Pharos-Tribune

March 25, 2013

Area counties losing population

Officials cite diminishing industry, farmsteads

by Mitchell Kirk
Pharos-Tribune

— A recent study has found that while people in Indiana tend to settle in or near urban communities, even more people are leaving, leading to a negative net migration. According to economic and education officials in the area, the same is true for Indiana’s smaller rural counties as well.

The study, which was conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, states Fulton County experienced a net migration of -50 from 2006 to 2007 and -39 from 2009 to 2010.

As superintendent of the Caston School Corp. in Fulton County, Dan Foster said he’s noticed a lot of young people leaving the county’s agricultural areas.

“With the homesteads on the farm, Mom and Dad are still in that big old house and all three kids are out of school somewhere else now,” Foster said. “They’re not coming back to the area and putting their seeds down. That is a little bit of an issue here.”

Foster went on to cite a study the school corporation sanctioned about five years ago that predicted the area would lose more than 100 students between the time of the study and 2018.

“It’s certainly concerning,” Foster said.

Foster said decreasing enrollment numbers will affect how much state funding Caston schools are eligible for, adding that the school corporation experienced a decrease in enrollment of about 20 from last year. While that’s less than two students per grade level, it adds up to what could have been $130,000 in state funding, Foster said.

The Ball State study also shows negative migration numbers for Pulaski County, totaling at -148 between 2009 and 2010.

Robert Klitzman, superintendent of the Eastern Pulaski Community School Corp., said the declining industrial base and disappearance of family farms are likely the reasons behind young people leaving the area after graduation.

“I think they’re following jobs and opportunities in other areas,” Klitzman said. “Although we have some, we don’t have as many as we need to substantiate a growth in population.”

Klitzman said schools can only go so far in encouraging young people to stay in the area after they graduate.

“We have to give students the best education for today and tomorrow,” Klitzman said. “We’re doing that, but we have to somehow entice individuals, businesses and companies that Pulaski County is a great place to set up a business and has the labor force to support it.”

While the study states White County experienced a positive net migration of 112 from 2009 to 2010, its net migration from 2006 to 2007 was -214 and from 2000 to 2001 it was -80.

Tom Fletcher, superintendent of Twin Lakes School Corp. in Monticello, said White County has been experiencing a declining population and declining enrollment in schools for the last ten years.

“Many of our kids do leave to go to college,” Fletcher said. “If there’s not a work force, those kids who don’t go out to school sometimes migrate out to find jobs. It all depends on job availability. We’re just hoping that in the future there are more opportunities for graduates and the work force and maybe with the change in the economy, there will be.”

Cass County experienced negative migration over the last five years as well, according to the study, totaling at -129 from 2009 to 2010 and -353 from 2006 to 2007.

Connie Neininger, president of the Cass Logansport Economic Development Organization, said CLEDO has found there to be some out-migration of the county’s youth, but an increase in migration of people of other cultures.

“In 1950, it was almost all Anglos,” Neininger said. “Now we have Hispanics, Burmese and Taiwanese.”

Neininger said she thinks many people of these cultures settle here in search of a better life.

“If you see the lands these individuals have come from, they’re struggling to make a living wage and provide for their families,” Neininger said.

Neininger said many members of these cultures are settling in rural Indiana communities because they are from rural areas in their home countries themselves.

“In some rural communities, that’s going to be our rural growth,” Neininger said. “That’s our saving grace right now.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.