In 2009, Hardin County, KY (located in the Elizabethtown – Fort Knox Metropolitan Statistical Area) found itself in the middle of a major expansion of Fort Knox – one of the United States Army’s largest posts – with growth in jobs (approximately 12,000 net new direct and indirect jobs), along with an expected increase in population of between 12,000 and 15,000 people. Base realignment (commonly referred to as BRAC) at Fort Knox resulted in the largest economic development project in Kentucky’s history (larger than the initial investments by Toyota in Georgetown and UPS at Louisville International Airport). The impact on Hardin County has been enormous.
In order to capitalize on this once in a lifetime opportunity, under the leadership of Hardin County Judge/Executive Harry L. Berry, Hardin County Government commissioned a visioning project for the purpose of building upon the positive momentum created by BRAC. The project was designed to build upon Hardin County’s strengths and current growth opportunities, identify weaknesses, maximize efficiencies and establish strategic community goals.
L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC was retained to conduct the project on behalf of Hardin County Government and in partnership with the Lincoln Trail Area Development District and the United States Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment.
The project’s methodology included a community strategic assessment (which included analysis of previously conducted studies and interviews with key groups and organizations). Also included in the community assessment was a 30 page confidential key stakeholder survey which was sent to over 100 community leaders representing the agriculture, business, education, government, health care, industrial, military and tourism sectors, and, two community leadership forums.
The project also analyzed benchmark (or peer) counties through research, site visits and meetings with leaders in each community that align with Hardin County demographically in order to determine how these counties approach various issues, such as community and economic development. The benchmark counties included:
- Daviess County, Kentucky (Owensboro area)
- Lee County, Mississippi (Tupelo area)
- Lowndes County, Mississippi (Columbus area)
- Montgomery County, Tennessee (Clarksville area)
- Warren County, Kentucky (Bowling Green area)
The key stakeholder surveys generated a 73% response rate which provided an accurate snapshot of attitudes and opinions on various key issues. The survey covered the following areas:
- Arts/Cultural Issues
- Quality of Life/Quality of Place
- Downtown Elizabethtown
- Economic Development
- Community Competitiveness with Other Communities
- Fort Knox
- Conference/Convention Facilities
- Health Care
- Community Position (Standing/Stature in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.)
- Government/The Big Picture
Community leaders participating in the vision process and through the key stakeholder surveys in Hardin County easily reached consensus on a number of broad areas, including:
Based upon the research which was conducted, along with the site visits and discussion from two robust community leadership planning sessions, project participants agreed upon 24 strategic goals, grouped in the following categories for Hardin County:
- Community Unification
- Community Development
- Quality of Place/Quality of Life
- Downtown Elizabethtown
- Health Care
The (Elizabethtown) News-Enterprise reported extensively on the Hardin County Vision Project. Many of these articles can be viewed by visiting the Latest News section of this web site.
Path Forward/Hardin County United
The process resulted in the establishment of 24 strategic goals for the next 15 years which touch upon government, education, community development and quality of life. Following the completion of the project, a new organization, Hardin County United, was formed by many of the vision project participants for the purpose of examining each of the 24 strategic goals and developing an implementation strategy.
The first official action taken as follow-up to the Hardin County Vision Project was the development of Hardin County United (HCU).
HCU is an ad-hoc group which was established to formally examine the goals which were established during the Vision Project. HCU started with a Steering Committee comprised of 58 community leaders (including elected officials, business and industry leaders, school superintendents, etc.) and with three subcommittees: Community Development, Education and Governance.
L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC President Luke Schmidt provides management and consulting services to Hardin County United.