E’town MSA finishes 11th in GDP growth

The following article by Marty Finley first appeared in The News-Enterprise on February 24, 2012.  The full, online version can be seen here: www.thenewsenterprise.com/content/etown-msa-finishes-11th-gdp-growth

The Elizabethtown MSA is no longer the alpha dog when it comes to real gross domestic product growth.

Of 366 MSAs nationally, the Elizabethtown MSA finished 11th nationally in real gross domestic product growth in 2011, recording a 6.1 percent increase from 2010, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis late last week. Odessa, Texas, finished first with a growth rate of 15.16 percent followed by nearby Midland, Texas, at 9.50 percent.

The Elizabethtown MSA rate ranks first among the eight other Kentucky MSAs, and local officials said it reflects consistent growth in GDP. Hardin County United in a news release noted the figures reflect a roughly 30 percent jump in overall GDP growth since 2008. Luke Schmidt, a consultant with HCU, said the MSA also is outperforming peer military markets in GDP growth, such as Hinesville-Fort Stewart, Ga., and Manhattan-Fort Riley, Kan.

“The area is doing well,” Schmidt said.

Real GDP measures an area’s gross product based on the national prices for goods and services produced in an MSA, according to the BEA. The rate is adjusted for inflation.

In real money, the MSA ranked 259th nationally in GDP at $5.6 billion, according to the report.

HCU in its release argued the rankings help attract companies wanting to expand into progressive and flourishing communities, opening up more job opportunities.

“And it’s sustained growth,” Schmidt said. “It’s not a flash in the pan.”

Elizabethtown was ranked first in GDP growth in 2010 with a 14.4 percent growth rate, but revised rankings for 2010 on the bureau’s website listed a growth rate of 16.62 percent during that year, dropping Elizabethtown to fifth.

Schmidt reviewed the documents but said the changes for 2010 were made quietly. The BEA, he said, has not issued follow-up statements explaining the reasons behind the revision.

Hardin Judge-Executive Harry Berry said the MSA has consistently finished strong in GDP growth and the 11th place ranking for 2011 reflects well on the area’s ability to maintain its success.

Berry said the rankings are impressive considering the Elizabethtown MSA is significantly smaller than the major metropolitan areas touting much larger GDP totals, referencing the Dallas and San Francisco MSAs.

Real GDP increased in 242 of the 366 MSAs during 2011 — growth sparked by professional and business services, durable-goods manufacturing and trade, according to the report.

Berry said Hardin County has benefited from expansions in manufacturing and industry with companies restoring their workforces to pre-recession levels.

“People like to be with a winner,” he said.

The Elizabethtown MSA also finished in the top five in personal and per-capita income growth in 2011.

“With continuing high rankings in personal income growth, per-capita income growth and GDP growth, our region will continue to receive ‘looks’ from companies that are interested in expanding to a dynamic and growing market,” Berry said.

Elizabethtown MSA Continues to Lead Kentucky Metros with Strong National Ranking in Economic Performance

New GDP Figures Highlight Continuing Growth in Central Kentucky

 

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (February 22, 2013) – Hardin County United (HCU) today commented on the new Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures just released by the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

GDP in the Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes all of Hardin and LaRue counties, grew by 6.1% in 2011. Out of 366 metros in the United States, the Elizabethtown MSA ranked 11th nationally in terms of GDP growth. In Kentucky, the Elizabethtown MSA ranked first in GDP growth out of eight metropolitan areas.

In commenting on the growth, HCU Steering Committee Chairperson Harry L. Berry stated, “Once again, Hardin County is blessed with continued economic expansion, fueled initially by base realignment at Fort Knox, but sustained more recently by continued growth in all categories – manufacturing and retail.

“With continuing high rankings in personal income growth, per-capita income growth and GDP growth, our region will continue to receive “looks” from companies that are interested in expanding to a dynamic and growing market,” Berry continued.

GDP growth rates for all Kentucky metros are shown in the following chart:

2010 – 2011 GDP Growth Rate – Kentucky Metros

Not only did the MSA perform well in 2011, but when growth over the last three years is taken into account, the Elizabethtown MSA has continued to significantly out perform all other Kentucky metros, as shown in the following chart:

Three Year GDP Growth Rates – Kentucky Metros

“Elizabethtown’s nearly 30% growth rate in GDP over the past three years is nothing short of remarkable,” said Luke B. Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC and consultant to HCU. “These nationally significant numbers continue to attract the attention of companies that are looking to expand to growing communities, which in turn creates more jobs,” said Schmidt.

Over the past three years, the Elizabethtown MSA has also outperformed its peer military metro markets in GDP growth, as shown in the following chart:

Three Year GDP Growth Rates – Peer Military Metros

A complete list of the Elizabethtown MSA’s recent leading national rankings follows:

  • # 1 MSA in the U.S. in personal income growth – 20101
  • # 1 MSA in the U.S. in GDP growth – 20102
  • # 1 MSA in Kentucky for job growth – 2010 – 20113
  • # 4 MSA in the U.S. in personal income growth – 2009
  • # 5 MSA in the U.S. in personal income growth – 2011
  • # 5 MSA in the U.S. in per-capita income growth – 20114
  • # 5 MSA in the U.S. in business establishment growth – 20105
  • # 11 MSA in the U.S. in GDP growth – 20116
  • # 16 MSA in the U.S. for potential job growth – 20107
  • # 34 MSA – Forbes list of best small places for business – 2011
  • # 37 MSA in the U.S. for GDP growth – 20098
  • Ranked 5th out of the Top 20 Southern Cities for economic and job growth – 20129
  • Ranked 7th out of the Top 25 Small Cities for “Recession Busting” Factors – 201210
  • Ranked 9th out of the Top 25 Small Cities for Prime Workforce Growth – 201211
  • Ranked 17th out of the Top 50 Small Cities for economic and job growth – 201212
  • Ranked 21st out of the Top 25 Small Cities for Economic Strength Factors – 201213
  • Ranked 45th out of 365 metros for economic and job growth – 201214

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Hardin County United (HCU) was established for the purpose of examining the various strategic goals which were established by the Hardin County Vision Project in 2010. The intent of HCU is to prioritize the goals and to develop implementation strategies. HCU’s leadership team includes Hardin County Judge/Executive Harry Berry who chairs the Steering Committee; Hardin County Chamber of Commerce President Brad Richardson, who chairs the Community Development Subcommittee; North Central Education Foundation President/CEO Al Rider, who chairs the Education Subcommittee; and Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard who chairs the Governance Subcommittee. Luke Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, provides management and consulting services to HCU.

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—————
Sources:

  1. Source: United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis
  2. Source: United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis
  3. Source: Moody’s Analytics
  4. Source (first five bullet points): U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
  5. Source: U.S. Census Bureau
  6. Source: United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis
  7. Source: New Geography 2011 Best Cities for Job Growth report
  8. Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
  9. Source: Area Development magazine national survey
  10. Source: Area Development magazine national survey
  11. Source: Area Development magazine national survey
  12. Source: Area Development magazine national survey
  13. Source: Area Development magazine national survey
  14. Source: Area Development magazine national survey

Regional collaboration: Economic development, population spurred by unified government

The following article first appeared in The Gazette (Eastern Iowa) on January 20, 2013.  The full, online version can be seen here: thegazette.com/2013/01/20/economic-development-population-spurred-by-unified-government/

Ask H. Foster Pettit about the benefits of adopting unified city-county government and he quickly points to what he calls “one-stop shopping” in economic development.

“When companies come to town looking at locating in a community, they don’t have to go to three, four or five people to get permissions,” said Pettit, the last mayor of Lexington, Ky., and the first mayor of Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. “It’s important to have one place to go and get an answer swiftly.

“We were able to combine the political and financial interests of the community in one direction. When you have one set of elected officials, everyone is looking to them for decisions and leadership.

“You also get a community spirit where everyone is working together,” he said during a telephone interview. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to be smarter or wiser, but you will be focused on a common goal.”

In 1974, the governments of the city of Lexington and Fayette County combined to create Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. Pettit was a driving force in promoting the merger and is a recognized national expert on unified government.

Unified government in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor has been discussed at various times, most recently by Pat Baird, former president and CEO of AEGON USA (nowTransamerica).

Baird, who facilitated a November meeting of  Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and theIowa City Area Development Group investors, said unified regional government models should be explored. The backers met to discuss issues involving the two economic-development groups working better together.

Baird, in mentioning unified governments, specifically cited Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, which was formed in January 2003 with some assistance from Foster Pettit.

“Jerry Abramson, who was the first mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, is a good friend and our current lieutenant governor,” Pettit noted. “Jerry and the leadership in Louisville employed me after I was no longer Lexington’s mayor to help them get the enabling legislation (for unified city-county government) through the Kentucky Legislature.”

Lexington and Fayette County had a combined population of about 175,000 when unified government was approved by the voters. Today, the population is about 302,000, with 32 percent of the growth occurring in the 1970s after the merger.

Pettit said having a “critical mass” of people has enabled Lexington to attract Amazon.com,Affiliated Computer ServicesLexmark International, Hewlett PackardTempur-PedicToyota,TraneUnited Parcel Service and other big, well-known employers.

Jumping competition at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games was held in the outdoor arena at Kentucky Horse Park. (Courtesy photo)

“Without unified government, I also don’t think we would have landed the NCAA Mens Final Four Basketball Tournamentin the early 1980s or the World Equestrian Games in October 2010,” Pettit added. “We also host theRolex Kentucky Three Day Event at Kentucky Horse Park, which is one of the top three annual equestrian eventing competitions in the world.”

Abramson, who spent four days last year as a guest of the Argus Foundation in Sarasota, Fla., told city, county and business leaders there that “metropolitanism is where this country is.”

Abramson said America’s cities, counties and state governments are 19th century organizations trying to solve 21st-century problems. He said the consolidation of Louisville and Jefferson County governments saved taxpayers millions of dollars and made local government more efficient.

More important, according to Abramson, it brought a metropolitan area of 750,000 together to move in one direction rather than have city and county governments fighting at cross purposes.

Louisville overnight became one of the nation’s top 20 cities. The city’s population surged from 256,000 residents to 694,000 residents, and $9.61 million in tax savings was recognized when all consolidations were completed.

While noting the tax savings, Abramson said consolidation was primarily sold to voters for economic development.

Since the merger, Louisville was able to attract the corporate headquarters of Yum Brands, owner of the KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell , and UPS’s Worldport, a worldwide air hub with a facility the size of 90 football fields that employs 20,000 people handling 84 packages a second, or 416,000 per hour.

While a merged city-county government has played a major role in attracting and retaining businesses, co-location of all entities involved with economic development also is beneficial, according to Mark Turner, senior vice president of Commerce Lexington Now, formerly the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce.

“We have Commerce Lexington Now, the University of Kentucky, the Small Business Development Center and the Innovation and Commercialization Center all located in the same building,” Turner said. “Any company in the community looking to expand or considering locating a facility in Lexington can come to one place and get all their questions answered.

“Before 2006, we would have to send them to four or five different places. We recently had an existing employer, Neogen Corp.,  looking for a second location and we were able to provide them with the information they needed to select Lexington for their expansion, which will create 75 new jobs over the next several years.

“In September, the law firm of Bingham McCutchen announced that it will open a new Global Services Center in Lexington and hire 250 people. Those projects might not have happened before we streamlined our economic development process.”

Hardin County Residents Support the Formation of the Unification Review Commission

Nearly Two Thousand E-Mails Sent by Residents to the Members of 
Hardin County Fiscal Court and the Elizabethtown City Council 
Encouraging the Adoption of Ordinances Which Will Create the Commission

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (July 20, 2012) – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced that 1,855 E-Mails have been sent by over 120 Hardin County residents, calling for the establishment of the Unification Review Commission to the members of Hardin County Fiscal Court and the Elizabethtown City Council. Support for the establishment of the Commission is widespread:

  • Total of 1,855 messages sent
  • 99.8% support the establishment of the Unification Review Commission
  • Only 0.2% oppose the establishment of the Unification Review Commission

“It is clear that people would like to have a choice when it comes to considering the future of government in Hardin County,” said Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard, who also chairs HCU’s Governance Subcommittee. “The margin of supporting E-Mails is especially gratifying, as it illustrates that citizens are beginning to become engaged in this issue. It is important that citizens continue to speak out and let their elected officials know where they stand on this important issue,” said Howard.

Earlier this summer, and as part of its ongoing leadership on this issue, HCU members along with Board members from the Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation and members of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce began sending E-Mails to all Hardin County magistrates, Elizabethtown city council members, Judge/Executive Harry Berry and Mayor Tim Walker, encouraging all to consider and pass ordinances which will soon be introduced which, if passed, will formally establish the Unification Review Commission.

Hardin County Fiscal Court and the Elizabethtown City Council are the minimum legally required to approve the Unification Review Commission under state law. Once this occurs, HCU then intends to begin outreach to elected officials in each of the remaining five incorporated cities in the county: Radcliff, Sonora, Upton, Vine Grove and West Point to encourage their participation in the Commission.

“Establishment of the Unification Review Commission does not automatically merge local governments,” said Luke B. Schmidt, President, L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC and consultant to HCU. “The Commission simply provides the legal platform by which 20 to 40 Hardin County citizens, appointed by the participating governments, can begin developing a plan for unified government. Once the plan has been completed, it will be presented to the voters for careful review and an up or down vote in November 2014,” said Schmidt.

Hardin County is not alone when it comes to the issue of merged government in Kentucky. Louisville and Lexington each consolidated with Jefferson and Fayette counties respectively in prior years. Currently, voters in Paducah and McCracken County are considering a plan of merged government. Leaders in Kenton County have begun a dialogue concerning merged government. HCU believes that there are four compelling reasons to formally consider unified government in Hardin County, including:

  1. The attainment of a new level of clout that will assist the entire community with economic development, the creation of new jobs and which will create Kentucky’s third largest community
  2. The ability for the community to speak with one voice and more efficiently target grants and appropriations which will benefit the entire community while improving the community’s standing and stature in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.
  3. Streamlined government which will result in the more efficient delivery of government services to all citizens
  4. The achievement of economies of scale which will result in the more efficient use of public resources (tax dollars)

####

Hardin County United (HCU) was established for the purpose of examining the various strategic goals which were established by the Hardin County Vision Project in 2010. The intent of HCU is to prioritize the goals and to develop implementation strategies. HCU’s leadership team includes Hardin County Judge/Executive Harry Berry who chairs the Steering Committee; Hardin County Chamber of Commerce President Brad Richardson, who chairs the Community Development Subcommittee; North Central Education Foundation President/CEO Al Rider, who chairs the Education Subcommittee; and Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard who chairs the Governance Subcommittee. Luke Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, provides management and consulting services to HCU. Web: www.hardincountyunited.com

Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area Continues to Receive National Acclaim with New Economic Growth Rankings

MSA Ranked 5th Out of the Top 20 Southern Cities for Economic and Job Growth; Counties’ Cities Show Continued Population Growth

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (June 29, 2012) – Hardin County United (HCU) today praised the findings of a national survey which was recently conducted by Area Development magazine, one of the nation’s most respected industrial site selection and economic development publications. Area Development has ranked all 365 U.S. metros in terms of economic and job growth for 2012.  Here is how the Elizabethtown MSA (which includes all of Hardin and Larue counties) fared in various categories:

  • Ranked 5th out of the Top 20 Southern Cities for economic and job growth (Lafayette, LA was first; Tuscaloosa, AL was 20th)
  • Ranked 7th out of the Top 25 Small Cities for “Recession Busting” Factors (Bismarck, ND was first; Battle Creek, MI was 25th)
  • Ranked 9th out of the Top 25 Small Cities for Prime Workforce Growth (Ithaca, NY was first; Alexandria, LA was 25th)
  • Ranked 17th out of the Top 50 Small Cities for economic and job growth (Columbus, IN was first; Hattiesburg, MS was 50th)
  • Ranked 21st out of the Top 25 Small Cities for Economic Strength Factors (Midland, TX was first; Fairbanks, AK was 25th)
  • Ranked 45th out of 365 metros for economic and job growth (Columbus, IN was first; Dalton, GA was last)

The MSA’s ranking of 45th out of 365 metros puts the Elizabethtown MSA in the Top 15% of all metros in terms of economic and job growth.

