

Now, however, those towns that have been able to attract hospitals and other health care facilities have emerged as oases of economic stability across the nation’s heartland.

Beatrice is one such place (According to the New York Times, Batesville, Indiana and Centreville, Mississippi are others).

“A lot of times in the rural communities your health care systems are your economic drivers, and that’s true here,” said Chad Netterville, chief executive of the Field Memorial Community Hospital to the New York Times.

There is work to be done in Beatrice, Nebraska, but their smart community narrative has the Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center presently playing a leading role.

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