TOPEKA, Kan. — Population growth in Kansas isn’t keeping up with the rest of the country, according to a map from the U.S. Census Bureau, and one reason is people are leaving rural areas of the state.
The Kansas Sampler Foundation and the Kansas Office of Prosperity recently released the results of their own survey after getting input from hundreds of young people in rural areas about their moves.
Childcare, internet access and housing are some of the biggest motivations for people deciding not to stay in the state. Some issues like broadband may be a bigger concern in small towns, but not all are specific to rural areas.
“Issues like childcare and childcare services and make sure we have adequate, safe, reliable across the state of Kansas, that’s not just a rural issue, that’s across the state,” said Trisha Purdon, director for the Office of Rural Prosperity.
Bigger cities are also having to find new ways to attract young people to stay.
“Going downtown to all the restaurants, and really feel like there’s a lot more to do here, and a lot more of organizations to get involved in,” said Cassidy Roberson, a member of Topeka’s Forge Young Professionals who chairs the internship program: Top City Interns.
The survey results stressed the importance of attracting young families. Diversity was an important factor, as well as a good business environment that celebrates new ideas. Roberson said it’s important to highlight the jobs that your city has to offer.
“We just want to show people that Topeka’s great, because whether you grew up here or you’re from a different place, there’s opportunities here for employment,” Roberson said.
To grow at a good pace, a community needs to be proactive, according to Purdon.
“We have to have a grassroots momentum happening,” Purdon said.
A big part of getting people to live in a rural town is enticing students that are already there to live there in the future.
“Once you graduate high school and you go off to college and you go off and make your amazing career that you’re going to do from going to a Kansas school,” Purdon said. “We want you to come back home and know that it’s an option. Come back home, it’s not something that’s a negative to come and rejoin your community and bring those assets and skills you’ve learned back to your hometown.”
Purdon said communities need to work with local, state, and federal governments to find solutions to the problems.