“Once again, the Elizabethtown MSA is setting a strong pace for the rest of the Commonwealth,” said Hardin County Judge/Executive Harry L. Berry, who also serves as the Chairperson of Hardin County United’s Steering Committee. “Although the Owensboro MSA ranked a little higher (and we congratulate our neighbors to the West), the Area Development survey is consistent with other top-tier rankings that the Elizabethtown MSA has received during the past three years,” said Berry.

Here is how all Kentucky MSAs performed (out of 365 metros):

Elizabethtown MSA Ranking Hardin County Growth

“It is also interesting to note that the Elizabethtown MSA ranked higher than virtually all of its peer military metro markets (such as Fayetteville/Fort Bragg, Columbus/Fort Benning, Killeen/Fort Hood, Savannah – Hinesville/Fort Stewart, Lawton/Fort Sill, etc.),” said Luke B. Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC and consultant to Hardin County United. “In spite of a sluggish national economy, this market continues to amaze us in terms of its sustained growth and national rankings. Once again, we feel that this current environment makes a strong case for developing a plan for unified government by creating the Unification Review Commission. There is a real opportunity to unlock Hardin County’s full potential by creating the Commission,” said Schmidt.

On a related note, U.S. Census Bureau estimates for city populations were recently released. Hardin County’s cities continue to grow as shown in the chart which follows:

Elizabethtown surpassed Henderson’s population of 28,853 to move up and become Kentucky’s 10th largest city.

###

Hardin County United (HCU) was established for the purpose of examining the various strategic goals which were established by the Hardin County Vision Project in 2010. The intent of HCU is to prioritize the goals and to develop implementation strategies. HCU’s leadership team includes Hardin County Judge/Executive Harry Berry who chairs the Steering Committee; Hardin County Chamber of Commerce President Brad Richardson, who chairs the Community Development Subcommittee; North Central Education Foundation President/CEO Al Rider, who chairs the Education Subcommittee; and Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard who chairs the Governance Subcommittee. Luke Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, provides management and consulting services to HCU.

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Unification Back On the Table

Hardin County United to resume efforts to form commission this month

By Marty Finley Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 1:36 am (Updated: June 3, 9:45 am)

The call for a unification review commission may have been quiet in recent months, but Hardin County United is ready to resume its push.

After successfully lobbying for changes in state law regarding approval requirements for unified city/county government, HCU officials plan to reconnect with the seven local municipalities. Its goal is to secure support for forming a commission and appointing members to draft a unification plan and charter to be presented to voters by November 2014.

No dates have been scheduled, but Ken Howard, chairman of the HCU governance subcommittee, said he believes it will try to start scheduling meetings this month — beginning with Hardin Fiscal Court.

A unified local government in Kentucky requires participation of the county.

“It just makes logical sense to start with Fiscal Court,” Howard said.

Luke Schmidt, a consultant for HCU, said officials will approach the county and six cities with a short update on the merits of unification. The organization argues it would allow the county to leverage the size of its population to improve its profile at state and national levels, boosting its competitiveness in the global economy.

Howard and Schmidt also have argued a unified government would streamline government functions by eliminating duplicate  services.
Schmidt said HCU plans to update officials on changes in state law and how those would affect Hardin County.

“We want to make sure they understand the ramifications of it,” Schmidt said.

Several local officials, Hardin Fiscal Court in particular, were reluctant to form a commission when first approached by HCU because of ambiguity surrounding sovereignty of a city’s vote. HCU suspended its campaign to ensure a city would not be dissolved into a unified government if a majority of its residents voted against a unification charter.

