Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published in Cornhusker Economics, 5-28-08. Produced by the Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln.


New residents to the Nebraska Panhandle want to see their communities succeed. To better understand the reasons new residents move to the Panhandle, twelve focus groups were held across the region. The focus groups are part of a University of NebraskaSLincoln research project funded by a 2006 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative (USDA-NRI), looking at the characteristics and motivations of new residents in the eleven counties. The research project includes a demographic study, a mail survey to new residents, an iterative three-phase survey process to community development practitioners and a focus group of new residents. For further information about this research project, visit

All new residents receiving the mail survey had the option to participate in the focus groups. Of the 321 mail survey respondents, 78 individuals participated in 12 focus groups held in six Panhandle communities during the Summer of 2007. The majority of the focus group participants, ranging in age from 21 to 81, moved with their spouse, significant other or family. First time Nebraskans represent 63 percent of the focus group participants, compared to 38 percent of those that answered the mail survey. For more demographic information about the focus groups, see Table 1 (on next page).

Thirteen questions were asked during the focus group interviews, such as: “What attracted you to the community?” and “Is the community what you expected?” The final question during the interview was, “What advice would you give to communities to develop strategies to attract and keep new residents?” As new residents responded to the question they generally acknowledged that job opportunities were essential to attract and retain residents, but only eight percent of the comments were specifically related to employment. As one new resident shared, “it is much more complex planning than simply saying we have jobs.” Fifty-nine percent of the comments were related to marketing, with half of these comments encouraging communities to ‘know who they are’ and create a vision.