Tough Years by Gregg Motley

Gregg Motley. President of the Regional Economic Development, Inc. Submitted photo.

 

The last two years have been difficult for Bourbon County, along with most of rural America, especially for the 45 residents we lost to COVID19 and their families.

According to the Kansas Statistical Abstract (“Abstract”) released in September, the pain is economic as well as personal. Perusing the Abstract, here are some notable trends that indicate the stress under which we have all lived in the last two years:

Beginning with money and banking, our nationwide economy has been awash in cash due to the stimulus checks and deficit spending coming out of Washington D.C.

Accordingly, bank deposits grew by 15.9% in Kansas during 2020; by comparison, Bourbon County bank deposits grew by only 9.1%. This is indicative of how Federal spending disproportionately favors urban areas.

Another important indicator of economic success is spending within our county, primarily indicated by a measure called Trade Pull Factor. This measures the amount of money spent in Bourbon County compared to the income earned by its residents.

Over the last six years, we have hovered around the 70% level, meaning that for every dollar earned by a resident, 70 cents are spent in our county; this includes nonresidents who spend their money here while visiting. This measure dropped to 68% in 2020; the logical explanation is that we have had fewer visitors. The number also indicates that we have an opportunity to evaluate our own spending habits, and consider spending more of our disposable income in our county; it benefits us all.

Employment numbers continue to be difficult for us. The Bourbon County unemployment number jumped from 4.2% in 2019 to 5.6% in 2020.

Why did we have so many help wanted ads alongside so many unemployed people? One can only conclude that some decided that they could live off stimulus money. Hopefully, our unemployment numbers will move in the right direction when the money out of Washington D.C. slows down to a gush. Current numbers indicate we are a still a net importer of workers.

After making some significant gains in per capita personal income in prior years, the Bourbon County growth rate in 2019 slowed to 2.4% compared to a statewide number of 4.2%. Given our continued demand for additional workers, I am hopeful the growth in personal income in the county will get back on track.

One positive trend that continued into 2019 is the drop in the county’s poverty rate. This rate peaked in 2017 at 18.3% of Bourbon County residents; that rate has continued to fall to 15.4% in 2019. It will be interesting to see how COVID19 affects this number in 2020 and 2021.

These numbers can be difficult to wade through, but it is important for us to understand the trends in order to propose effective solutions. Bourbon County REDI is committed to staying informed in order to be a part of the solution.

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