ord sunshine pumpers

life in rural nebraska

New Population Estimates Out

with 3 comments

Last week the GI Independent ran a story about Grand Island’s population boom and the subsequent population loss in surrounding rural communities.  I was surprised that Ord, Elyria, Arcadia and North Loup weren’t listed along with the other communities, so I found out what was happening in Valley County.

We’re faced with the same challenges other rural communities have – our population numbers are declining by census estimates.  Our business visitation program conducted in April with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development echoes this trend – workforce availability continues to be our major business challenge in the county.

  • Ord: 2,028 (2008);  2,267 (2000)
  • Elyria: 48 (2008); 54 (2000)
  • Arcadia: 317 (2008); 359 (2000)
  • North Loup: 298 (2008); 339 (2000)

Many factors play into this phenomena and I’d like to hear from you out there on why you think this is the case.  Rural communities have many benefits – all things we document regularly around here.  The challenge is looking in the mirror and understanding what and where your deficits lie so we can collectively manage or overcome them.  Weakness and failure are only as powerful as we allow it.  If we understand our shortcomings and address them proactively, we build efforts that can overcome population declination.  If we ignore those roadblocks in rural Nebraska, we will continue to decline.

I share a few theories, but one I think requires mention:  our rural population numbers will continue to decline insofar as our family farms do.  Less farms (a trend that has reversed nationally) mean less of a need for people and services.  I believe you’re seeing a return to rural movement on the coasts, something I believe will spread in Nebraska in 5-10 years.  You’re already seeing that to some extent in Lincoln/Lancaster County.

One final question – how do you explain strong growth in retail pull while a loss in population?  Our sales tax receipt look to beat last year (if conservative estimates hold) and our overall retail pull is the strongest its been since 1991.  Combine that with a massive decline in unemployment (we’re nearly 1/5 of the national average) What is going on to create that scenario?

These are big picture challenges we look at in our office on a daily basis.  Many of our efforts are designed with population decline in mind, but it is not the only challenge we have to juggle.  For people to move to Valley County, good jobs need to be here (job creation), attractive communities have to exist (community development) and I think most importantly, the perception that small towns have nothing to offer needs specific attention (communication).


3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I brought a family of five to Ord, in 2007. Lived in Grand Island most of my adult life. Grew up in Des Moines, IA. I have really enjoyed living in smaller town. Des Moines has grown quite a bit, since I lived there. The highschool I attended had an enrollment of about 500 in 1988. Now it has an enrollment of about 1200. I can say I do not miss having a bedroom window that overlooked the freeway. I wish I had a better paying job. I like living in a town that is not in a hurry.


    July 7, 2009 at 3:31 pm

  2. BB – if you’re looking for employment check out our page here: http://www.ordnebraska.com/job.asp

    I couldn’t agree more with you, living in a small town that’s not in a hurry is a major part of the reason we moved to Ord. I pity folks that can’t seem to slow life down and enjoy what is usually called the “mundane”. Whatever that means. I call it real life, like catching fireflies with my boys. Call me crazy.


    July 7, 2009 at 3:42 pm

  3. I am ok with the burger job, learning managment skills now. Knowledge is power.


    July 7, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: