The Messenger Staff, Feb 19, 2020
Hardin County, KY is one of the largest counties in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, with a population of nearly 110,000 people, and is the principal county in the Elizabethtown – Fort Knox Metropolitan Statistical Area. Hardin County is the home of Fort Knox, one of the country’s largest Army posts. The community has a thriving economy with nearly 75 manufacturing companies which employ thousands of workers.
In 2010, Hardin County Government, while preparing for massive growth brought about by base realignment (commonly referred to as BRAC) at Fort Knox, elected to conduct a community visioning process. The Hardin County Visioning Project, sponsored by county government in partnership with the Lincoln Trail Area Development District and the United States Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment, included a strategic assessment of the community, an analysis of benchmark communities, an extensive survey of over 100 community leaders and resulted in the development of 24 strategic goals for the community to consider implementing over the next 15 years.
The overarching theme from the visioning process was one of unification, along with the elimination of duplicative services where they exist.
Hardin County United (HCU), created to develop implementation strategies for many of the goals, elected to pursue the issue of unified government and retained L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC to conduct detailed research on the issue of unified government.
Luke Schmidt worked closely with the chairperson of the HCU Governance Subcommittee, which oversaw the project. As the project moved forward, the following milestones were achieved:
- Conducted detailed analysis of the existing government structure in Hardin County (included county government and six incorporated cities)
- Interviewed panels of impacted groups (e.g., law enforcement, fire protection, state elected officials, federal elected officials, Fort Knox, etc.)
- Conducted site visits to communities which have previously unified their local governments (included Athens – Clarke County, GA; Augusta – Richmond County, GA; Columbus – Muscogee County, GA)
- Facilitated presentation to HCU Governance Subcommittee by the last mayor of the City of Lexington (KY) and the first elected mayor of the Lexington – Fayette County Urban County Government
- Facilitated presentation to HCU Governance Subcommittee by the last mayor of the City of Louisville (KY) and the first elected mayor of the Louisville – Jefferson County Metropolitan Government (Louisville Metro)
- Researched the three existing Kentucky statutes which allow cities and counties to merge
In the end, a 200+ page report was presented to the HCU Governance Subcommittee. The research illustrated a significant amount of duplication of government services among the existing Hardin County jurisdictions (94 units of government which govern a community of 110,000 people). The report indicated that communities that have unified generally are able to provide government services more efficiently, are able to hold down the rising cost of providing government services and have a more unified approach to economic development which assists in creating new jobs.
- Attain a new level of clout as Kentucky’s third largest community
- Speak with one voice and more efficiently target grants and appropriations in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.
- Streamline government
- Achieve economies of scale within local government
The HCU Governance Subcommittee and Steering Committee both agreed to move the issue forward in the community, by recommending that the community’s jurisdictions unify under the Unified Government statute. The process started by significantly ramping up the HCU web site to include lots of information for the community’s citizens on unified government.
HCU also produced a collateral piece on the issue which was used as a leave-behind. HCU’s Governance Subcommittee chairperson and Luke Schmidt gave 24 presentations in the community on the report, its findings and the potential benefits of unified government. One issue which quickly developed concerned what would happen if one jurisdiction’s voters, when voting on a plan of unified government were to vote no on the issue, while the other jurisdictions’ voters all voted yes. HCU agreed that the current statute was vague and pledged to clarify the issue.
Luke Schmidt worked with members of Hardin County’s delegation to the Kentucky General Assembly, along with representatives from the Kentucky League of Cities and introduced House Bill 190 (which eventually became House Bill 189). House Bill 189 strengthened the existing statute and gave added protections to voters in the various jurisdictions which might consider a plan of unified government. As HB 189 moved through the legislative process it never received a single negative vote either at the committee or floor level in both the Kentucky State House of Representatives and the Kentucky State Senate. HB 189 was signed into law by Governor Steve Beshear.
The next step was to work to pass an ordinance in each jurisdiction which would create a Unification Review Commission. The Commission, as outlined by Kentucky law, would create an actual plan of unified government which would ultimately be presented to the voters in each participating jurisdiction for review and approval. Only the Commission can legally create such a plan and only the voters can approve it. While there was significant interest in moving towards the Commission, the environment was not yet right to pass the ordinances. Unifying local governments is a lengthy process which often results in negative votes/actions before ultimate, final success. HCU is now evaluating its next step with regard to moving the issue forward.
Maxwell Technologies is a San Diego-based company and is one of the largest manufacturers of ultracapacitors in the world. In addition to its San Diego facilities, the company also has extensive operations in Switzerland and China.
Maxwell Technologies is one of the world’s leading producers of ultracapacitors. Ultracapacitors are used to distribute energy from batteries to and through short burst/high energy applications. Ultracapacitors are used in a variety of applications, including automotive, aviation, energy distribution, mass transit, etc.
As the use of ultracapacitors increases, Maxwell Technologies reached the conclusion that it needed to develop a safe and environmentally efficient means for its customers to dispose of its products. Ideally, the company would like to recycle the various components which are contained within its products. Maxwell Technologies retained L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC for the purpose of launching this project and developing the first post-consumer (end use) market for spent ultracapacitors in Europe.
Luke Schmidt first met with company officials in San Diego to obtain a greater understanding of the company’s products and sales and distribution channels. A similar meeting was held with company officials in its European division located in Rossens, Switzerland.
Meetings were conducted with key customer groups throughout Europe in order to gain a better understanding of the various applications of ultracapacitors and how they are used in various product applications in the field. In order to develop the recycling system, an appropriate end-use market needed to be confirmed.
It quickly became apparent that battery recycling companies might provide the most productive end-use market opportunities. Luke Schmidt met with the CEO of the European Battery Recycling Association in Paris and from this meeting was able to develop a list of potential end-use market companies throughout Europe. Individual meetings were held and site visits conducted. The list of potential end-use markets was narrowed down to two companies – one in France and the other in Sweden.
Luke Schmidt facilitated lab-scale testing of Maxwell Technologies’ ultracapacitors in both locations. The French company was confirmed as the most appropriate end-use market for Maxwell’s products. Luke Schmidt facilitated a contract for recycling services between the French firm and Maxwell Technologies.
In 2010, L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC was retained by a trio of clients (the City of Pikeville; the Pikeville – Pike County Airport Board; and, the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce) for the purpose of developing commercial air service at the Pikeville – Pike County Regional Airport (PBX).
PBX is a modern airport which sits on top of a mountain on land which has been reclaimed from an old coal mine. PBX has a 5,300 foot long runway with a full Instrument Landing System (ILS). PBX will serve a large portion of the Central Appalachian coalfield, with a catchment area population of 345,000 people in nine Kentucky counties, three Virginia counties and one county in West Virginia.
Luke Schmidt has worked closely with the principals from each of these organizations in moving this project forward, in what has been a true team effort, with significant milestones having been achieved to date, including:
- Developed new market profile
- Scheduled/conducted meetings with several potential airlines
- Facilitated the award of a $750,000 USODT Small Community Air Service Development grant to support the new service
- Facilitated the award of a $1,000,000 Kentucky multi-county coal severance tax grant to support the new service
- Secured resolutions of support for the Kentucky coal severance tax grant from Floyd County (KY) Fiscal Court and Pike County Fiscal Court
- Called on numerous legislators from Eastern Kentucky, the governor’s chief of staff and the secretary of the cabinet for economic development to garner support for the Kentucky coal severance tax grant
Project Progress to Date
Significant progress has been made on this project, including the successful recruitment of new commercial air service to PBX. Accomplishments include:
Secured a commitment for service (public charter flights) from Corporate Flight Management (Smyrna, TN) and Public Charters, Inc. (Scranton, PA)
- CFM will operate as the Direct Air Carrier and will be responsible for all flying aspects of the project (aircraft, flight crews, etc.)
- PC will operate as the Indirect Air Carrier and will be responsible for all non-flying aspects of the project (ticket sales, aircraft ground handling, etc.)
Facilitated the development and execution of an Air Service Agreement (between the City of Pikeville and PC) and an Airport Use Agreement (between the Pikeville – Pike County Airport Board and PC) to support the new commercial air service
- The new service will be operated by Corporate Flight Management dba Appalachian Air
- The new service will connect PBX passengers to the Nashville International Airport (BNA) and to the nine airlines which currently serve BNA with 50 nonstop markets, including low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines, which has a major presence at BNA
- The daily service will be operated with state of the art British Aerospace BAE Jetstream J32 aircraft
- The Jetstream J32 is a pressurized, 19-passenger aircraft with a stand-up cabin, two pilots and which cruises at 265 MPH up to 25,000 feet
- The new service was formally announced during a ceremony at PBX airport on November 6, 2013, which was attended by Governor Steve Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers, Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn, State Senator Ray Jones, State Representative Leslie Combs and over 300 community leaders
- In a statement, Governor Beshear said, “Passenger air service will open new opportunities for much of Eastern Kentucky. What has historically been one of the more difficult regions of the Commonwealth to reach will now be less than an hour and a half flying time from connecting to the global air system in Nashville.”
- In a statement, Congressman Rogers stated, “As we face a new era in Eastern Kentucky and work to expand our industrial portfolio, this commercial air service launches us into the competitive market. With new economic challenges ahead, we have to access greater opportunities, embrace new technology and create innovative strategies to shape our future, and this air service will provide unprecedented access to this important energy producing region.”
This ongoing project has the potential to substantially impact future economic development efforts in Eastern Kentucky, Southwestern West Virginia, and Southwestern Virginia and will assist in creating new jobs.
