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Learning to live local

Last Friday was both an informative and interesting afternoon for me at the office—or rather out of the office.

First off, I hopped in with Senior Jessamine Journal Sales Representative, Mr. Joe Hall, and headed up the street to Council Oaks for an activity luncheon for members of the city’s business community. We all defeated our plates of pot roast, before our table-mates in group exercises answering questions about our common attributes and interests, as well as the hurdles we see Nicholasville having to overcome in order to be more competitive with Lexington in the arenas of growth and prosperity. The event triggered some interesting discussions among business leaders on various professional paths, each of whom shares a desire to see Nicholasville and Jessamine County as a whole remain strong and viable. Those discussions are expected to continue at subsequent meetings in the coming months.

I will give my $.02 on sustaining local business prosperity any day for another round of that pot roast from the Council Oaks crew!

Right after we returned to the office, I was grabbed by Jessamine Journal Sales Representative, Jonathan Curry, and we headed up to Rupp Arena to check out the Home and Garden show taking place. It was great to see a handful of Jessamine County businesses participating and promoting themselves at the event.

I always enjoy browsing through such expos and events, not just to pick up ideas and maintenance contacts for my own cabin, but to visit with the smaller-scale entrepreneurs and the products they are selling. Along with some photos for the Beautiful House, Happy Home special tab coming later this month, I also left with some contact info for a few vendors whose services I could use.

Not the least of which were the hanging chairs, a product I have been eyeing for my front porch for over a year now. I thought about plopping into one for a test lounge, but I know what would have happened: not only would I have been hanging out, but I would have taken home something as well. If that were to have happened, I can only imagine that my carefully laid plan to get my yard mowed this weekend would have been an April Fool’s joke on myself.

Actually, it almost turned out that way anyway, since walking down my backyard on Sunday was like trekking across a giant wet sponge, complete with sound effects for every step I took. At least I was able to whip a tune on my front yard and prevent smaller animals and young children from venturing off of the beaten path and getting lost in the foliage. My backyard, in all its spongy glory, is going to have to wait a week.

That got me thinking about that discussion on Nicholasville’s prosperity on Friday at Council Oaks, which was basically the same discussion that I heard in my former hometown in Nebraska when the topic would arise on economic and population growth.

I planned all of last week to tame my yard for the first time this year on Sunday. My mowers were ready with brand new oil in the engines and full gas tanks. I was caught up on my writing to-do list. All of the conditions that I could control were just right for getting the four-hour task knocked out. Yeah, I know I have a big yard.

What wasn’t just right? The factor that I could not control: weather. While it was a lovely warm, summer day on Sunday, we had gotten soaked a few days prior, and the ground was just not ready for a heavy lawn tractor.

I have learned that there are two x factors in any equation that you often cannot count on to cooperate: weather and people. Weather may or may not be applicable to the ongoing prosperity of a community based on factors like seasonal tourism, but you can guarantee that the people who reside there are applicable in every instance.

A community can take numerous measures to make itself an attractive home for families and/or businesses. The local government can work to keep property taxes low. They can keep a healthy law enforcement squad employed to keep the streets safe. They can implement tax incentive finance plans to businesses looking to move in. Schools can be hoisted up to honorable standards. Community beautification plans implemented. And so on and so on…

But all this is a moot point if the people residing there do not take ownership of their community and its identity, and make sure that they are always looking for ways to make it better than it already is. We can’t just preach “shop local”, we must promote living local as well.

In order for a community to remain prosperous and viable, its residents must make the conscious decision to take stock in it and keep the momentum behind it pushing it forward. For smaller to medium-sized communities without a secondary education institution in it to help retain residents after high school graduation, the slope of the road is usually uphill. The further that community is from interstates and bigger cities, the steeper that uphill slope gets.

This community has a lot to offer, and I am certain that many of the fine folks of Nicholasville are are already on board with being proactive in helping grow and sustain it. They just have to convince everyone else that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence (or the Cracker Barrel). Communities develop and display personalities just like individuals do, and a positive and hospitable personality makes it much more attractive to outsiders looking in. In trying to appeal to those outsiders, however, we cannot become so caught up in trying to bring more in that we take for granted what we already have.

As last week’s issue of the Jessamine Journal indicated, we have a long list of businesses, professionals, and institutions here that are great at what they do. We must find a way to add to that list rather than amend it.

So the question can’t just be ‘do you want Nicholasville to prosper?’  We need to start asking if there are enough residents of Nicholasville that are willing to live more locally to make that prosperity happen.