My Perspective from Kansas
Brace yourselves! Guest writer Andy Fanter is ready to challenge prevailing behavior with “My Perspective from Kansas.”
I want to establish my “street creds” before I make 18% of the US unhappy. I have lived most of my 50+ years in Kansas: Wichita, Kansas City, Lawrence, Baldwin City, Hartford, Great Bend, and Marion. Oh, so now you have heard of “that Marion, Kansas”. Trust me; I have seen worse in my eight years living in Marion.
The attempt to save old buildings and rural America is a waste of time and energy. There is an old building that has seen 18 months of renovations, $200k+ spent, grants, and the barbeque restaurant still not ready to move in and start cooking. Meanwhile, two miles away on well-traveled US Highway 56, complete with semi-truck parking sits the closed Pizza Hut. Rumor has it the current owner, a farmer using it to store machinery in the parking lot, would sell for $50k or less. The old buildings across the US have bad roofs, wiring, plumbing, heating/air, asbestos, etc. The buildings need demolition and a metal building in place to give a business a chance to survive.
You want to come to Marion and debate rural America over—breakfast. We can get a coffee and a donut at Casey’s convenience store and eat in the park. Four diners have come and gone in Marion in my eight years living here. 3 of 4 were in old buildings, one tried Pizza Hut—but covid hurt it. Marion has industrial land for cheap, some cities have it for free—they attract Dollar General. You could build a nice manufacturing plant for 50 employees. Marion is a mini big metro across the US—inventory of good housing is low, and if one is for sale it sells in a week.
You think visiting Kansas would be great to try the fishing and hunting opportunities. The lakes have big problems with blue green algae blooms. The last 15 years have seen a huge surge in nonresident hunting on public land, and private land being bought by non-residents to be used for hunting in the fall and winter. The same nonresidents buy nice homes in the small towns to use during the hunting season. I have a friend who manages over 600k acres for out of state residents who own the land. The same nonresidents own 6 homes in a small town. If you want to enjoy the outdoors in Kansas, better to write a big check for your own land, and hope no one trespasses.
So, what is this Fanter rant? Good people live in rural areas, and you need to help them get closer to larger population areas to help your business. Expanding rural broadband is more about corporate agriculture needing the services to control equipment. None of these issues are unique to Kansas. Texas would say it saw these issues 30 years ago. Your future employees are likely in a rural area or working in a restaurant. They need help seeing a better future working in your business. For my part of the world, construction and construction machinery offer opportunity over a broad spectrum of dirty jobs to office jobs. 18% of people in the US are living in rural areas—it is time to squeeze that down to 15%.