The Kilgore House & Garden Tour is the primary fundraiser for the Kilgore Samaritan Counseling Center in Louisville. The Tour is held every May and features six private homes and gardens.
In 2012, the Kilgore House & Garden Tour committee elected to step up its game in terms of promotion. L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC stepped forward to provide assistance on a pro-bono basis. The cornerstone of the project included the development of the Tour’s first-ever promotional web site. The web site provided background information on the Tour, a page dedicated to each home and garden on the Tour, along with an all-new online ticket sales option (linked with Pay-Pal).
Luke Schmidt also led efforts to significantly expand the Tour’s media outreach beyond Louisville. New press packets were developed and new press releases were issued. In addition to working with local media outlets (which included live television broadcasts on three of the four Louisville stations), media outreach for the first time also extended up and down the Ohio Valley with scheduled meetings with news and feature editors. Articles on the event were published in the following publications:
- The (Elizabethtown) News-Enterprise
- Evansville Courier Press
- Henderson Gleaner
- Lexington Herald-Leader
- Louisville Courier-Journal
- Nfocus Magazine
- Sophisticated Living
Additional listings on the event were published in the following publications:
- The (Bowling Green) Daily News
- The Cincinnati Enquirer
- The Kentucky Enquirer
- Kentucky Monthly
- The (Nashville) Tennessean
This effort resulted in a total of 12 articles/listings which reached a potential audience of 847,554 people.
Finally, in addition to the regional media outreach and the new web site, Luke Schmidt also facilitated the development of a new Facebook page for the Tour, which in its first year “liked” 81 regional news publications with potential reach to over 2.3 million people.
Since 2010, the Somerset – Pulaski County Development Foundation has been leading a community effort to restore scheduled commercial airline service at the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport (SME) in Somerset. L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC was retained for this purpose.
SME is a modern airport which serves a large part of Southern Kentucky, with a total catchment area population of 413,000 people in 16 counties. SME has a 5,800 foot long runway and a full Instrument Landing System (ILS).
Since starting on this project, Luke Schmidt has worked closely with SPCDF’s Executive Director and various community leaders. Project accomplishments to date include:
- Developed new market profile
- Scheduled/conducted meetings with several potential airlines
- Conducted two market surveys of business and industry leaders in the Somerset, London and Corbin areas
- Developed USDOT Small Community Air Service Development grant proposal (2013)
This ongoing project has the potential to substantially impact future economic development efforts in the Somerset region and assist in creating new jobs.
Hardin County United (HCU) was formed following the conclusion of the Hardin County Vision Project in 2010. HCU was formed by several community leaders that participated in the vision project and who wanted to continue with the process. HCU was formed primarily to address each of the 24 strategic goals which were adopted in the visioning process, assign a priority to each goal and develop an implementation strategy for each of the goals selected for implementation. L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC followed-up its involvement with the vision project by providing management and consulting services to HCU.
HCU started with a Steering Committee comprised of around 60 people. The organization was further organized with three subcommittees: Community Development, Education and Governance.
Catalyst for Change
Early on, Luke Schmidt worked with the HCU Steering Committee and developed a logo and a web site, so that the organization would have a central theme and also a portal for information on its projects to be made available to all citizens.
Since its inception, HCU has served as an agent for change. Following-up on the overall vision project theme of unification and the elimination of duplication in the community, HCU Community Development Subcommittee members supported the merger of four previously existing chambers of commerce (Elizabethtown, Radcliff, Vine Grove and West Point) into one new unified chamber – the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce – now one of the five largest chambers in Kentucky.
Community Development Subcommittee members also supported change in the community’s alcoholic beverage laws.
Three petitions were filed in Elizabethtown, Radcliff and Vine Grove (the county’s three largest cities) for local option elections to be held on the same date. Each campaign called for each community to go “wet,” meaning that individuals would gain the opportunity to purchase alcoholic beverages either by the package or by the drink.
HCU was one of the first organizations to endorse each campaign.
Each campaign was successful, thereby achieving one of the primary goals of the 24 strategic goals which were established during the Hardin County Vision Project.
The Education Subcommittee developed and implemented the first-ever mapping campaign of all educational offerings in the community
The goal of this project was to identify every educational offering currently available to all residents in Hardin County. The process started with pre-natal care classes for expectant parents, continued with early childcare development, Kindergarten, K – 8, high school and post-secondary offerings.
The report provided by the Education Subcommittee will be used by economic development professionals as part of their pitch to business and industrial prospects who are interested in expanding to the community.
The Education Subcommittee also embraced the idea of an Area Technology Center (one of the vision project’s 24 strategic goals). Early in 2013, a partnership consisting of the Central Kentucky Community Foundation, Elizabethtown Community & Technical College, Hardin County Schools and Western Kentucky University announced the development of the new Early College & Career Center, which will be located adjacent to the ECTC campus and open for business in 2014.
