Rural development | KCUR

Rural development

Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for 40 years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade.

As he explained, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The Royal Theater, once called The Fox Theater, opened in Atchison, Kansas, in 1912 as a vaudeville theater. It later showed films on the silent screen, complete with an in house piano player. They added talkies when they came along in the 1920s.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

A revival of rural Kansas can come from drawing businesses and housing to the centers of small cities and by building better highways, gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly said Monday.

In a plan she says could invigorate rural areas, the Democrat also calls for propping up small grocery stores, expanding Medicaid coverage, reopening state offices closed in recent years and fixing deteriorating housing in those areas.

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.

Erica Hunzinger / Harvest Public Media/KCUR 89.3

Big cities in the Midwest are gaining ground on the rural communities that, for many decades, have thrived on the edges of urban development.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Trump administration wants to show rural communities, which voted for him by wide margins in the 2016 election, they are still on the president’s mind.