Attracting Workers to Rural America

Gregg Motley. President of the Regional Economic Development, Inc. Submitted photo.


In last week’s column, I discussed some of the causes of our “help wanted” crisis in America, particularly in rural areas. What can we do about this in Bourbon County? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Quality Housing. This has to be the number one reason why some people are reluctant to move to Bourbon County. Not many homes of adequate quality are available to purchase or rent that a working family can afford. The cost to build a 1,800 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bath house on a city lot far exceeds the appraised value once it is completed; this cost-to-value gap inhibits the construction of new homes. We need creative public/private/charitable solutions to bridge this cost versus value gap. This should be the focus of our community leaders.
  1. Health Care. We need a hospital. A community without a hospital is a non-starter for many who might consider moving here. Let’s all pray that Noble Health Corporation says “yes” to reopening our hospital.
  1. Taxes. As reported earlier, our property tax rates are prohibitive compared to our neighbors. We have to begin incrementally lowering the mill levy to solve this problem. We can’t do it in one fiscal year, but we have to start on the long-term solutions.
  1. Schools. We have to work together to bring our school ratings up and do all we can to support all the schools in our county, both public and private. Support needs to come from everyone, whether or not one has a school-aged child.
  1. Infrastructure. We have to repair our roads, bridges, sewers, wastewater systems, storm sewers, etc., to improve our quality of life and protect property values; this includes revitalizing all the downtowns we have in the county. Beauty and functionality are important to our everyday lives and turn off new people when they are not up to par.
  1. Strategic Plan. We need our leaders countywide, both public and private, to create a civic vision for the entire county that we can all embrace. It should include a list of priorities that we want to achieve together and include every economic sector and geography of our county. We need a common community vision that will inspire hope and encourage investment.

No science supports this list, and you might legitimately see it differently. We are trying to attract a variety of working families, and their priorities might all be slightly different. It is time to come together and search for solutions as a county. Let’s pool our time, talent, and treasure; roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

One thought on “Attracting Workers to Rural America”

  1. I agree with the content of this article. We have to work together, be open to discuss how our taxes are calculated, decrease our mill levies for all taxing entities, and plan for change. I support our local government entities and it’s frustrating when a commission makes plans, begins to implement improvements and then new commissioners are elected who then may change the plans and priorities. We need to be honest with each other. And I repeat——work together.

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