Can rural Kansas stop population slide?

A Wall Street Journal article on efforts to stem rural depopulation looked at the experience of Kansas’ Greeley County, where population has increased 4 percent in the past two years (to 1,298) after a 30-year slide. It noted that officials are “trying everything from keeping the local movie theater open with volunteers to consolidating government and hitching onto a state program that offers student-loan payoffs and tax deductions for people who relocate” – Kansas’ 2-year-old Rural Opportunity Zone program, which reportedly has 600 participating residents of 73 rural counties, including 19 in Greeley County. Christy Hopkins, the county’s community development director, told the Journal: “Forecasters for some time have said – you guys are destined to fail. We know it’s taking time, and we’re not saying we have it all figured out, but we’re on a path.” But Kansas State University associate professor Laszlo Kulcsar had a gloomier view of the future for rural communities, telling the Journal: “I think we’re in for 10 more years of denial. After the next census, there is going to be a really rude awakening.”