Rural Indiana is a great place to live, but fewer and fewer people want to live there. That is a trend that needs to change. Census projections indicate that, by the year 2050, only a few old people will live in rural communities with everyone else having moved to the city. “We cannot have a state where our urban areas are growing and the rest of the state is falling by the wayside,” stated Katrina Hall with Indiana Farm Bureau.
Hall told HAT local leaders and state officials need to focus on rural Indiana and address the needs that will keep rural areas strong and economically vibrant. According to Hall, “that includes an educated and prepared workforce, it is going to include some housing options, improved broadband, and dealing with the big issue of opioid abuse and drug addiction in our rural areas.” She added that, currently, a greater percentage of the rural population is addicted to drugs than in urban centers, yet rural communities have half as many treatment facilities.
At a recent forum, Farm Bureau members learned that local leadership and new generations need to get involved in improving life in rural Indiana. Hall said current leaders must reach out to young people and get them involved in changing their communities, “This is a critical issue for millennials because this is about building a future in their town.”
Indiana Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch addressed the forum and said the state has a rural strategy and has programs and resources to help, but the leadership must come from the local community. Dr. Bo Beaulleu, of the Purdue Center for Regional Development, said that, when communities and counties think regionally and come together and share resources, economic development can occur. Yet Steve Eberly, Warren County Commissioner, said breaking down those traditional barriers can be difficult, “Those county lines can be very tall sometimes.”