The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 13, 1996 · Page 42
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 42

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, October 13, 1996
Page:
Page 42
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2 SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13, 1996 COMING HOME THE SALINA JOURNAL OVERVIEW The hard times of the 1980s might be giving way in the 1990s to ... THE RURAL Rebound West of Victoria, a rusted car marks the spot where a family lived before moving on during the tough times of the 1980s. By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING The Salina Journal ark Evans abandoned the hustle and bustle of Houston about a year ago for Herington and rural Kansas. "About the only thing in Herington is the Dairy Queen and the Pizza Hut, but the air is clean and you can leave your keys in the car," he said. "You'd never do that in Houston." Miles away, in the state's northwest corner, Michael Downing offers a similar tale. He worked as an emergency medical technician in southern California before moving his family to Rawlins County more than a year ago. "I was sick of the rat race of the city," Downing said. "The violence. The noise. You name it. It was just too crowded, too many people. We just wanted some space." From Dickinson County to less heavily populated places in north- central and northwest Kansas, almost every town has a story of retirees who returned to their hometown after decades in the big city or the young family who came in search of a community and settled in. That's a far cry from the 1980s, when the only stories were of citizens abandoning their rural roots for economic opportunities in a larger city. The 1980s can be symbolized by the old rusted Studebaker in a field west of Victoria. A family lived there once. They took their mobile home and left after the father was unable to find work. "All people were doing was losing their jobs, losing their farms, packing up their families and leaving," said Ned Webb, who spearheads economic development efforts in Russell. "It was gloomy, about as close to a depression as I've ever seen." A symbol of the 1990s is the towering $30 million gluten plant at Russell. The plant added about 50 jobs and expanded the town's agricultural base to include a product that contributes value to the region's wheat crop. Or the Russell Stover candy factory near Abilene. The plant started production in April 1995 and now employs 550 hourly workers. "We're seeing a slowdown in the out-migration and that tells me there are gradually more jobs becoming available for people," said Randy Hrabe of the Hill City-based Northwest Kansas Planning and Development Commission. At mid-decade, there are reasons for optimism in rural Kansas: improving farm and oil sectors, stabilizing population and increasing job opportunities. And technology is easing the isolation of places such as Cheyenne County, which is bordered by Nebraska on the north and Colorado on the west. But even in the improved 1990s, progress is often measured in inches. Jewell County, for instance, lost a larger share of its population —18.6 » . , . , Photos by DAVIS TURNER /The Salina Journal Mark Evans and his family — wife Denise, 6-year-old Ashley and 3-year-old Derek — moved away from the crime and bustle of Houston for a more quiet life in a small rural town. They live in Enterprisfe, where Mark is a Realtor, having recently moved from Herington. percent — than any other county in the state during the 1980s. The rate of out-migration has slowed to the single digits this decade. "That's a tremendous gain on their part," said John Cyr of the Beloit- based North-Central Regional Planning Commission. Some see rural Kansas as a place of haves and have-nots. "The rural heartland is enjoying an economic rebound in the 1990s, but gains are not being shared evenly across the region," Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City economists Mark Drabenstott and Tim Smith wrote earlier this year. "Consolidation in rural retailing and in agriculture is leaving fewer viable rural trade centers. Meanwhile, many small rural places are struggling because they are remote from economic hubs." Cyr argues that towns must be . judged in the context of their region. In north-central Kansas, much of the retail activity is centered in Salina. Hays, Colby and Goodland — especially after Wal-Mart opens a planned superstore — attract shoppers from northwest Kansas. ' Other towns provide workers, housing and services. "You go down through this hierarchy of towns and if you look at it that way, everyone really benefits," Cyr said. "The way people are willing to drive 30 miles or more is nothing. Something may not be in a specific town, but it's within their reach." He said as many as 350 people a day drive into Beloit to work. "These communities are getting stronger and growing," Cyr said. "Too much attention has been given to urban centers as being the goal of everybody. There is a lot of potential and a lot of opportunity that exists in these small towns, and I think that gets missed sometimes. "North-central Kansas in the last five years has really settled down. The businesses that remained from the 1980s are strong and getting stronger." Hrabe of the planning and development commission said wages remain a concern in rural Kansas, but housing is much cheaper than in the urban centers. That is especially attractive to retirees. "We don't have to find them a job," he said. "All we have to do is be nice to them. That's not hard to do in At- wood or a lot of little towns. The towns that keep their streets clean, the towns that try to do something for their retirees — those are the towns that are going to win." Hrabe said the commission also receives inquiries from younger people. The agency recently advertised for a secretary and received 25 applications, some of them from beyond Kansas. "There are a lot of people who are looking for a smaller, easier way of life," he said. That was certainly the case with Dickinson County's Evans and Rawlins County's Downing. Evans works for a real estate company in Enterprise, a town that several months ago learned its major employer, ABB Air Preheater, planned to close its doors in September. Concordia, which also has an ABB plant, will gain 39 jobs from the shutdown. "We haven't gotten one house listing from the ABB closing," Evans said. "We have about 25 employees in Enterprise and they've already found jobs or are retiring because they've worked at the plant for 25 or 30 years." He moved to Dickinson County be- cause it was his wife's home. But Downing had no connection with northwest Kansas — other than his college roommate lived in Colby — when he decided to move there. Downing first visited the region in 1994. He talked with his family at the end of the trip, and wife, Pam, raised the possibility of moving to Atwood. She had never been there. The couple have three children, a senior in high school, a sixth-grader and a second- grader. "Colby was too big and she had heard different people talk about Atwood," Downing said. Eventually, he quit his job in California and returned to northwest Kansas to find work. He landed a job with the Kansas Department of Transportation in Atwood. Pam works part time at a hardware store. The family lives in a rural home one mile from tiny Ludell and five • miles from Atwood. "This actually turned out to be exactly what we thought it would be. Golly, we have just loved it," Downing said. "All I can say is that the Lord pulled some neat things together for us." Call when you have farm machinery electrical troubles. Truck - Auto Farm-RV's • Alternators • Generators • Starters • Repair or Exchange Batteries Available Here. CLARE GENERATOI SERVICE,, 801 N. 10th Salina^' ~ll 1-800-748- " Kennedy and Coe, LLC We can assist you. Areasol 'Ser\ice... 1 Peed Yard Services 1 C'asli Flow Projeclu anil Forecast Atnlil anil Review Si 1 Business Valuations 1 luman Resource Ser\ ices Business Planning .ciiicnt i oils Tax Services Instate anil l'i 1-aHiHii/Raiichiir A Anal) sis ol Major KENNEDY *»* COE, LLC (Zettljled ^buttle jQccountatits M\d. donsnttunts 119 W. Iron - United Building • Salina, KS 67401 • (913) 825-1561 REAL VALUE Our lowest price ever on our most popular big saw Reg. $349.95 REAL STIHL • Excellent power-to-weight ratio • Anti-vibration system • Lifetime ignition warranty • Quickstep™ Inertia chain brake Get a heavy-duty carry case, extra chain &;• hat for only $1025 •*• >^$60.00 Value with srtm: saw purchase- * Easy access air filter' • Automatic chain oiling We're Your STIHL RENTAL, INC. S'TO'R'E 1500 S. Broadway 1-800-WIL-RENT 822-0847 Store Hours: Daily 7:30 am-B:00 pro, Sunday 12:30 pm-B:30 pm ' * ' ' /

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