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Kansas Governor Sends Right-Hand Man to Hear Out Rural Towns on Economy, Housing and More

This cafe in Kinsley, in southwest Kansas, sits in one of the parts of the state that is getting lonelier. Governor Laura Kelly says she wants to find solutions for struggling rural areas.  (Photo by Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service)

Kansas Governor Sends Right-Hand Man to Hear Out Rural Towns on Economy, Housing and More
By Jim McLean, Kansas News Service

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said this week that she’ll dispatch her lieutenant governor to a dozen small cities across the state in hopes of crafting a plan to aid rural areas.

Kelly created the Office of Rural Prosperity and named Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers to head it in January soon after taking office.

Rogers will travel to 12 rural communities this summer to “listen to Kansans” and develop “long-term, sustainable solutions” to problems that have spurred decades of population decline in all but a handful of the state’s 105 counties.

“Rural Kansas has been overlooked and unheard for far too long,” Kelly said at a Statehouse news conference.

As a result, she said, many rural Kansas communities lack the infrastructure and workforce needed to survive economically. Other problems include, lack access to health care and affordable housing.

“We need rural Kansas to survive and gain strength,” Kelly said.

Rogers said his office has identified seven “key areas” of focus. They include housing, health care, workforce and infrastructure (roads and broadband).

“We’re committed to working with state agencies and the Legislature to ensure that all Kansans have access to a high quality of life no matter what their ZIP code might be,” he said.

Rogers’ tour schedule includes stops in the following communities:

    Nickerson, June 17
    Atchison, June 20
    Colby, June 24
    Phillipsburg, June 25
    Winfield, July 8
    Lindsborg, July 10
    Garnett, July 22
    Independence, July 23
    Ulysses, July 30
    Concordia, Aug. 1
    Sabetha, Aug. 5
    Dodge City, Aug. 7

Each day-long visit will conclude with a town-hall meeting, Rogers said.

The Office of Rural Prosperity has an initial budget of $2 million. Most of that will go to provide rural communities with grants and technical assistance.

Rogers said his office will work closely with the House Committee on Rural Revitalization, which began meeting during the 2019 legislative session.

Rep. Don Hineman, the Dighton Republican who chairs the committee, described its mission in an episode of the Kansas News Service’s Statehouse Blend podcast.

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Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KCUR Radio, KMUW Radio and High Plains Public Radio - dedicated to covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanksKansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

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