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Meade County joins E'town MSA

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Moved from Louisville-Jefferson County MSA because of change in commuter patterns

By Marty Finley

The Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area has made room for another county and thousands more residents.

The U.S. Census Bureau has modified the MSA, formerly consisting of Hardin and LaRue counties, to add Meade County, which formerly was part of the Louisville-Jefferson County MSA.

Luke Schmidt, a Louisville-based consultant for Hardin County United, said the bureau typically makes such alterations based on commuter patterns. In the past, he said, more Meade County residents were commuting to Jefferson County on a daily basis, but it appears the trend has changed with more residents now traveling into Hardin County and the surrounding MSA area.

“That, to me, is not surprising at all considering what’s going on at Fort Knox,” he said.

Mike Skaggs, a transportation planner with the Lincoln Trail Area Development District, said nearly 4,000 people commute to Hardin County from Meade County each day while more than 2,000 travel from LaRue County to Hardin County daily. Those patterns, he said, are what led the bureau to add both to the MSA.

Skaggs said the acquisition of Meade County could benefit the MSA financially.

“It should increase the amount of funding coming to the MSA based on the sheer number of the population,” he said.

Schmidt said the addition of Meade County increases the MSA’s footprint because it now encompasses an area of more than 150,000 residents, which puts it on another level when attracting retail, shopping, industry and other economic development opportunities.

“This places it on the map a little more efficiently,” he said.

Schmidt said it may be warranted in the future for the bureau to examine the commuter patterns of Grayson and Hart counties to see if they stack up to the patterns found in the Elizabethtown MSA.

Compared to larger MSAs, it still is relatively small, Skaggs said, but “still, 150,000. That’s a pretty sizable population.”

According to a 2012 population estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Elizabethtown MSA ranked 271st out of 381 MSAs, sandwiched between the Wichita Falls, Texas, and Jefferson City, Mo., MSAs.

It was not the only shakeup this year as Nelson County was removed from the Louisville-Jefferson County MSA and Bardstown was made its own Micropolitan Statistical Area, Schmidt said.

Metropolitan statistical areas are defined as a core urban area with a population of 50,000 or more while a Micropolitan Statistical Area contains an urban core of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hardin Judge-Executive Harry Berry echoed Schmidt in saying the increased population gained from absorbing Meade County into the MSA should improve its chances to gain more looks from businesses and industries eager to anchor in larger areas.

Berry also said it is a wise modification because Meade County’s traffic patterns, retail and workforce bases are more closely attuned to Hardin County than Jefferson County and the greater Louisville area.

“This seems like a logical marriage,” he said.

Berry said the Census Bureau simply may have reanalyzed the data and realized how interrelated Meade County is with the MSA.

“I think it serves everyone collectively well,” he said.

Brad Richardson, executive director of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, said officials must routinely sell the MSA as the hub between Louisville and Bowling Green and this addition helps promote the market for development.

“This tells the story empirically where we don’t have to talk about it anecdotally,” Richardson said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.