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My debut performance in Oldham County as a moderator/emcee of events arrived Tuesday.
Thanks to the Oldham County Chamber and Economic Development I was the lead pony in what became a very informative, very challenging, and somewhat eye opening discussion with three regional players of economic development.
The panelists for the “Discussion on Regionalism” included Steven E. Higdon, vice president and partner of Faulkner Real Estate; Kerry M. Stemler, president and CEO of KM Stemler Co. Inc., and Daryl Snyder, director of strategic relationships for Greater Louisville Inc.
These men have served as intricate pieces to an ever growing puzzle of economic development in the region most think of as two separate areas, Louisville and Southern Indiana.
However, what the three men shared during Tuesday’s discussion was a common vision that good economic development comes from knocking down borders both natural and mental to create a vision that benefits a region versus just one city, one county or one town.
I bought into their vision as they explained luring strong companies while also aiding the small to medium local businesses that already exist is the reciprocal nature of economic success to a region.
Oldham County has long been labeled a bedroom community of Louisville. However, what all three men challenged the audience with was to think how Oldham County could become more than just a bedroom by sharing in opportunities that exists in the region both near Louisville and across the river.
They pointed out that while Oldham County is not likely to be considered an area for strong industry is it is attractive to call centers, professional services and new technologies such as software providers and those that use it.
As these ideas came from their mouths I could see an Oldham County that could be the silicone valley of the Midwest, or perhaps a medical services Mecca with the many needs of medical insurance, equipment and even educational opportunities in healthcare being serviced here.
Since I arrived in Oldham County, I’ve repeatedly heard how affluent Oldham County is, however that affluence is rarely seen in the plans for economic growth by providing services for those that live here.
That word ‘affluence’ seems only to sleep in hibernation under the dark skies of Oldham County nights, leaving like a vampire in daylight to take refuge in downtown Louisville.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Oldham County has a lot to offer in the way of infrastructure, location and the warm values found in the community.
So the question must be asked: What’s holding Oldham County back?
There was something else that Steve, Kerry and Daryl emitted that I have seen in successful leaders both in politics and in entrepreneurship and that is the resilience not to get stuck in the mud with those that want to stop economic development or want to argue just for the sake of arguing.
The strings that often tether the lines of success are strengthened by the frayed thoughts and attempts of those that want to replace cooperation and compromise with bickering and selfish motives.
The men that spoke at the discussion have crossed over to the other side of debate and are clearly vested in a philosophy that is more about finding common ground to achieve what is best for the communities and companies they work for than listening to those that say it can’t be done.
And I have to say – I’ve noticed more effort in localized business decisions dedicated to bickering about how to get things done that actually going out and doing them.
On a local level I am personally watching how the purchase of land at the intersection of Ky. 146 and Ky. 393 will be used.
I am interested in the plans for this intersection because it will reveal a great deal about local planning and if a desire truly exists to court new economic development to the area.
The intersection is a rush hour nightmare and has bus, tractor-trailer and residential traffic flowing through it hourly.
Oldham County could incorporate a totally different type of intersection that has proven to be beneficial to just these types of traffic areas – roundabouts.
What I once thought a wild idea five years ago in Indiana was the incorporation of roundabouts into major highway construction like the Ky.146 and Ky. 393 intersection.
And what I thought was even crazier was the inclusion of roundabouts in the highest traffic areas of north Indianapolis.
Personally, I didn’t like the idea of driving through a roundabout. I felt roundabouts were simply grandiose designs that were an architect’s way of injecting style into a highway versus a real tool that could positively affect safety or traffic flow.
I was flat wrong.
Now roundabouts are being incorporated throughout the Midwest, especially at high accident areas and areas were congestion is a constant battle.
The Ky. 146 and Ky. 393 intersection would be a great showpiece for Oldham County to physically show their desire to embrace new planning and construction.
And while you may not think an intersection can help sell a community, I can testify to their significance in decisions as many times I interviewed economic development leaders that told me one of their tour points when courting new business was to drive through the roundabouts.
Steve, Kerry, and Daryl did not mention roundabouts in their discussion on regionalism Tuesday morning.
But among their discussion of the need for new bridges, the reasons to toll and the need to expand and update infrastructure to court new business I am sure they’d agree one step in the direction of creating a new vision is a powerful start in rallying a community to embrace a new future.
Tony Cotten is publisher of The Oldham Era. E-mail us about this column at: email@example.com.