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Visiting the neighbors

Carroll County development officials tour
Newport, La Grange for ideas

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (July 2005) – Reno Deaton, executive director of the Carroll County Community Development Corporation, believes that Carrollton has “a lot going for us that other communities envy.” Deaton is part of a group of concerned Carroll County citizens who have been visiting nearby communities in the hopes of finding new ways to improve economic development. The resulting potpourri of ideas is encouraging to those who want to improve the visibility of the downtown area.

Reno Deaton

Reno Deaton

The CCCDC commercial committee has visited Scottsburg, Ind., and Maysville, Newport and Shelbyville, Ky. Their goal has been to discover workable ideas that they can bring home with them that will improve Carroll County.
The committee is composed of Deaton, several merchants, Main Street Director Sam Burgess and Chamber of Commerce representatives. Burgess said the reasoning behind these trips was “to visit towns having similar geographics and demographics as Carrollton.”
The committee has diligently “observed what other communities have done,” said Deaton. He cited the town of Newport, Ky., as an “economic development success.” Even thought Newport is a different demographic situation from what is being sought for Carrollton’s future, Deaton thinks certain basic principles can be applied to Carrollton to turn it into an economic success.
Burgess labeled the Newport trip a “fact-finding, information gathering” venture, for ideas that will be studied at a later time. Towns were chosen that had a close proximity to the interstate and an ongoing community development program. The committee will study ways to apply these techniques to Carrollton and connect with the outgrowth of businesses to the interstate corridor.
Newport has generated a lot of revenue with its water district, said Deaton, which was sold to Northern Kentucky Water District. The city then used the money to begin development for Newport on the Levee, which provided a venue for light retail businesses, entertainment and restaurants to locate in storefronts along the river.
Deaton believes that, like Newport, Carrollton can make better use of riverfront areas for economic and recreational purposes. He would like to see more festivals staged along the riverfront and local businesses marketing themselves more. Recreation and business are two opportunities Deaton said, “will bring people to town.”
Ann Lightfoot is a member of the Main Street program and sits on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Lightfoot attended the Newport trip and believes the waterfront in Carrollton could be a major draw for economic development. Just being able to “pull boats up to the dock, get out and eat” is a major draw, she said.
The committee is finding out what it would take to bring businesses into their area, said Lightfoot. The resulting networking experience was “very productive,” she said.
Lightfoot lives in Crittenden, Ky., and has had her corporate office in Carrollton since January 2004. She is trying hard to grow her business, Adecco Employment Services, in the Carrollton area.

Ann Lightfoot

Ann Lightfoot

From the trip to Maysville, innovative ideas were gathered on converting vacant warehouses into economically viable space. Incentives and tax breaks were offered to encourage industry to come in and use these buildings, said committee member Malcolm Carraco. One tobacco warehouse was rehabilitated by an industry for the purpose of making grill covers in the old building.
Carraco said that while many ideas surfaced during the trip, such an undertaking as Newport on the Levee is too large of a project for Carrollton to undertake at this time. “Each trip is a learning experience,” said Carraco. “You hope you can return and try to implement (the ideas) into your community.”
The CCCDC scheduled a visit to nearby La Grange on June 28. The committee was interested in the fact that many once vacant buildings in the downtown Main Street area now appear to have successful businesses in them.
The Discover Downtown La Grange Board of Directors will play host to the CCCDC’s visit. Discover Downtown La Grange is the city’s Main Street program. City government officials and local volunteers work together in “a community-driven approach that encourages economic development within the context of historic preservation in ways appropriate to today’s marketplace,” said program director Keli Quinn.
The CCCDC is to receive a tour of the historic downtown area of La Grange and how old buildings have been converted for new use through economic restructuring. Current challenges, such as the pending Main Street railroad track renovations, will be discussed. A third issue will be growth management. The CCCDC will hear from government and business leaders.
who contributed to the many city projects and have kept the vitality of La Grange alive.
“We’re flattered that the CCCDC selected La Grange for its June tour,” said Quinn. “While we have many challenges, we also feel that we have done a good job of preserving our historic buildings and maintaining the small town atmosphere. There’s a good level of synergy among the various organizations,” she said.
Organizations such as City and County governments, the Chamber of Commerce, Discover Downtown La Grange and the Oldham County Economic Development Authority have seen “great potential in working together,” said Quinn. The group is glad to share their success stories with other county development groups, and in turn, “we will surely learn a few things from the CCCDC group,” said Quinn.

• For more information, contact Reno Deaton at (502) 732-7035.

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