LeRoy is a rural community in east central Kansas with a population somewhere between 500-600 and a surprisingly long list of local businesses in and outside of city limits. From the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census, our population decreased by 5.39%, or 32 people. Our latest population projection by local measures is 540, which is down another 21 people in the last 11 years. Our businesses include restaurants, a home decor boutique, an embroidery shop, a bar, a convenience store and smokehouse, a hardware store, several automotive shops, trucking businesses, various salons, a coffee shop, a tire and accessories shop, many big farms, a cooperative association, a bank, and several others I'm sure I've missed. We have two churches in town, a library, a post office, a school, and multiple community organizations. Our biggest pastimes include attending school sports functions, playing corn hole, and driving around. Average small town life, wouldn't you agree?
If you have ever spent time in a small, rural town, you may have heard or been a part of conversation surrounding school closures and how they affect small communities. If you live in a small town, you may know that the death of a school is the death of a community (in most cases), and rarely is there ever any stopping that ever-nearing train of centralization to bigger towns, bigger businesses, and bigger schools. Small business becomes gone business or bought-out business, and small town student becomes student of a county-wide, central school. Small town culture becomes a forgotten way of life as buildings and landmarks disappear into unincorporated signs on county roads, devoid of even a map dot.
Over the past 6 months, Love, LeRoy has been meeting in public and in private to brainstorm and discuss ideas and ways we can push things forward in regard to our declining population and enrollment, among other things. Some of these ideas have been inside the parameters of what we can do individually; some of them have been efforts to involve outside parties who have more pull and resources to get the job done. Some of these ideas have been a continuation of steps set into motion before some of us ever met.
A little over a year ago, a young LeRoy native relocated back to his hometown where he would purchase a business and building and begin making changes in his corner of our local economy. He would also begin asking any and everyone he could to sell him property to build housing. In 2020, a property was purchased that would set in motion a huge wave of progress. Fast forward a year, and that young LeRoy native, our community organization, our city council, our county Economic Development Director, and several eager builders are taking a big step toward big changes in our small town, and we couldn't be more excited to tell you about it.
We present to you, the Love LeRoy Addition to the City of LeRoy, a subdivision on the west side of town where 11 houses and 2 businesses will start to take shape over the next several years. If all goes to plan, contractors will break ground on new water and sewer lines, ditches, and roads within the next 12 months. These roads will lead to houses. These houses will hold people and families. These people and families will buy our goods, learn at our schools, and live our average small town life. Our population will inevitably continue to ebb and flow, as it does everywhere in the world, but we have high hopes of progress and improvement for this first step and "foot in the right direction at the right time," in the words of a LeRoy city council member.
In case you missed it,
housing = people = enrollment
We're proud to know and B E people making an effort to stop that train of decline and centralization and to be encouraging the vibrance and diversity that comes with small business, small schools, small towns, and big steps.