Thursday Roundup: Courtland’s Revival

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There’s a baby boom in Courtland, Kansas. 

The Salina Journal’s Tim Unruh reports that an unexpected number of tykes born in the town of 300 has the local school projecting rising enrollments in the coming years and there is now only one vacant building on Main Street. Unruh writes:

“The good thing is we’ve got traffic on Main Street,” said Bob Mainquist, who co-owns the weekly Courtland Journal newspaper with his wife, Colleen.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see these young people back here in town. It’s a lifeblood,” said Mike Johnson, owner and president of Swedish American State Bank.

The influx has squelched previous notions that Pike Valley School District was in jeopardy, said Chris Vignery, high school principal and superintendent of schools.

The change in town is taking place because more kids are coming back home. Unruh writes:

More than 20 people who have completed college degrees within five years of the class of 2005 have moved back, said Luke Mahin, 24, and more are planning to relocate home.

“You did have thoughts as a teenager that you couldn’t wait until you could leave,” said Troy Newman, 38, a co-owner of Ag Marketing Partners in Courtland.

“We probably thought that until we left for a week. It sounds a lot cooler to go places than it actually is,” he said.

Many of the relatively young residents — from their 20s to early 40s — fostered friendships in high school that contributed to pulling them back home after leaving and achieving some level of higher education.

They have returned to raise their offspring in the safe confines of a tiny hometown.

“We call it the Courtland Relocation Project,” said Jennifer Russell, 31, a Glen Elder native who is among some eight spouses of Courtland natives who agreed to move back to their other half’s childhood home. Her husband, Jay, 39, was a kid in Courtland and now works for Newman. They share an office building with Jennifer, owner of JenRus Freelance, an Internet marketing service, and Nex-Tech, which is the cable, telephone and Internet service provider.

The lesson is one we are hearing over and again from rural communities: People will move back to small towns because they are good places to live. When young people start moving home, the economy follows.

We should note here that this is evidence of good work by the Kansas Sampler Foundation. “We find that people hesitate about moving back because they think they’ll be seen as a loser,” said Marci Penner, of Inman, the founder and director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and PowerUps. 

Good article and an even better story!

• One sign of an improving U.S. economy: The amount of money that Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. sent back to relatives in Mexico is up 8% over last year. 

The L.A. Times reports that these remittances “are crucial for infrastructure projects in hardscrabble rural areas of Mexico.”

• The Washington Post describes the Department of Agriculture’s decision to close 259 domestic offices as the “most aggressive reorganization of a non-security agency announced to date.” 

• The American Farm Bureau Federation has voted to recommend the end of direct payments to farmers. In a way, the decision was an acceptance of the inevitable, as direct payments had lost support in Congress. 

The AFB still backs federal support for crop insurance.  

• The latest edition of Why Rural Matters has been released. If you want the best data on rural schools and children, get this report from the Rural School and Community Trust. 

Good story by Carole Brodsky in the Ukiah (California) Daily Journal about the closing of the downtown post office. A dozen people gathered to mourn the passing. 

“It’s despicable,” said attorney Barry Vogel, who worked with a group of citizens to prevent closure of the Ukiah branch. “These closures take the guts out of local communities, subjugating us so that we become less free. We have fewer services and it makes life more difficult for hard-working people who have used this post office for 75 years.”

• The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the federal government should immediately grant a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline. There is “no legitimate reason, none at all, to subject it to further delay,” said Chamber president Thomas Donohue. 

The Keystone XL pipeline has been held up while a new route is found that wouldn’t endanger the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, where the pipeline has found stiff resistance among ranchers.

•  A.G. Sulzberger writes in the New York Times about how tough it is to be a vegetarian in the Midwest. Lots of chatter about this article. You can read it or just figure you know how it goes and take a walk. We’d suggest the later. 

• A much more interesting food article, also in the Times, tells how Sen. Jon Tester brings meat from Montana to his home in Washington, D.C. 

Sen. Tester has a lesson for the young Sulzberger (above): If you want good food, eat at home.

 

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