HCU’s Governance Subcommittee launched an initiative first designed to look into the potential benefits of unified government in Hardin County (again, following-up on the overall unification theme from the visioning process) with its Hardin County Unified Government Project.
L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC was retained to conduct extensive research into unified government. This included site visits to communities that had previously unified, interviews with key groups, an analysis of existing local government structures in Hardin County, etc.
HCU presented the findings of the research project to the community with a series of 24 forums around the county. HCU worked with Members of the Kentucky General Assembly to strengthen the existing statute on unified government in the Commonwealth. HCU also started preliminary work with local elected officials to establish a Unification Review Commission for the purpose of drafting a plan for unified government to be presented to citizens for review and approval.
The Food with Wine Coalition (FWWC) is a non profit organization which was established by the Kentucky Grocers Association (now known as the Kentucky Grocers Association & the Kentucky Association of Convenience Stores) for the purpose of educating and informing Kentucky’s thought leaders about the benefits of revising existing state law to allow grocery stores to sell wine in wet and moist counties. At present, 34 states allow grocery stores to sell wine. Six of seven of Kentucky’s border states allow grocery stores to sell wine.
Lifestyles have changed and wine has become a healthy part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Across Kentucky, consumers are asking grocery store managers to sell wine to pair with the food that they are purchasing for dinner. There are three compelling reasons why the law should be changed:
- Expands consumer choice and competition in the wine marketplace
- Supports Kentucky’s farm families by expanding the number of sales outlets for Kentucky-produced wine and increases the demand for Kentucky-grown grapes
- Adds much needed tax revenue to the coffers of the Commonwealth without raising taxes
The FWWC retained Luke Schmidt and L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC for the purpose of developing and directing the project.
As consultant to the FWWC, Luke Schmidt provided the following services to the Coalition:
- Designed project scope and established goals
- Managed the Coalition; scheduled meetings, established Agendas and conducted meetings and teleconferences
- Developed collateral support materials such as one-pagers, project brochure, project promotional video, Web site, etc.
- Distributed collateral materials
- Conducted outreach to key writers and editorial boards to all daily newspapers, key news talk radio stations and television stations; secured editorial support; served as the spokesperson for the Coalition; developed list of regional grocery industry spokespersons
- Developed PR campaign strategy with press releases, op-ed articles; solicit/secure talk radio, television and other media opportunities
- Started outreach to key local chambers of commerce, The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and built support for the issue
- Developed and maintained the link with the agriculture community, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky’s grape and wine industry
- Coordinated outreach to the Governor’s Office and Members of the General Assembly
- Coordinated legislation development and sponsorship
The FWWC positioned itself to lead the discussion on this issue. Luke Schmidt led the development of various collateral materials which were used to support the Coalition’s position, including a new logo.
The Coalition developed a Web site which contains a wealth of information on the issue. In addition, Luke Schmidt led the development of the Coalition’s promotional video . The Coalition also produced a project brochure which was distributed to industry and legislative representatives.
The Coalition also produced a general one-pager, along with an economic impact one-pager, both of which were distributed to Members of the Kentucky General Assembly and were also distributed with press releases.
As consultant to the Coalition, Luke Schmidt developed an extensive media distribution list and called on over 40 key media outlets throughout the Commonwealth (and adjacent markets in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia) during two statewide media tours, including television stations, talk radio stations, NPR radio stations and all daily newspapers which resulted in hundreds of positive newspaper articles, radio and television news stories. (Many of the newspaper articles and television news reports can be viewed in the Media section on this Web site) Three newspapers endorsed the Coalition’s position. Press releases were issued as needed.
Luke Schmidt called on key local Chambers of Commerce in the Commonwealth’s Top 10 markets. The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed the Coalition’s position.
The Coalition launched an initial statewide petition drive which included 110 grocery stores and which gathered 56,000 signatures. A follow-up online petition drive secured another 18,000 signatures. The petition drives were supported with unique in-store collateral pieces.
Luke Schmidt worked closely with a group of grocers which comprised the FWWC Steering Committee. The grocers provided invaluable support, insight and counsel. A true partnership was established. Yet, Members of the Kentucky General Assembly continued to focus exclusively on critical issues such as the Commonwealth’s severe budget shortfall, unfunded pension liabilities, etc., all the while avoiding the controversial issue. As such, the foundation to support legislation to allow grocery store wine sales was put into place; however, the environment needed to pass the controversial legislation remained challenging at best.
The FWWC elected to take this issue to court, challenging the constitutionality of the law. In 2012, U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn ruled in Louisville that Kentucky’s existing law which outlawed the sale of wine in grocery stores was illegal and further stated that grocery stores should be allowed to sell wine and distilled spirits. The ruling was appealed by the liquor store industry and the issue is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
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.