Kentucky counties along I-71
band together to promote area
Group has website to help generate
CARROLLTON, Ky. (March 2013) – Citizens of a six-county Kentucky area have felt for a long time that the I-71 corridor often gets overlooked when it comes to economic opportunities. The judge-executives of these counties have organized themselves to establish Kentucky Connected, a project they hope will have regional effects and better promote the corridor, economically.
In 2011, officials in six counties in North Central Kentucky – Carroll, Henry, Trimble, Oldham, Gallatin and Owen – decided it was time to work together to generate business along the I-71 corridor that each county borders. The result was Kentucky Connected, a public-private regional partnership.
Collectively, the region is focused on improving all supportive business services in the region. The partnership serves as a single point of contact for businesses in the region and is focused on creating a first class business environment that will encourage the growth and expansion of existing businesses, while attracting new businesses to the area as well.
Steve Dale was hired in October to serve as the executive director for the project, based largely upon previous work experience. He is retired from the Kentucky Economic Develop-ment Cabinet.
“These counties have worked together in economic development in various degrees over the years. Now they are seeing the opportunity to work together more,” said Dale. “It’s easier to get your voice heard better as a group.”
One of the first steps for the counties is to identify themselves as a region, Dale said, who has been busy promoting the region at state events, trade shows and through marketing outlets. A website – www.KentuckyConnected.com – is also under construction for Kentucky Connected “to explain who we are.”
Dale was instrumental in seeing that a feasibility study was implemented for this project. The six counties lie in State Highway District 5 and State Highway District 6, and last fall $1.2 million was provided to conduct the study.
While some may see Kentucky Connected as a similar enterprise to that of local chambers of commerce, “Our focus is more on industry and technology,” Dale said. “We want to work with existing industries. Most of any area’s growth comes from industry that is already there.”
To become successful, it’s almost as if the counties have to “learn to be a region,” he said. “With being a new region, everybody is in a different phase and have different assets to contribute. We have to determine things as we go along.”
The six-county judge-executives will take turns at chairing Kentucky Connected. Each county agreed to pay $15,000 per year for the next three years to hire Dale.
Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson is serving as the first chair of the organization for one year. He said he hopes to get a number of things accomplished through Kentucky Connected.
“In this region, we all have a lot of things in common,” said Tomlinson. He cited the fact that the counties all connect to the interstate and have rural aspects. Kentucky Connected will “benefit economic development and educational needs in Carroll County. For strengthening purposes, we need to work together as a unit.”
The judge-executives will meet once a month to discuss their objectives. Tomlinson says the judges represent rural and urban, Democratic and Republican parties, willing to “work together to make decisions on a bi-partisan basis.”
“I look forward to working with everybody,” said Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele. He believes the six counties can take a regional approach to economic development.
“Oldham County certainly supports economic development along the I-71 corridor,” said Voegele of the region that lies between Louisville and Cincinnati. Many residents from the other counties work in Oldham County, and on the flip side, he would like to see Oldham County residents take advantage of job opportunities in the other counties.
Voegele hopes Kentucky Connected can “raise the number of good paying jobs in the region. Each county has a different set of resources to draw upon,” he said.
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