County legislators, led by Rep. Jimmie Lee and Sen. Dennis Parrett, introduced new language to the Kentucky General Assembly, which moved through the general session with unanimous support.

Howard said the changes in state law put old concerns to rest but also provide Kentucky a better piece of legislation because the new law includes a safeguard that is fair to everyone. Howard said if unincorporated portions of the county reject unification during a referendum, the unification plan would fail to pass.

“I think that’s really important,” he said. “It can’t be pockets of support.”

Schmidt and Howard said HCU also plans to create an online presence to provide residents an avenue to share opinions on unification with elected officials.

If cities are open to the idea, HCU will propose ordinances to create a commission and appoint members. Inclusion in the commission does not lead to a merger, Schmidt said, because voters must decide on unification at the polls.
Howard said HCU hopes to have a commission in place to allow plenty of time for members to work on a plan before the 2014 election. A plan can take one to two years to put together, depending on the community.

“There is a large amount of work that needs to be done to put a plan together,” Schmidt said.
But Schmidt argued the commission’s formal deliberations are the only way to know what a unified structure in Hardin County would look like. During the first push for unification, residents asked a slew of questions, wondering how taxes would be structured and public safety impacted by a unified government.

“All good questions,” Schmidt said. “But we can’t answer them because we don’t have the commission.”

Radcliff Councilman Edward Palmer attended a recent HCU meeting and said he wants Radcliff to hold its own forums on unification to gather input. Radcliff is the only city in the county to formally opt out of the commission and Palmer said he did not want HCU to be able to use the city’s decision as firepower when arguing for unification.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.

New Law Advances Unified Government Conversation Locally

Guest column by Ken Howard
Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 12:48 am (Updated: May 17, 1:01 am)
By Ken Howard

If someone asked you “What is the third largest community in Kentucky” what would you think?  Louisville Metro is first.  Lexington/Fayette Urban County is second.  But who is third?  When Hardin County residents are asked this question the common answers are Covington-Kenton County or Bowling Green-Warren County or Owensboro-Daviess County.

The correct answer is us, Hardin County.

But if we do not view ourselves as the third largest after Louisville and Lexington, is it surprising that others (federal government, state government, ‘industry, etc.) do not either?  Historically, we have viewed ourselves as parts (Elizabethtown, Radcliff, city, rural, north and south) not as a whole (Hardin County).  Hardin County United has been exploring the question: Are we better together?

More than a year ago, a group of volunteers known as Hardin County United started thinking about this question. The group concluded that the positive possibilities of “together” was worthy of consideration and discussion in Hardin County.  The group adopted the Mayflower concept. If we sailed from Europe today and landed on the shores of Hardin County with almost 110,000 people living and working here, how would we govern ourselves? The current seven units of local government (county government with six cities) or something different? Something more “together?”

After much research, the group concluded something more together is known as unified government under Kentucky law.  So we began the discussion last fall with fiscal court, city councils and more than 30 civic groups: Do we want to think about unified government for all of Hardin County, understanding that only a vote of the people can approve such a change?  Most people after having unified government explained wanted to think about it and make the decision for themselves at the ballot, it’s called democracy.  During these community discussions, one concern was universally expressed: Only a particular city’s voters should determine if such city would participate in unified government, not the voters of the county as a whole.

Hardin County United agreed with this concept from the beginning. To ensure this “city vote,” a change in state law was required. Rep. Jimmie Lee, Sen. Dennis Parrett and others went to work and House Bill 189 passed unanimously in the 2012 General Assembly. It guaranteed a city vote and more. So, the skies are clear to sail (think) about the possibilities of being together in Hardin County (unified government).  Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Hardin County was built by forward-thinking people to make it better than most. Unified government is a continuation of this type of thinking.

