Wisconsin concerned about losing young residents

MADISON — Wisconsin residents are concerned that there aren't enough young people in the state's rural areas.

Alana Voss, 25 of Mauston, is concerned that not enough people her age are moving back to their small rural communities after graduating from college in a larger city, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

"Everything's going on in the big cities but a lot of times in the rural communities you're stagnant," Voss said. "You need money to do this, you need money to do that and it's hard to get the money when you don't have new individuals coming into the community or new businesses."

The loss of young adults can increase the cost of schools, public services and recreation, according to research.

Randy Stoecker, a professor of community and environmental sociology at UW-Madison, studied more than 1,800 municipalities in the state He found that only 280 are gaining and maintaining young adults.

"It is a very uneven phenomenon," he said. "There are urban places gaining young people, there are urban places losing young people. There are rural places gaining young people, there are rural places losing young people."

Places with good schools, affordable housing and a variety of restaurants have an easier time attracting young people, Stoecker said.

Jeff Wright, the assistant superintendent for the Sauk Prairie School District, grew up in Wisconsin, moved away for a while and returned to raise his family near Spring Green.

"There's a way that we can keep what's so good about these small communities the same, but also bring new voices and ideas into them to make sure that they stay alive and that they stay vibrant," he said.

The rural lifestyle needs modernization in order to attract younger people, such as improved high speed internet, Wright said.