Kansans are concerned about education, broadband service, school funding and out-migration

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
David Toland (right), meets and greets the public at a special library reception for 50-year employee Lea Ann Holland (middle) last Thursday in Pratt. Jean Mease shared words of wisdom with Toland, along with a handshake.
Donning a mask like most other participants, Kansas Lt. Gov. David Toland (third from left) takes part in a special library dedication in honor of Lea Ann Holland (second from left) last week in Pratt.

Speaking at a Pratt Public Library event last week, Lt. Gov. David Toland told a packed house that, ultimately, the goal of rural communities and all communities in Kansas is to retain their most valuable product, their children. And libraries play a vital role in boosting quality of life in the state.

On August 12, in Pratt, Toland spoke to more than 60 in attendance at a special ceremony honoring Pratt resident Lea Ann Holland for her 50 years of service to the community as a children's librarian.

"When my team was contacted several months ago about speaking at a library event, it wasn't something that they were very positive about," Toland said. "But the more I thought about it, the more I concluded this is exactly where I want to be today. Libraries have played a big role in my life, and in my decisions on where to raise my family."

Toland said it was his own childhood experiences of walking to the library in Iola, a town similar in many ways to Pratt and to many small towns across the state, that played a part in him coming home to Kansas for a job after living and working several years in Washington D.C.

"You've got to have the places and people that nurture our children to attract economic growth opportunities for business these days," Toland said. "It used to be that people would follow the job, but now young people are choosing where they want to live, and then finding those jobs."

Toland said today's businesses and future job sites are looking to land in places that can provide an educated workforce; towns that attract families and have good work-ethic reputations, plus offer good schools, healthcare options, shopping, and libraries are ahead of the game.

"Our libraries are an important component in the success of the next generation," Toland said. "We are very grateful for people like Miss Lea Ann Holland whom we are celebrating today. Others should learn from this example."

Toland said at his recent stops visiting Kansas towns, constituents have brought up concerns about education, school funding, broadband issues and out-migration.

"We are working on how to keep our best and brightest in the state," he said. "A lot of it ties back to good housing options, a lot of it ties back to quality places to live."

Toland said his message to Kansas at this time was that the state has seen a 7.3% CDP growth under Governor Laura Kelly in the first quarter.

"This past year we broke the record for bringing new businesses into the state," he said. "We have seen a lot of growth in distribution and consumer sales, and we are working very hard to support our investments."

Toland said Kansas is one of just eight states to receive the coveted Gold Shovel award from Area Development for record-breaking economic development in 2020. Kansas has also been recently named a top state for business climate in the region in 2020 (Site Selection magazine).

According to information from the Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas was named “The Comeback State of 2019” by CNBC. In addition to fiscal stability, improvements in workforce development, infrastructure, cost of business, business friendliness and access to capital were noted. All of this added up to a 16-point jump in their “Top States for Business” rankings—making Kansas the most improved state in the country.