For Jason, city challenges became small town opportunities in New York Mills

Everything was pretty much going Jason’s way.

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He graduated from his New York Mills (NYM) hometown (2001), earned a structural engineering degree from North Dakota State University, and landed a good job in the Twin Cities.

One weekend back home, he ran into Lacey – a 2002 NYM grad – and the seed of romance was planted. So for newlyweds Jason and Lacey Schik, their life in the Twin Cities was chugging along nicely.

But you know there’s more to it than that.

Uncertainty struck in late 2009, just months after marriage: Jason got a pink slip from work, another victim of the economic recession. Now what? Turn problems into opportunities, that’s what!

“We always wanted to move closer to home,” Jason said. “Then it dawned on us (when he lost his job) that we could move back to New York Mills, that we can live where we want to live. So we said ‘let’s do it.’” 

Lacey had a job, Jason was picking up freelance work and they were thinking about becoming parents. Yet they knew it was time to pull up stakes; the trail back home was wide open.

Jason may have lost his job, but his skills were in demand. Most of his work was done on computers. “Everything is so electronically-driven,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of communications is by phone, Skype, video conference.”

That meant he could live where he wanted, find freelance work and make ends meet. Jason found contract work in Fergus Falls but later decided to be his own boss and open his own business. “Never in my wildest dreams” did he think he could own his own business. “That wasn’t on my radar.”

But with some help, including business loan assistance through West Central Initiative, he started his own company: Schik Engineering, LLC. “People don’t think twice about where you’re located,” Jason said. “They care more about the product you produce. I’m completely glad I did it.”

The life the Schik’s sought for their family – today with three children under six years old – was the same one they remember. “The support of this area is amazing,” Jason said. “If you have a hardship in life, people will help you out. You can’t get the support you get from a small town anywhere else.”

Jason also reflects on moving to a rural area. “I really think that there are a lot more opportunities in rural Minnesota than people realize,” he said. “Sometimes it just requires you to create your own opportunity.”

Jason has found time to connect to New York Mills with involvement in city council, the local economic development authority and church councils. And since both Jason and Lacey grew up on a farm, they have a small acreage where their kids can have the same rural upbringing.

And once again, everything is pretty much going Jason’s way.