Rural Kansas community members want voices heard

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – With their populations declining, community members from rural Kansas spoke with legislators and state leaders on Thursday as part of the Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance’s (WKREDA) legislative mission conference.

They believe there is a large difference in the needs of rural and urban Kansas, and that it is often overlooked.

The main issues currently occurring in rural Kansas have to do with youth, in regards to daycare and education.

“We’re concerned about our youth not being fully educated,” said Katie Eisenhour, executive director of Scott County Development Committee, Inc. “They can go off to college and get an education, that’s wonderful, but we want them to be encouraged to come back home.”

The youth who do not want to go to college are often overlooked, said Eisenhour, and with a lack of technical colleges and certifications in the area they are forced to remain uneducated or leave the area.

Eisenhour hopes that creating these will bring in more younger people. However, lack of child care facilities could also impact this hope.

“We have businesses in the community that want to bring in new workforce and they’re recruiting from the outside,” said Nick Poels, director of economic development for Phillips County. “One of the first questions that they’re often asked is ‘well, what’s the availability of childcare in your community?'”

With a lack of this, businesses are struggling to recruit new employees.

Aside from additional funding, a partnership among the rural communities could be a way to overcome this, according to Joann Knight, Director of Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation and President of WKREDA.

“There are some critical issues out there that I think working together we can all be a lot more creative in finding solutions for that,” Knight said.

Knight believes that the state leaders and legislators are taking a step in the right direction by focusing more on rural Kansas and creating programs and specific resources, but that there is a long way to go.

Aside from education and child care, one of the major issues being seen in rural Kansas is housing, both with making new homes and redeveloping abandoned ones.

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