Old Lyon County Court House

The University of Kansas Institute for Policy and Research releases data on the relative standing of Kansas counties.  Included in this fifty-one page report are a series of different statistical measures that describe the health of the area, the local economy, our population trends, income, certain amenities and our workforce.  You can read the full report by clicking HERE.

At last week’s economic forum, three main topics were discussed in relation to the future health of our economy from a holistic measurement standpoint.  Median Household Income, Population and Workforce were all consistent topics of discussion.  So, rather than editorializing on each segment of the linked report, we will discuss those three basic areas relative to the findings within the document.  Some assumptions are made within studies of these types, and future trends can be changed with an area if changes are made within systems that accommodated the current trajectory.  However, these are the current numbers and “best estimates” for future changes in statistical categories over time if we choose to stay on our current path.

Population – Our county population has decreased slightly over the last decade from 35,868 to 33,510.  If we look back twenty years, the Lyon County population was 35,472 and that represents a county population loss of 1,962 people.  The majority of the population is “urban” or residing within Emporia.  Countywide population projections calculated by Wichita State University in 2012 project a continual population decline in the area if we stay on our current trajectory.  By 2020, models suggest that our countywide population will be 30,805.  Extended projections for 2030 are 27,456 and 23,210 in 2040.

The population decline, when coupled with the effects of sprawl has resulted in significant dilapidated and vacant  housing in Lyon County.  Lyon County currently ranks 13th in the state in vacant housing units with 1,934, though there are price ranges of homes that are vastly under supplied within the market.  Rental rates are rising, which indicates a demand for higher quality (newer) housing options.  In 2010, Lyon County ranked 105th in fair market rent rate (out of 105 counties, but incomplete data may have artificially lowered rates) and we currently rank 40th (still low for a community of our size, but that could be an indication of sprawl and dilapidated housing stock).

Workforce – Many employers look for bulk population, population age and the education level of the workforce to determine if a market meets their needs.  General population was discussed above, but our subset demographics are a bit of a mixed bag.  Our percentage of high school graduates or higher with an age of twenty five years or greater ranks 83rd in the state, but our percentage with a bachelors degree or higher in the same age range ranks seventeenth (though our percentage is still below the state average).  Within businesses, we currently rank 16th for number of businesses with 1-19 employees, 16th for number of businesses with 20-99 employees, 13th for number of businesses with 100-499 employees and 19th for number of businesses with 500 or more employees.  Our highest ranking business type was a three way tie for 12th in the state in the categories of Finance & Insurance, Real Estate Rental & Leasing, and Accommodations & Food Service.  Our Civilian Labor Force currently ranks 17th in the state.  We rank 17th in employed persons and 12th in unemployed.  Our average wage per job ranks 57th at $30,955.

Income – Our per capita personal income for Lyon County is $30,892 versus $43,015 for the state and $38,845 for non-metro regions.  Our per capita personal income ranks 104th among Kansas counties.  We rank 20th in Tangible Assessed Valuation.  We rank 18th in Sales Tax Collections.  Our percentage of people in poverty is relatively high (we rank 6th), and we rank 21st in estimated percent under 18 in poverty.  Within Lyon County, Emporia continues to exhibit a positive pull factor that dominates the existing trade market region.  Read more about our city pull factor byclicking HERE.

Overall, the data provided identifies some opportunities and some areas of concern.  By looking closely at our existing assets and creating a solid implementable plan to capitalize on those assets, we can reverse some of the cited trends and improve our community wealth, population base and opportunities. Change requires that we adapt our systems to intersect with projected markets while using Median Household Income and Trade Area Population as our primary indicators of success.

We have a hard working, dedicated group of citizens in Lyon County.  We have tremendous workforce assets like Flint Hills Technical College and Emporia State University which drive youth to our area and provide potential employers (that match our students degree fields) an educated workforce.  By emphasizing the right kinds of employment opportunities, including entrepreneurship projects, we can increase wealth within the area and create reasons for individuals to move to Lyon County for employment.  An increase in income and population will make it possible for additional retail, restaurant and entertainment options to thrive in our county.

Raw data is helpful in setting a baseline for where we are and creating benchmarks for where we want to go.  Hopefully the attached study and the brief statistical listing within this article will serve as a launching pad for idea and work plan discussions.  We need people and groups together to adaptively alter current structures to achieve real and tangible goals, and by identifying realistic and measurable objectives, we can move forward.

See this article and MUCH more in this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!