A lot of attention is lately being paid to the problem of our slowly shrinking county population. All sorts of people have come to realize that the biggest challenge facing Rush County is turning around the slow decline in population and taking the steps necessary to increase the number of people living here.
The problem of population loss is not unique to Rush County. Many rural counties in this state are in the same boat. If the population keeps decreasing, the impact of fewer people living here will first be felt by our schools. If we don’t take action right now to reverse the decline in the number of students attending Rush County Schools, it won’t be long until we won’t be able to afford the programs and equipment that make this a very good school system. The time will come when we’ll have to face the horrible decision about closing schools, for example.
On the other hand, if we can turn the population slide around and more students start attending local schools, we’ll be able to do even more to prepare them to lead productive, successful lives. But a declining student population is just the tip of the iceberg. Fewer people here will mean fewer people supporting local banks, businesses, churches, charitable causes, and nearly every aspect of life one would care to name.
There are two solutions to the problem of the downward drift in the population.
First, is creating more job opportunities that require post-high school training. The way it is now, all of us spend a lot of money educating local kids for somebody else’s community. And the reason for it is a lack of good paying jobs. Second is lack of medium-priced housing. Although I’m prepared to be told I’m wrong, I’m not aware of a single housing development going on in Rush County. There just are no houses in the $130,000 to $230,000 range being built here. So, where do the people who have the good paying jobs live? They live in Shelbyville or New Castle or any of a number of other towns around here that have been able to attract home builders willing to start new housing developments. The obvious point is they don’t live here!