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Populations continue to decrease in Wisconsin's rural countiesSubmitted: 02/13/2020
Peter Dubois
Peter Dubois
Reporter/Anchor
pdubois@wjfw.com

Populations continue to decrease in Wisconsin's rural counties
NORTHWOODS - A new Forward Analytics report showed people are leaving Wisconsin's rural counties and moving into more urban ones.

Two-thirds of rural counties in the Badger State saw their populations decrease from 2000 to 2018. That trend contrasts with studies that showed population growth in these areas in the 1990's.

"We're aging, so our demographics are getting older, and our populations are shrinking," said Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) regional director Jim Rosenberg. "Community development is economic development. You have to make it a place where people want to come."

These population trends are expected to continue in the Northwoods. Price County is predicted to lose 18% of its current population by 2040.


Experts said the best way for people and businesses to thrive in these communities is by expanding broadband access.

"In the 21st century, technology is not going away," said Grow North director Brittany Beyer. "A good percentage of our businesses [need] connectivity. We have to talk about it being a utility rather than an amenity."

In order for that to happen, Beyer said elected officials need to take a stand.

"We also need to ask our local officials be part of the solution and help the communities have these long-term visions about where they want to go," said Beyer.

Governor Evers has directed the WEDC to create a new division called the Office of Rural Prosperity. This division will focus on a number of issues, including broadband expansion.

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