Beyond The Welcome Wagon

The town of Dalhart, Texas, needs to grow and an unusual incentive program there is helping draw new residents and expand the community. CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

You won't find the fast track in Dalhart, Texas. Dalhart is a cobblestone street kind of place where men still see barbers, flags fly high, and the boot maker is busy.

"Old timers will tell you that if you wear out a pair of shoes in Dalhart you'll stay. Either you can't afford to leave or you won't want to," says Sonny Dawkins, custom boot maker.

In Dalhart they've got a problem with prosperity. The cattle business is booming. The pork plant's expanding and the new prison needs help. In this remote crossroads town where others gas up and go. They need some folks to show up and stay.

"We wanted a magnet. We wanted an incentive. We wanted to get people's attention," says PJ Pronger, of Dalhart's Chamber of Commerce.

Their magnet, a thousand dollars cash and ten thousand more in home loans, has plenty of pull.

In four months they've processed hundreds of inquiries. Life must sound nice where good homes go for five-figures not six and movies play main street not the mall.

They do have
trouble in the schools in Dalhart. An 0-and-10 football team this year. They have crime: 5 armed robberies in 96 years. Here they're not worried about Dalhart being attractive. They are worried about Dalhart being too attractive.

They'd rather take their time and find the kind of pioneers who built Dalhart 100 years ago. So far they've found 6. Like Tom Heath who's moved 500 miles from Central Texas to run a group of convenience stores.

"My future's in my own hands here. I like that. And that's the kind of people I hope we draw here," says Heath.

Newspaper editor Zelda Beth Lane is all for opportunity. But this business of paying people to come doesn't sit right with her.

"Â…if they want to move here bad enough why not come without an incentive. A promise of money?" asks Lane.

Sonny Dawkins has a custom crafted answer.

"It's because they don't know the place. You'd have to pay me to live in a lot of the places they think are good," says Dawkins.

Dalhart's boot maker is one who can understand. Sometimes you have to pay a little to get a perfect fit.

Reported By Jim Axelrod
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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