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The hiring of Brad Richardson to lead the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce as its president and chief executive officer adds a new layer of economic muscle to the chamber.
And local officials said the emergence of Richardson in the role could create a bridge to the development of a “powerhouse entity” serving as a one-stop shop for economic development.
Richardson brings more than 25 years of economic development experience to the position and will retain his roles as executive director of the North Hardin Economic Development Authority and One Knox.
Wendell Lawrence, executive director of the Lincoln Trail Area Development District, said keeping Richardson in his role at One Knox makes sense because he’s the “face” of the agency.
“Obviously, Brad has been doing this long enough that (he carries that) wherever he goes,” Lawrence said.
Lincoln Trail ADD plans to contract services with the chamber for One Knox activities, but Lawrence said details about how the process will be utilized have not been ironed out.
Conceptually, he expects social aspects of One Knox, such as community outreach efforts, could be transferred to the chamber.
The procurement of money and work for studies related to Base Realignment and Closure will continue to be handled by the Lincoln Trail ADD, he said.
Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry, chairman of the One Knox Policy Council, said most of the “heavy lifting” needed has been completed by One Knox, such as the acquisition of millions of dollars from the state for road, water and sewer improvements in expectation of population growth.
The organization was formed by Berry and area mayors and judge-executives affected by the BRAC initiative to provide a single source for BRAC-related needs.
Eventually, Berry said, he foresees One Knox being phased out with most of its remaining duties absorbed by the chamber.
However, Hardin County United also is researching the concept of a “powerhouse entity,” which has worked in other communities as a unified anchor for economic development, Berry said.
Several sites were visited during completion of the Hardin County Vision Project where these entities have been established, he added.
Sometimes, the entity operated as one large organization with divisions for tourism and other industries. Others, Berry added, had an “umbrella” approach with multiple organizations partnering together.
Berry and Lawrence both said the possibility for such an organization developing locally is alive in idea only and would need to be researched thoroughly to make sure the approach that best fits Hardin County is followed.
“It’s not something that has meat on the bones yet,” Berry said.
Lawrence said Hardin County United would need to make sure this is the path the community would want to follow, and Berry said organizations would not be pressured to join the organization should the idea be pursued.
As for the chamber’s role, Berry said the powerhouse concept theoretically could be built around the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce. More realistically, Berry said the chamber likely would be one piece of a bigger puzzle.
Berry and Lawrence also said they believe the unification of the chambers five or six years ago may have altered the role of One Knox.
Tom Hewlett, chairman of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, went a step further and said a unified chamber may have stepped in as the mediator between the communities and state on behalf of Fort Knox had it existed when the needs arose.
Hewlett also said he is unsure how the partnership between the chamber and One Knox will play out, but he said the likelihood of another round of BRAC makes the partnership an attractive one.
Hewlett said the board narrowed the pool of 15 candidates to five, and Richardson quickly stood out from the pack. He was local and already invested in the transition from the four chambers into one unified chamber, Hewlett said.
He also pointed to Richardson’s extensive work with BRAC roadshows and One Knox as another contributing factor.
“There’s a lot of good reasons to pick Brad,” he said.
Hewlett said he expects Richardson to be challenged by the multiple roles he will carry, but he said the chamber will support him with whatever he needs.
“We don’t expect it to be easy,” he said.
Hewlett declined to release Richardson’s salary. Chamber officials have said they expected the executive director salary range to be between $75,000 and $100,000.
Lawrence, meanwhile, praised the chamber’s choice.
“I think he’s the right man at the right time for the right job,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.