Chambers in cohesion

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County’s chambers of commerce talk regionalism

By John Friedlein



HARDIN COUNTY — Regionalism is more than just a buzzword with local community boosters.

A recent meeting between the county’s three chambers of commerce was meant to establish a foundation to help their members speak with a unified — and therefore more powerful — voice. Recent developments such as growth at Fort Knox and a potential electric vehicle battery plant in Glendale have illustrated the interdependence of local communities.

After the meeting earlier this month in Radcliff, participants toured the adjacent Army post.

And Jo Emary, executive director of the Radcliff-Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, said she was happy when she heard about the Glendale announcement, which she said would benefit the whole county. The two towns are about 20 miles apart.

Not everyone will agree with a regionalist approach because the old lines have been established, Emary said.

The chambers already had started along a path of cooperation. For example, representatives of the Radcliff and Elizabethtown chambers met in March to speak out against a state gas tax reduction, which members felt would jeopardize road projects.

Emary noted a planned connector between Radcliff and Elizabethtown as an example of how a project can benefit both areas.

Sometimes communities draw lines of “this is ours and that is yours,” she said. She has learned from economic development experts that: “Investors know when you’re not playing nice together.”

Emary said she and her board are looking at the big picture and much good came from the meeting of the county’s chambers.

Mary Jo King, president of the Radcliff Chamber, arranged the get-together. Similar meetings are planned.

Donna Betson, president of the Vine Grove Chamber of Commerce, said it is great the chambers are talking to each other. Members understand that, while each area is unique in its own way, each depends on the others.

Betson also said the scope of this push isn’t restricted to the county’s three largest towns, and there will be an effort to make sure places like Rineyville are not neglected.

Mark Haynes, chairman of the Elizabethtown Chamber’s board, said he is excited about working with the other chambers. In today’s age, cities have almost grown together, he said. And with technology and improvements in transportation, a business does not have to be in a town’s backyard for that community to benefit.

Also, all chambers being on the same page can better help small businesses, Haynes said.

A news release called the meeting “an unprecedented display of cooperation and unity.”

It also mentioned a recent Fort Knox realignment planning exercise, which “reinforced the importance of a cohesive, unified voice throughout the region to effectively maximize these opportunities. The joint chamber leadership group, which represents all types of businesses and organizations, has opened the door to conversation that can lead to true inclusiveness, collaboration and communication.”

 John Friedlein can be reached at 505-1746.