Continued from Technologies Influence on Rural Kansas
by Jenny Russell, Jewell County Community Development Coordinator
In January 2016, I spoke at a “Let’s Talk” event at Blue Valley Communications in Home Kansas (Jenny Russell speaking about Rural Kansas). This event was put on in conjunction with USDA Rural Development. After I spoke, Director Patty Clark asked me, “If there is a message that you would like legislators and urban counterparts to know, what would that be?” I couldn’t think at the time what to say, but now I have gathered my thoughts.
- Rural is not a lost cause. Stop doing things that put rural at a permanent disadvantage. There are great things going on in rural areas and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a couple of rural counties have no population loss or population gains in the near future. Sure, it will take many stars to align for this to happen, including many people to give rural a chance again and have confidence to bring/start businesses in rural areas.
- Rural is not the enemy. Urban is valuable, but rural is also valuable. If for no other reason, your food at the supermarket is directly related to us. Most rural people can see why people want to live in an urban area and rural people just ask that urban people also respect that some want to live in rural areas too. There is a relatively new movement of people who are “Rural by Choice”. It’s young people who want to live in a rural area and do so on purpose. There seems to be this unspoken stigma that people get stuck living in a rural area and living in a rural area is sub par to living in an urban area. People like me would tend to disagree. We think that you can get a degree and be just as successful, just as happy, and just as innovative being rural. If the Kansas Population Forecast from the Center for Economic Development and Business Research study information becomes reality, there just might be more and more people that are “Rural by Choice”. People don’t want to be stacked on top of each other with 50% of the entire population living in Kansas City. They also don’t love the crime and other social problems that tend to come with this formula. All of these things are another win for rural living.
- Assisting with infrastructure redevelopment and housing redevelopment will benefit rural counties a lot. Any programs that help to get workforce housing into rural communities and help repair infrastructure that has not been addressed since the “agricultural revolution” will be invaluable to rural turnaround.
- Local control of money. Some of the most effective programs that I have seen for rural Kansas involve local participation and money that is given then distributed with local oversight. Rural programs and urban programs often operate under the same requirements and parameters (i.e. job requirements, resident requirements, and income requirements), but these areas work differently from each other. The most effective programs for rural Kansas that I have seen, keep this fact in mind and allow for rural centered goals. Introduce these programs with as little paperwork and top-down interference as possible and watch rural thrive.
So in closing, stop assuming about Rural Kansas. Many things have changed in the thirty years since you’ve lived out here or visited. Rural is not a lost cause.
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