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Fort Knox, Elizabethtown talk about revitalization, economic opportunities

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By Marty Finley

By MARTY FINLEY mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com

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ELIZABETHTOWN— A program designed to establish links between Fort Knox and Elizabethtown through downtown revitalization and economic growth will take a step forward this week.

The developers of the program, the National Trust Main Street Center, will be leading working sessions with representatives from Elizabethtown and Fort Knox Tuesday and Wednesday at The Historic State Theater. The goal is to examine recommendations made by local community and business leaders, as well as Fort Knox residents, for improving the relationship between the two communities and funnel those recommendations into viable goals.

Teresa Lynch, senior program officer for the National Trust Main Street Center, said the Elizabethtown-Fort Knox partnership is one of 11 sites in the program, and said the program offers the chance for the two communities to better accommodate one another. Lynch said one of the main goals that the center and Army have undertaken with these projects is to better the lives of Army families by helping adjacent historic districts develop economic and entertainment opportunities that will attract military families and retirees into the area. Lynch said the results are a win-win situation for everyone involved.

“It’s been very successful,” Lynch said, referring to other sites that have participated.

The program began locally in early 2008 when the center visited the area and helped form the Army-Community Heritage Partnership Program with representatives of Elizabethtown and Fort Knox. In doing so, six taskforces were formed that encompass a number of pertinent issues, such as business development, property development, marketing, physical and individual linkages and heritage tourism.

Dana Beth Lyddan, Elizabethtown coordinator for the group, said each taskforce is represented by co-chairs from both Elizabethtown and Fort Knox. Lyddan said they keep the balance of people equal so both communities are properly represented.

Lynch said the physical and individual linkages taskforce analyzes what those from Fort Knox see when they come into Elizabethtown and determines if there are proper “cues” to promote the downtown area, such as directional signs. Business and development task forces examine the economic opportunities available within Elizabethtown’s downtown area and the possibility of new growth, while the marketing taskforce explores avenues for effective promotion of downtown events to the Fort Knox community.

A survey ad hoc taskforce was also formed, which created a survey that was circulated to residents at Fort Knox. Lynch said that survey has been completed and the results compiled. A written report will be issued to the taskforces and discussed in length as part of the working sessions.

The center also conducted a series of interviews last year with local business leaders, developers, property owners and community leaders, and Lynch said that report will be presented to the taskforces, with the center helping taskforces transform recommendations into a working plan.

Once the talks are wrapped up this week, Lynch said the Main Street Center will monitor the program’s progress along the way. Yet the center is not finished, as it plans to return to the area to conduct a heritage tourism assessment. No date has been determined yet, but Lynch said it could be conducted in April. She said exploring heritage tourism between the two communities will increase the potential for attracting visitors to the area.

The Main Street Center also plans to work with Elizabethtown’s Main Street Program as well to generate ideas for restaurant development. Lynch said they have found that restaurants play an integral role in successful revitalization.

“I think it’s very key (for Elizabethtown),” she said.

Diane Mattingly, community relations officer at Fort Knox, is a co-coordinator with Lyddan and said she believes the program is already making a difference.

She added that “anytime you have the Fort Knox and Elizabethtown communities working together, it’s a positive thing.”

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