Kansas group tries to reverse exodus of young from rural America

Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:24pm EDT
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By Kevin Murphy

BALDWIN CITY, Kansas (Reuters) - Young people have been leaving rural America for decades, but Mike Bosch, 34, is happy to swim against the tide.

Instead of moving his fast-growing information technology services company to his hometown of Dallas last year, Bosch chose to stay in Baldwin City, Kansas, population 4,515. The business, Reflective Group, sits between a car repair shop and post office on a quiet cobblestone street.

All but two of the company's 17 employees are under 40, and half of them live in Baldwin City, about 45 miles southwest of Kansas City.

Bosch is part of a Kansas group called PowerUp, a social and business network that touts rural life for the under-40 crowd and lets them know they are not alone.

"There isn't a 20 to 30 year old out there who isn't going through some struggles in these towns," Bosch said. "We started educating people on why small towns can be better than big towns, and what resources exist out there."

Bosch is revamping the group's website, ruralbychoice.com, to share the success stories of young people in small towns. "We really want to target and champion our age group," Bosch said.

Some 1,200 people across Kansas are in the PowerUp movement, including those who stayed in rural areas or moved away and came back.

Most young people choose to live in urban areas because there are far more jobs and cultural amenities, said Laszlo Kulcsar, a Kansas State University associate professor who studies population trends.   Continued...

Mike Bosch, part of a "rural by choice" movement, is pictured in Baldwin City, Kansas, April 24, 2013. Bosch kept his IT business instead of moving it to Dallas. Young people have been leaving rural America for decades, but Mike Bosch, 34, is happy to swim against the tide. REUTERS/Kevin Murphy