So, let’s explore, dream and discover together if unified government is right for us. You can begin with information at www.HardinCountyUnited.com.  Ken M. Howard, a circuit judge and former county attorney, is a member of Hardin County United and chairman of its governance committee

source: News-Enterprise

House Bill 189 is Signed into Law

Governor Steve Beshear Lauds Kentucky’s Progressive Communities Which Are Examining the Benefits of Merged Government

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (April 20, 2011) – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced yet another milestone in its initiative to bring a plan of unified government to the voters of Hardin County. During a ceremony this morning in the State Capitol in Frankfort, Governor Steven L. Beshear signed into law House Bill 189. HB 189 was supported by Hardin County United, the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties.

Following its launch of the unified government initiative last fall, HCU pledged to address concerns expressed by several local officials regarding the need to clarify and strengthen existing statutory language pertaining to how a county can unify with one or more cities located within the county. HB 189 addresses these issues and accomplishes the following:

  • Strengthens the language and gives voters considering a plan of unified government the assurance that the integrity of their vote will be respected; if a majority of a city’s voters vote NO, then that city will remain a free-standing city as before, even if the other cities’ voters vote to unify
  • Specifies that the majority of voters in the unincorporated area of a county must also vote YES in order for merger to occur
  • Calls for merger to occur only when the voters in the county and the largest city in the county agree to merger, or, the county and a combination of cities which represent at least 50% of the municipal population agree to merger

“The passage of House Bill 189 provides progressive communities around the Commonwealth, including Hardin County, a great opportunity to examine and fully consider the benefits of merged government,” said Gov. Beshear. “In certain cases, merged or unified government will allow these progressive communities the opportunity to leverage real strength from their size, speak with one voice in Frankfort and Washington, streamline government, and achieve real economies of scale.”

“It is important to note that this legislation enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support,” said Luke B. Schmidt, President, L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC and consultant to HCU. “HB 189 never received a NO vote during its two committee hearings and during floor votes in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Legislators from across the Commonwealth recognized the value that this legislation brings to progressive communities such as Hardin County that are considering the benefits of unified government.”

“Today marks an important milestone in the life of this project,” said Ken Howard, HCU Governance Subcommittee Chairperson. “We pledged last fall to come to Frankfort and work with the General Assembly to address the concerns which were expressed by several local elected officials. Now that Governor Beshear has signed HB 189 into law, all citizens of Hardin County can feel confident that when they are asked to consider a plan of unified government that the majority opinion expressed by the voters in their respective community will be assured. We believe that now is the time for the Greater Hardin County community to take the next step by creating the Unification Review Commission so that all citizens can see just what unified government might look like, and make an informed decision on the issue,” continued Howard.

Also participating in this morning’s ceremony from Hardin County were Rep. Jimmie Lee (D-Elizabethtown), Sen. Dennis Parrett (D-Elizabethtown), Wendell Lawrence, Lincoln Trail Area Development District Executive Director, Erin Rickett (HCU Governance Subcommittee member), along with other Members of the General Assembly and representatives of the Kentucky League of Cities.

The News Enterprise: Path to Consolidation Easier to Understand Now

The following editorial first appeared in The News-Enterprise on April 10, 2012.  The full, online version can be seen here: http://www.thenewsenterprise.com/content/path-consolidation-easier-understand-now

ISSUE: Passage of House Bill 189
OUR VIEW:
 A model of cooperation for all to follow

An issue that surfaced during preliminary discussions about restructuring government in Hardin County has led to a revision of state law.

House Bill 189 clarifies a legal ambiguity in previous legislation allowing voters to consider unified government.

As revised, voters in existing cities and towns can reject the concept of governmental merger even if the county vote as a whole favors the concept.

This self-determination provision, which was developed to address concerns here in Hardin County, also was extended by legislators to apply to residents of unincorporated areas.

The community organization known as Hardin County United asked local leaders and residents last year to consider forming a panel to study and formulate a plan for merged government.

Voters would have final say over any final draft. Thanks to passage of this bill, we now know how those votes would be tallied. State Rep. Jimmie Lee and state Sen. Dennis Parrett deserve some of the credit for shepherding the issue through Frankfort.

Even if local officials never move any further toward the concept of governmental consolidation here, the changes make for good law. Protecting the voice of a local constituency from becoming caught in a larger neighbor’s enthusiasm is the best practice.

