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Governor Laura Kelly Announces New Report to Prevent Outmigration and Strengthen Kansas’ Workforce and Economy

Aug 02, 2021

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TOPEKA – Today, Governor Laura Kelly announced the results of a new report detailing the challenges facing young Kansans in rural communities along with possible solutions to prevent outmigration and strengthen Kansas’ workforce and economy.

The report is the result of the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s Power Up & Go project, which was created through a partnership with the Kansas Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP) to gain a better understanding of the current barriers and opportunities facing young Kansans in rural parts of the state.

“This report will help us address young Kansans’ needs to prevent outmigration and strengthen our growing economy,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “My administration will continue prioritizing the key issues identified – such as childcare, broadband expansion, and affordable housing – along with keeping our state welcoming and inclusive for all to support our rural and young Kansans.”

The Kansas Sampler Foundation created the report using 460 surveys and 175 interviews from Kansans aged 21-39. Information from every county in Kansas is included in the final report.

The survey and interview questions focus on actions young rural Kansans believe will revive and refresh communities facing outmigration. The resounding response points to the “need to create a culture, an ecosystem, that supports and builds the capacity of rural communities.” To that end, childcare, broadband access, and lack of housing were identified as major barriers.

“Respondents overwhelmingly identified that, while rural needs may be specifically local, the issues are systemic across the state,” Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland said. “By focusing on the recurring challenges, like broadband and housing, we can see where our state needs to emphasize funding and additional resources for everyone. This report will help us paint a fuller, more detailed picture of rural Kansas communities, both individually and as a whole.”

Other action areas and suggestions for progress include:

  • Improving connections to government;
  • Recognizing and supporting grassroots efforts;
  • Supporting local advocates;
  • Improving childcare;
  • Creating and developing a culture of appreciation for rural Kansas among rural Kansas’ youngest residents;
  • Creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem;
  • Creating a healthier space for employees/improving work life balance; and
  • Cultivating a positive and inclusive culture among rural Kansas.

“This report will help guide our work for rural communities by fostering a grassroots team environment that builds cooperation, inclusivity and partnerships to grow rural communities,” ORP Director Trisha Purdon said.

“The report reflects the collective brilliance of the 175 young rural Kansans I had the privilege to interview,” Marci Penner, Executive Director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, said. “I encourage people to read the report and then find areas where they can take action. If we do, I believe we can ensure a new way to look at the future of rural communities.”

Purdon and Penner will host a live discussion on the ORP’s Facebook page this afternoon at 2 p.m. CT. To view the live announcement, click here.

To view the full report, click here.

About the Kansas Sampler Foundation

The Kansas Sampler Foundation is a public non-profit 501©(3) organization. Our mission is to preserve and sustain rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and networking and supporting rural communities. The goal is to keep every town viable that shows the will and spirit to help itself.

About the Office of Rural Prosperity

ORP is a nonpartisan initiative that advocates for and promotes rural Kansas and focuses on efforts designed to aid rural improvements. Through ongoing conversations with rural stakeholders, ORP identifies key policy priorities and blends administrative action with legislative work to remove barriers to prosperity.