HUMBOLDT — To a one, all Southeast Kansas communities are losing population.
To combat that trend, a Home Again program has been developed to sell former residents on the forgotten benefits of their hometowns.
Eric Ferrell of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation briefed Humboldt residents on the program Wednesday night at a forum sponsored by Rebuilding the Public Square.
The program is funded by the Southeast Kansas Regional Prosperity Foundation, an offshoot of Southeast Kansas, Inc.
Ferrell described Home Again as a “structured program that identifies, communicates, educates and provides former residents the opportunity to return home.”
Former residents, Ferrell noted, still want to know about the place they call home. Few, however, still receive their hometown newspaper, the primary avenue of news, he said.
A Home Again Web site can fill that gap with links to the town’s vital business and organizations.
Things that might appeal to those who have moved away are recent upgrades to a town’s schools or community facilities, Ferrell said.
Home Again also uses direct mail to former residents to re-ignite that latent interest.
Ferrell said the program uses branding, much like Tree City USA, to identify communities that are actively encouraging former residents’ return.
“Why come home again?” he pondered. “Cost of living, a reasonable pace of life, friends and relatives, low crime rates and Internet — if available” — are all draws to people who have become disillusioned with a faster pace of life elsewhere, Ferrell said.
“I’m hoping it would be like dream vacation,” Ferrell said of moving back.
The country’s current economic woes can actually help places like Humboldt recruit population, Ferrell said, by focussing on its comparatively less pricey cost of living.
In addition, Ferrell said, the bulk of America’s population — the baby boomers — are in or entering retirement age. Now is the time to capture that population, Humboldt City Administrator Larry Tucker said he learned at a recent economic conference.
Those people come with skill sets and their own bank accounts, Ferrell noted, and are more likely to start small businesses.
“They become the angel investors,” Ferrell said. “That’s why you don’t want to criticize people for having left.”
Instead, Ferrell said, Home Again provides an organized system for welcoming back such ex-pats.
“This isn’t some magic bunny I’m pulling out of a hat,” he said.
Home Again targets communities with populations under 15,000 and is free to municipalities in Southeast Kansas. Elsewhere, the idea will be sold for $99, Ferrell said.
The fee covers a community’s Web presence on the Home Again site.
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