Have you heard the news? The Lincoln Trail Region is getting a new multiplex. You will no longer have to travel to larger metropolitan areas to catch a show in a modern, state of the art theater. It will create jobs and is certainly economic development activity, but in addition to that, this theater will enhance our region’s quality of place.
The importance of place is the topic of this “work matters” column. That is because quality of place – our region’s attractiveness to current and future residents - matters if our region wants to continue to attract jobs, from the large manufacturers to small start-ups.
We see it time and time again. Kim Huston, who leads the Nelson County Economic Development Agency, will tell you that historic Bardstown with its picturesque buildings and streetscape and unique shops and restaurants is most certainly a selling point when she hosts site selectors who are considering Nelson County as a location for their new facility.
“While these companies will hire locally, they also have to recruit talent from elsewhere and often move key leaders from other locations,” said Huston. “Quality of place is a key component to attracting and retaining that talent.”
Rick Games, president of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation, tells the story of the company that selected Elizabethtown for a new location. The representatives who came to visit asked Games how many coffee shops there were in Elizabethtown.
“While our location, road network and available workforce all topped the list, I know our local coffee shop on the square downtown played a role in demonstrating quality of place,” said Games.
Of course, our region’s coffee shop quotient isn’t the silver bullet of economic development, but leaders throughout our region will attest to the importance of place.
But place is more than just coffee shops and movie theaters. It’s about quality schools, ample housing options, recreation, healthcare, places of worship, the arts and more. And what people desire in the place they call home differs from one person to the next, meaning diverse amenities, from a modern water park in Leitchfield to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail presence in Marion and Nelson counties, are important talent attraction tools for our overall region.
In Meade County, people who are relocating are often looking for rural living options with easy access to the amenities they appreciate in metropolitan areas. There is no doubt, we are a bedroom community to Fort Knox, Hardin County, Louisville and Southern Indiana.
Our country setting coupled with quality schools, indoor and outdoor recreation, community festivals and much more shape our community’s sense of place as part of the broader Lincoln Trail region.
Place is also a talent retention tool. From the military retiree at Fort Knox to the young millennial graduating from high school in Breckinridge County, we need to offer a place that gives them a reason to stay in addition to the great job opportunities that exist.
So, the next time a community development initiative comes up, I encourage you not to look at it as just something nice to have for the people who live here. Look at it as another tool that could help create jobs. If work matters, place must matter too.