State looks to attract young people to rural parts of Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Many small Kansas towns are having trouble attracting young people to live in them.

The Governor’s Office of Rural Prosperity is teaming up with the Kansas Sampler Foundation for a project called Kansas Power Up and Go.

Its objective is to keep small towns alive by encouraging more young people to live there.

“It’s very clear that communities that engage their young people and not just in a token way, those communities are thriving in a way that others aren’t,” Marci Penner, director of the foundation, said. “It’s not about change, that might be a scary word, it’s about helping a community be the best it can be at being itself.”

In Wamego, a town of about 4,800 people, younger adults are getting involved in the decision making process of what happens there.

“I think it’s because they don’t want to lose what we’ve built and they want to sustain that attractiveness and that Wamego magic, and the way they do that is they invest themselves in keeping that tradition and that reputation alive,” Kara Holle with the Wamego Area Chamber of Commerce said.

Wamego touts its businesses that draw people to the town with competitive wages and good benefits. They also have large festivals and a popular downtown area, which is attractive to younger people.

“They want an experience. They want to go spend a day somewhere where they can have an experience,” Holle said. “It may not be sitting in a bar. It’s walking through the city park because it’s beautiful, or going out to our rec complex because there’s a walking path there.”

Officials want to hear directly from 21 to 39-year-olds in rural areas to get input on what’s important to them such as quality childcare and internet access.

“I’ll be asking for help to identify those young people in town who are interested in living rural, but also those who aren’t happy, I want to talk to them as well,” Penner said.

Officials will work on new marketing strategies to attract people and see what policies can be put in place to help communities thrive.

Penner said she wants to hear from as many young people as possible. She said people can email her at Marci@KansasSampler.org or text her at (620) 960-0552.

The goal is to have results and recommendations from the project by May of next year.

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