Monday, March 24, 2014

PBS Newshour features segment on Kansas' attempt to draw people to rural towns

In 2012, the rural population of the U.S. declined for the first time, according to the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One state trying to change that trend is Kansas, where Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has initiated the Rural Opportunity Zones program, which pays college graduates up to $15,000 over five years to move to counties that have experienced population loss, and waives income tax for people moving from out of state.

A feature on PBS Newshour takes a closer look at the state's circumstances, and reports that "Jobs and people have been disappearing from rural Kansas and most of the Great Plains for the last 80 years." One reason was the Great Depression, and the other was the introduction of mechanized farming in the 1960s, which reduced the number of farms and the need for human workers.

In Kansas, Brownback hopes Rural Opportunity Zones can re-populate rural towns. "It’s a beautiful community. We just need to give it some opportunity," he told PBS. "It’s about creating opportunity for people." Currently 650 people participate in the program, which cost the state $838,000 last year. While the program has helped raise rural populations, some fear that it won't last, because there is still concern about lack of jobs, opportunities for advancement at jobs and enough to do in small towns to keep people interested in staying. (Read more)

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