Hays officials looking for ways to retain young adults

Hays is one example with 50 percent of its 26-to-38-year-olds moving out of town.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 8:44 PM CDT
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HYAS, Kan. (KWCH) - Recent data from the U.S. Census shows much of rural Kansas is struggling to maintain its younger adult population. Hays is one example with 50 percent of its 26-to-38-year-olds moving out of town.

Hays has a population of about 21,000. The Grow Hays group is trying to increase these numbers, but multiple factors are making that difficult.

Eyewitness News spoke with Grow Hays Executive Director Doug Williams to look into what’s causing young adults to leave the community.

“This isn’t anything new in terms of the youth that have left the community. We’ve always seen a fair amount of migration of youth. We’d like to keep as many as we can, obviously,” Williams said.

Part of the migration comes from a lack of housing in the Hays area with only about 38 new units built annually. For growth, Williams said that total needs to be 80 to 85 new units per year.

“We know we can’t recruit people to the community or keep people in the community if we don’t have adequate housing,” he said.

Grow Hays is staying committed to encouraging growth, hopeful the housing situation will expand with opportunities.

“Kind of adopted the philosophy, ‘If you build it, they will come,” Williams said. “We know they will if we have the right housing because we got the jobs and we have a great community to live in.”

The census data also shows a majority of people who leave communities like Hays do eventually come back.

“I would maybe move away but could see myself coming back and like settling her, but like later on in life,” said Fort Hays State University sophomore Reagan Streckur.

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