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The six-county partnership focusing on regional economic development has a new name, a new executive director and a new website, but has the same focus: to bring new business, to maintain and expand current business and to develop the existing workforce for the counties along I-71.
Kentucky Connected, established in September 2012, is comprised of the judge-executives from the following counties: Carroll’s Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson, Gallatin’s Ken McFarland, Henry’s John Logan Brent, Oldham’s David Voegele, Owen’s Carolyn Keith and Trimble’s Jerry Powell.
The group elected to have a rotating chairman based on alphabetical order, with Carroll’s Tomlinson serving the first term.
Each county agreed to pay $15,000 per year for three years to hire an executive director. Carroll County’s portion is being paid through fiscal court, Tomlinson said, with the first installment included in this fiscal year’s budget. AT&T also made a $2,000 donation to the organization, he said.
The group advertised the position and accepted applications through the end of June. The pool was narrowed to 10 and then three or four were interviewed, Tomlinson said.
Steve Dale of Shelby County was hired Oct. 1. Dale spent the majority of his career – about 20 years – working for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. He last worked for the Department of Energy developing an emergency energy assurance plan for the state, he said.
Tomlinson said he previously worked with Dale when he was working for the development cabinet. “His shear knowledge of the cabinet and the job creation in this area … made him an easy choice,” he said.
The judge-executives, now called Kentucky Connected, meet once a month with Dale and quarterly with other interested parties in the area that would like to attend, including state officials, Jefferson Community and Technical College representatives, utilities companies, economic development organizations and members of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
The organization’s new website, www.KentuckyConnected.com, is currently under construction, Dale said at the latest quarterly meeting Thursday, Jan. 17 at General Butler State Resort Park. However, KYTC compiled a database of information on the six counties for the site, and it currently lists the four major areas of emphasis for the group: retention and expansion of existing business; attraction of newbusiness and industry; development on start-up and second-generation business; and continued improvement and development of the existing workforce.
The group also has a new post office box address in Pleasureville, located in Henry County.
Dale said the judge-executives decided on the name Kentucky Connected because it showed the connection among the counties and also with the state.
Because only Tomlinson and Powell were present at Thursday’s meeting, there was not a quorum, so the meeting could not be called to order nor the minutes approved.
Tomlinson opened the meeting by discussing a $1.2 million feasibility study on economic development along I-71. Districts 5 and 6 of KYTC are overseeing the project.
District 6 representative Mike Bezold said the cabinet is currently in negotiations with Qk4 of Louisville to administer an online survey about I-71 to be used to develop a list of potential projects. Qk4 is a multi-disciplinary firm providing transportation, water, wastewater, storm water, structural, and site engineering; surveying; environmental studies; planning; architectural services; and landscape architectural services to both the public and private clients, according to their website.
Bezold said they will negotiate with the consultant to arrange three meetings in Carroll County to meet with Kentucky Connected and whoever the group chooses to invite. He said it will take a couple of months to collect existing data, such as traffic conditions.
Then, the consultant will develop an online survey to be distributed to communities for citizen and business input on what the community needs or wants. This could include safety projects and what it might take to straighten the S-curve in Gallatin County, he said.
The consultant will present the findings, and Kentucky Connected will rank the potential projects in order of importance.
Bezold said he hopes to finish negotiations with the contractor soon and give the “notice to proceed” in March. In estimating a timeline, he said the surveys could be distributed in early summer and the findings presented in the fall. The entire study should be complete by the end of the year so the committee can present their list of potential projects to the legislature, Bezold said.
“You’ve got to start somewhere, and I think we’ve got a running start,” Tomlinson said.
In new business, Tomlinson reported that he, Dale and judges Brent and Keith recently met with the Cabinet for Economic Development and explained how Kentucky Connected got started and presented their goals. Tomlinson said he thought it was a good meeting and a good opportunity to put faces with names and to learn what roles everyone had in the cabinet so the group would know whom to contact.
Tomlinson also noted that Diversco recently held a job fair at the county courthouse. The company hoped to hire 100-130 employees and received about 175 applications. “Hopefully, when we see these things,” he said, “it’s a sign of things turning around.”
Project provides beds for heads
Carroll County Area Technology Center Principal Mary Stratton requested donations for a school project to help ensure every student has a nice place to sleep. She said a number of students at the school, which serves students from Carroll, Trimble, Gallatin and Owen counties, do not have a bed to sleep in.
Skills USA students will build 12 beds with materials and some equipment acquired through a Lowe’s grant; Health Occupation Students of America is going to sew the bedding, she said.
Stratton said the school worked with McNeal’s to provide the mattresses at cost and is in need of donations to purchase 12. The cost is $89 each, totaling $1,068.
Stratton said she thinks the projects will be very successful and “a benefit to the kids,” noting that all of the bedswill go toward current students at CCATC.
She said she hopes to conduct the project every year because there are probably more students in need than it can serve this year.