After all, this entire issue revolves around the idea that the people form the government. The basic question regarding consolidated government is finding a system that makes the most sense for most of us.

But passage of HB 189 has a second value never anticipated when the idea surfaced.

It demonstrates the value of a cooperative spirit in the legislative process. Good things still can happen, even in a frequently dysfunctional body such as the General Assembly, when people listen and look for consensus.

Authors of the bill worked with the Kentucky League of Cities and Kentucky Association of Counties to address unique concerns of both organizations. This consensus-building process smoothed the legislative channels by eliminating missteps and turning potential opponents into advocates for the legislation.

It was so well managed, in fact, the bill received no negative votes along the way. Unanimous passage is rare but HB 189 went through the Senate and the House (twice) with all yes votes.

It would be naive to expect any sort of unanimous voice when reorganizing local government resurfaces for discussion locally. But we all should be looking for the same level of reasonable discussion and the same cooperative nature.

When that kind of communication occurs in government, everyone wins.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.

Elizabethtown Metro Area Shows Strong Population Growth

MSA Outperformed all Kentucky MSAs Since 2010 Census

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (April 6, 2012) – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced that the Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) outperformed all Kentucky MSAs in population growth in terms of the percentage change in population. The Elizabethtown MSA includes both Hardin and LaRue counties.

According to estimates provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Elizabethtown MSA grew by 2,029 people between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011. This represents a growth rate of 1.7%, which outperformed all other Kentucky MSAs (the Lexington MSA had the next highest rate of growth: 1.5%, followed by Clarksville/Hopkinsville at 1.4%; the Louisville MSA grew by 0.9%).

In another important ranking, the Elizabethtown MSA (out of 366 metros in the U.S.) ranked 63rd in its percentage change in population, again outperforming all other Kentucky MSAs (Lexington followed by ranking 85th, followed by Clarksville/Hopkinsville at 102nd; the Louisville MSA ranked 169th in percentage of change in population). The Elizabethtown MSA also moved up in its overall population ranking (out of 366 metros) from 314th to 313th largest metro.

Commenting on the strong growth figures, Hardin County United Chairman Harry L. Berry stated, “It is important to note that most of this growth occurred after the “big inhale/exhale” of base realignment at Fort Knox. In other words, this new growth, while indirectly impacted by Fort Knox, is not the direct result of increases to Fort Knox personnel related to BRAC.”

“Hardin County is indeed the beneficiary of the recent BRAC growth on Post…the question now becomes, how do we sustain this growth,” said Berry

This announcement follows on the heels of last year’s announcement that the Elizabethtown MSA led all 366 MSAs in personal income growth in 2010, after moving up from fourth place nationally in 2009. The Elizabethtown MSA also led the nation in growth in GDP in 2010.

Echoing the comments of Judge Berry, Luke B. Schmidt, consultant to HCU stated, “This is terrific news. The Elizabethtown MSA is leading the nation in several key indicators. People want to come here to take advantage of the opportunities that are present in the marketplace. It now becomes even more important for the community’s leaders to stay focused on maintaining and building on this growth. Unified government can provide a key opportunity for the community to come together, leverage its size and strengths to grow even more and create more new jobs,” said Schmidt.

A chart which illustrates the population growth figures for all Kentucky MSAs accompanies this press release. Additional information on HCU and its ongoing unified government initiative can be found by visiting the organization’s Web site: www.hardincountyunited.com.

Hardin County United (HCU) was established for the purpose of examining the various strategic goals which were established by the Hardin County Vision Project in 2010. The intent of HCU is to prioritize the goals and to develop implementation strategies. HCU’s leadership team includes Hardin County Judge/Executive Harry Berry who chairs the Steering Committee; Hardin County Chamber of Commerce President Brad Richardson, who chairs the Community Development Subcommittee; North Central Education Foundation President/CEO Al Rider, who chairs the Education Subcommittee; and Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard who chairs the Governance Subcommittee. Luke Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, provides management and consulting services to HCU.