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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

Population loss needs an answer

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I am both surprised and disappointed that there has not been more concern voiced over the loss of population in Sikeston. When the census numbers were finally released in February, the sad news is that our community lost about 675 residents during the past decade.

That's not good.

But even worse, the loss comes on the heels of a larger loss during the '90s. And there was a smaller decline during the last half of the '80s.

So our community is on a 25-year trend of downward population.

OK. But what about other communities similar in size in our region?

Well, that's equally bad news.

The other communities - Poplar Bluff, Jackson, Cape, Farmington, etc. - all showed population gains during the past decade.

So are we doing something wrong or are the other cities doing something right? Therein lies the problem.

The fact is we have few answers to the question of why our population is shrinking. We can point to the lack of jobs, but unfortunately, there's little evidence that our job market is worse than others. So the argument that we lack the job base is missing the point.

But regardless, should we not have some expanded conversation and analysis and action plan to address this decline?

I'm sick and tired of forming yet another committee to explore yet another problem. But it would seem that a loss of population is a fairly important gauge to mark the progress of a community. And with a 20-plus year decline staring us in the face, maybe, just maybe, we should sound an alarm.

Here's what I think. I think that communities often face multiple challenges at the same time. And when faced with several issues, the fact is that some are simply ignored or relegated to the back burner.

In Sikeston, the population loss has taken a seat on that back burner.

You want to talk about impact. The overall loss of population is darned near the exact number of students lost from our public school system. That's 600 less kids in the classrooms today than 10 years ago.

Maybe I am sounding an alarm that no one else hears. Maybe I am worried about a problem that lacks a solution.

But long before I accept that notion, I want someone to share my concerns.

Perhaps those who left our community or decided against moving to our community could provide the answer to this puzzle.

Maybe that would be a good starting point to find an answer.

Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen