Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the KU School of Business, says that Kansas is vulnerable to a dangerous loss of citizenry.
Aired September 27, 2009
2 minutes 3.7 MB) | Download mp3
A researcher tracks shrinking tax bases and economies across the state. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.
Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the KU School of Business, studies population shifts by looking at data collected by the IRS. He finds that Kansas is vulnerable to a dangerous loss of citizenry.
Hall: "The Great Plains is just undergoing this massive transition. Kansas is fully imbedded in that. And the forces are beyond any local community to overcome I believe. Once you fall below a critical mass of people, unless it's a resource-based town, like there's oil or natural gas there - because agriculture is simply not going to do it any more - it's a very painful process. Towns are dying. But there's no silver bullet. Kansas has the highest number of isolated communities in the county. So people are regionalizing in order to get a critical mass of population to sustain basic businesses."
Hall suggests that consolidation of services of the state's 105 counties could lessen consequences of the loss of people in rural areas.
Hall: "There is a perennial discussion about whether Kansas has too many counties and should consolidate them. It's kind of a 'third-rail' type of issue. But it's not really and either-or question. What communities need to be able to do is have the freedom to partner with other communities. Right now, there is actually a law saying you need permission from Topeka to do this. If folks started thinking about tearing down that structure so that they could create their own innovative solutions to their own local problems, that will take some of the pressure off."
The KU researcher says communities must be flexible to survive.
Hall: "Everybody's chasing the same people to move and the same businesses to create. It's my personal approach that a much more balanced approach in terms of defining good government services, of defining reasonable tax rates, oar not being biased against the types of businesses that come to your community, that's one of the best perspectives in terms of being able to nurture community growth."
For more on Art Hall and the depopulation of Kansas, log onto Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.