Friday, January 13, 2012

Young people return home to rural Kansas county, boosting economy and school enrollment

It's a constant worry in rural areas that young people will leave after high school and not return. However, in a northern Kansas county, people from their mid-20's to early 40's are returning, bringing with them children to increase local school enrollment and their college education to boost local economy. Tim Unruh of the Salina Journal reports this trend has filled downtown storefronts, clogged housing and stabilized the population of Republic County (Wikipedia map).

Luke Mahin, 24, told Unruh more than 20 people who completed college degrees within five years of 2005 have moved back to Courtland, a 300-person town in western Republic County. He added more are planning to come back. Troy Newman, 38, who co-owns Ag Marketing Partners in Courtland, said most young people who came back were lured away by big-city living, but "it sounds a lot cooler to go places than it actually is," he told Unruh. He said strong farm economy and Internet service made the move back to his hometown possible. Young residents were welcomed home, busting the myth that returning to small hometowns equals failure. Some returners work in established agriculture businesses or wind farms; others start their own businesses. They report an improvement in their quality of life.

Many wanted to move back to raise their children "in the safe confines of a tiny hometown," Unruh reports. This has reversed thinking that the Pike Valley School District would have to consolidate the Courtland elementary school, which averages about 18 students per class. Kindergarten enrollment for 2013 is expected to be 11, but in 2016 that number should rise to 16 thanks to growing young families, Superintendent Chris Vignery told Unruh. (Read more)

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