There is a lot of conversation these days about keeping young people in Wichita. While well meaning, these sentiments miss a critical feature. Many local kids grow up to do well in their own community but many others move away. That is true for all cities, not just Wichita.
Instead, an important element of urban dynamism comes from a regular influx of new young adults. Wichita’s story bore this out. One early pioneer recalled that in the 1860s and 1870s “nearly everybody was young--at least not over middle age--and the gray-headed man was almost none.” The cowboys up the Chisholm Trail were often in their teens and twenties. The first Lebanese entrepreneurs were young men seeking to establish peddling routes. The aviation boom of the 1920s brought in recent veterans of World War I like Walter Beech and young women like Olive Ann Mellor who were looking for new opportunities. World War II brought thousands of young workers to assemble aircraft. More recently, young immigrants from Southeast Asia and Mexico have arrived to establish their own presence here.
Don’t try to make Wichita a place where young adults want to stay. Instead, we need to work on being a place that attracts young adults from other places. Then maybe our local sons and daughters will also find it a hospitable location to put down roots.