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Greeley County, Kansas Fights Depopulation

Matt Nager/The Wall Street Journal

In a town and county named in honor of Horacy Greeley, the man credited with saying "Go West, young man," officials fear for the town's survival after three decades of accelerating population decline.

Greeley County, Kansas does not have demographics on its side. Rural areas across the Great Plains tend to experience high death rates as baby boomers age and die, while young people move away.  The county has lost over a third of its population since 1960.However, as this Wall Street Journal article explains, Greeley County is one place that hopes to buck that trend. The county is enjoying a healthy 4% population increase after bottoming out at 1,247 at the time of the 2010 U.S. Census.

In Tribune, the county seat, the high school has only 50 students, but they are able to field an eight-man football team.  Volunteers staff a movie theater with a digital projector which was recently taken over by a nonprofit.

A different nonprofit was formed to set up recreational activities such as a softball team—activities aimed at improving the quality of life in the area and luring back young residents who have moved away.

The county also one of 73 counties statewide that are a part of the Rural Opportunity Zones program, a state program that waives state income taxes and pays student loans for people who move into rural areas of Kansas.

With the help programs like the state incentives as well as efforts by county officials and from within the community, the attitude in Greeley County is that they will fight the depopulation trend.

Reversing Population Decline in Rural Kansas

Credit Matt Nager/The Wall Street Journal
A view of the country surrounding Tribune, Kansas, in early October.

See this slideshow by the Wall Street Journal highlighting the sights around Tribune and Greeley County.