Living In Rural Kentucky

By: Casey Wheeless Email
By: Casey Wheeless Email

The latest Census data has shown rural America is shrinking, so why is everyone leaving and where are they going?

Rural America now accounts for just 16 percent of the nations population.

But here, more than 40 percent of Kentuckians are living in out land areas.

And those numbers are declining, leaving some towns scared they will shrink into nothing.

"We had a couple of districts that lost a significant amount of their population," says Muhlenberg County's Judge Executive, Rick Newman, "district two, down by the Logan county line lost almost 1,000 people, and district four lost about 400 to 500 people."

Rural towns like Greenville are scrambling to attract new residents, building new roads, reconstructing their busiest areas and in Greenville renovating the old courthouse.

"We have a lot of nice businesses downtown, our downtown is being redone they've been working on it for about 3 years now," says Donna Doss, who moved from a different rural town to Greenville.

"We don't have the heavy industry like someone in Warren County does," says Newman, "but we still have coal mining and farming."

But opportunities are few for the area's young adults.

"Availability of jobs, they are hard to come by," says Newman, "Both my children grew up here, they went away, graduated from college, you know what's here? Unless you're going to be an entrepreneur or go into health care of fall into the family business that's already established,"

Clint Cobb has lived in Muhlenberg County his whole life, he left for college and came back.

He says he wasn't cut out for the big metropolitan "it's just small town living, the low cost of living, and for the most part people help each other, everybody knows everybody."

And some people in these rural areas have been here most their life, not wanting the "hub bub" of city life.

"I've been in a lot of big cities," says Robert L. Taylor, who also lives in Muhlenberg County, "I've been around the world a few times so no, I like it in the country, a small community just like this."

"Well you know most people, everybody here knows each other watch out for each other."

But some say there are opportunities here.

Entrepreneurs say the "hometown feel" of knowing every customer who walks in your store gives business that extra boost.

"You know your customers, my customers are my friends," says Doss, who owns an antique shop on the main drag, "you know they come in and we talk about our lives, and our friends and our kids. You know, what we're doing next week, what we're doing tomorrow and I love my customers."

"We've got some smaller business that thrive on that," says Newman, "you can look downtown here at downtown Greenville and see the various assortments and types of entrepreneurship that goes on here."

And while the young are moving into metropolitans, they're leaving the rural communities with the question on how to stay alive.

"I don't know if there is an answer to tell you the truth," says Newman, "Especially in today's economy but, we aren't giving up,"

And although numbers are declining for rural areas, compared to the nation, Kentucky is ranked higher than most states in the south for having high population in out land areas.


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