Guest Opinion,Thumbs Up
Rarely today does anyone give credit or praise to any government or politician.
Sound bites, buzz words, and platitudes are the menu of the day with some occasional “red meat” to complete the meal. National and state politics are polarized to the extreme with little, if any, meaningful legislation passed for the welfare of the citizenry at large. Locally we tend to disregard national and state issues altogether. At home here in Woodford County, our most polarizing and priority issues are zoning and land use .
My family and I own and have operated a working horse farm since 1981. We live two miles outside the city of Versailles in Woodford County. We’re not a horse farm in the traditional sense, such as a thoroughbred breeding or racing operation. My wife, Elaine, and daughter, Callie, train and show hunter and jumper horses and also give riding lessons. My son, Buck, and I train polo ponies. Horses are not just a business for us, but a passion and a way of life. As a semi-retired equine veterinarian, I have been closely involved with many aspects of the central Kentucky horse industry. Elaine was a prior director of Equine Studies and riding coach at Midway College. We value the impact of the horse industry and understand that our horse farm land is a sacred commodity to protect.
As a Versailles business owner, a landlord, and a builder, I am involved in many non-equine activities and issues. Coupled with my horse background, my other business interests have demonstrated to me the disparities within our community. Over the past years, many permanent, good paying jobs have been lost through relocations or shut downs. Too many people are surviving on part time jobs, unable to find good paying full-time positions. Most of the part-time jobs start at or are close to the minimum wage. Many people seeking a living wage must drive out of the county for employment. Their payroll taxes and shopping dollars go with them to other counties. Housing is also a critical issue in Versailles and countywide. Building lots that are actually on the market for sale are very limited. The multi-family housing market is extremely tight with most landlords carrying waiting lists. There is a total lack of quality rental properties in Versailles to complement our new industries coming to town.
Our local governments which include the City of Versailles, City of Midway, and Woodford County Government came to this realization through surveys and US Census Bureau statistics. A 2010 survey done by the Economic Development Authority and the Versailles, Midway, Woodford County Planning Commission revealed that jobs were the # 1 issue in regard to land use. Taking these metrics seriously, the governments, working with the EDA, implemented initiatives to pursue industries with well-paying full-time positions. Our local city and county officials went to work to bring in new jobs and tax dollars.
As a result of those proactive efforts, Woodford County has three new industries that will employ over 700 people. The American Howa Company and Lakeshore Learning Materials are located just outside Midway. More Than A Bakery is located on Versailles periphery just off US 60. Also approved, but not yet finalized, is a 400 acre mixed use development adjacent to Blue Grass Commons Shopping Center that is the home to Kentucky’s largest Kroger Marketplace. These efforts have not been easy or without protestations. Woodford County has been a limited or no growth community for decades. We had ample land for growth, but it had not been incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan. These new industries had land logistical requirements that current land use and zoning could not accommodate without change. Land had to be annexed into the City, rezoned, and the USB (urban service boundary) extended in Versailles and Midway.
We are living in a new world economy. Jobs, industries, and technologies are changing and adapting with breakneck speed. Our county must also adapt. Local governments can no longer sit on their laurels and wait for change to come to them. We must make change happen. Woodford County is a part of that new economy and is also an integral part of the Bluegrass area. In the long run, recent changes by Woodford County governments will be an asset to the community at large. This smart growth will help reduce economic barriers for many and give citizens greater freedom of choice for employment, shopping, and housing. New jobs will offer our high school graduates a better wage and a chance to remain in Woodford county. New retail and restaurants will keep people and tax dollars here.
My thumb is up to my local governments for the work they have done. They will see that their actions will have a positive effect. Hopefully, other communities will follow their lead. Woodford County is a great place to live and I feel their accomplishments will only make it better.