Owen County 2020
A Community Vision for Tomorrow
In the spring of 2005, Owen County launched a process designed to define a vision for the future. The process brought together the dreams and hopes of over 2,200 persons who lives in the county – from the youth in the middle and high school for whom this future is being imagined – to the adults of all ages. Persons living throughout the county, in all voting precincts and small communities participated, as did those involved in the many civic and religious organization in Owen County. Tables 1 and 2 present an overview of the characteristics of those participating in this process.
We often hear the complaint that no one cares about our communities anymore and no one wants to participate in making our communities a better place to live and work. But Owen County proves this wrong. A group of citizens — members of Owen County Leadership, three participants from the East Kentucky Entrepreneurial Coaching Institute – as well as several organizations – the local newspaper, ……. – developed a process to engage the entire community in a discussion about the future of Owen County. The process had several components to it.
First, over 50 adults participated in a facilitator training to enable them to guide a discussion around four questions:
HERITAGE What aspects of life in Owen County do you value and feel should be protected or preserved?
CHANGE What is one thing we could do right now to make Owen County a better place to live and work?
VISION Imagine Owen County as you would like it to be in 20 years. How is that picture different from what it is today?
ACTION What do we need to start doing now to achieve our vision?
The volunteer facilitators were encouraged to lead a discussion with the members of any group or organization they belonged to or, to invite neighbors for a discussion of the questions.
Second, the (local newspaper) carried a series of one-page ads about Owen 2020 and included the four questions as an insert with an invitation for people to complete and return their answers to the questions. Many took advantage of this opportunity.
Third, 50 middle and high school youth leaders participated in a facilitator training to enable them to guide a discussion with classes around these questions:
VISION Imagine you have taken a time machine 15 years into the future. Describe what you want Owen County to be like. What would you want to be able to do here? What would you want Owen County to have?
CHANGE If you had a magic wand, how would you make Owen County better today?
Fourth, students were provided a copy of the questions for the general community and asked to take these home to their parents to complete. Due to the generosity of local businesses, the classes in the middle school whose students returned the highest number of responses from their parents, received an ice cream party.
Fifth, local organizations such as the library, the Senior Citizens Center, and the Extension Office provided opportunities for those visiting or using their services to answer the questions.
Through these many and diverse methods, nearly everyone in Owen County – regardless of age or where they lived and worked – had an opportunity to participate in the discussion about the future. When you think about it, if there are 10 to 20 people at a public meeting, this is considered a good level of public involvement, and really hot issues may bring out 100 people or so. But often the public’s engagement in these discussions is around what they don’t want. Here, we have over 2,200 residents talking about how to make Owen County a better place to live and work – a community they would want to stay in and one that would provide opportunities for them to come home and raise their families.
Owen County 2020 offers residents and community leaders the information required to articulate a vision for the future and to identify the initial steps needed to begin moving forward. Owen County 2020 also reveals some deep divisions within the community that need to be addressed now in order to clarify the vision and insure that everyone is moving toward the same goals. Finally, Owen County 2020 is the foundation on which public/private partnerships can be built as well as collaborative efforts by civic organizations.
This report will describe the key themes that emerged around each of the questions and conclude with some action recommendations that answer the question: Where do we go from here? Owen County 2020 offers the community a glimpse into a future of hope built on a cherished heritage. The people who participated in this process are challenging their leaders and themselves to seize the future they have imagined.
HERITAGE What aspects of life in Owen County do you value and feel should be protected or preserved?
All communities change; change itself is inevitable. The issue is: what are we going to allow change to do to us? This first question addresses the issue of the qualities of Owen County that people cherish and want to see retained even as other changes occur. In other words, these represent the quality of Owen County that have led people to either decide to stay here or choose this place as their home.
A small community with a small town atmosphere and way of life….
Owen County offers residents a cherished way of life built around the ideal qualities of small town living – a friendly place where neighbors care for each other and stand by each other in tough times — because it is a smaller community. As one participant asserts, “Owenton and the other small communities in Owen County have been able to keep that small town feel. I would hate to see this change” and another comments: “I want the small town of friendliness and caring to always be a part of our community.”
What are the characteristics of a small town that participants are saying make Owen County so special? It’s the web of relationships that comes from knowing your neighbors and the sense of security that comes from knowing that the people who live here will pull together in times of trouble.
“I feel that the small town atmosphere should be protected. I love opening the News Herald and knowing all the faces on the front page and the ones to follow.”
“I like the small town atmosphere in Owen County. Not a subdivision on every corner, and there is no Wal-Mart. Who cares if you have to drive 15 minutes to shop at Wal-Mart?”
“The friendliness of a small town atmosphere where people help and look out for each other.”
It also is the nature of doing business in a small town where you are able “to walk into a business and them call you by name….[it’s] Doing business with people and being able to have them depend on your reputation.” And another says, “With local businesses and banks you are a person not a number.” From the perspective of some participants, “Downtown Owenton houses a unique array of businesses responsive to local as well as regional interests,” and all within convenient walking distance.
Finally, there is “a strong sense of community “ that is reflected in the willingness to work together “to make improvements for the community.” The many community gatherings and events not only bring people together to celebrate life, but also serve as a link to a common heritage shared by multiple generations of families.
What is interesting is that even those who are not native to Owen County state that the warm friendliness and sense of welcome is evident. This is not always the case in small communities where you need to be born there to be seen as a “real” member of the community family. As one of the newer residents notes: “The one thing that sticks out as an important part of Owen County is the closeness among the whole Owen County community. I’m not a native of Owen County, but have always felt like, and have been treated like one. This is very important to my children and me. We value this very much.” While another comments: “People as a community, genuinely care about each other. It is reflected in the warmth of the community’s deeds. I feel very blessed to have found Owen County.” As this person suggests, people from other places seek out Owen County because it has the qualities they desire in a place to live and raise a family. “I like the small town atmosphere. We are originally from [major metropolitan area] and moved here as a better place to raise our family. Our family life is much more peaceful here and you don’t have the hustle and bustle of city life.”
The great majority of participants in Owen County 2020 realize that what they have in Owen County is unique and also fragile. Time and the changes that come with it can transform a community very quickly – so quickly that people look around one day and realize that the qualities that made this a special place have been lost. As one participant says: “I think the small town heritage should be preserved. Having worked around northern KY I have been exposed to a lot of changes, most people there would like to have their old way of life back.” This is not to say that change – growth should not occur, but while “I like the “small town feel” I am not saying we need to remain a small town in size – just a friendly community where you feel welcome to shop and live.” Perhaps the most effective summary for how most participants view Owen County is as follows: “Protect and preserve the small community atmosphere. This is rare in the nation today.”
situated within a beautiful rural landscape based on a farming heritage….
Small town life in Owen County plays out within a beautiful rural landscape that adds to the desirable nature of Owen County. One participant comments: “The main reason why most people move to Owen Co. is because of its beautiful rural landscape and many farms. Having been raised on a large farm, I feel this is the most important thing to preserve about Owen Co.”
From the perspective of many participants, farming defines the nature of life in Owen County. One person states this point this way: “Owen County is rural with and agricultural economic and cultural base,” and another says “the farms are the history of the county.” The farming way of life is seen as the basis for the values, beliefs and behaviors that are reflected in small town life. This point is made by one participant in this way: “Farming – we should keep parts of the county rural for farming because it teaches responsibility, accountability, and above all else self-sufficiency.” The strong families, the interdependence reflected in neighbors helping neighbors and the deep faith are grounded in this farming heritage.
and surrounded by richly diverse natural environment.
“Owen County creates a panorama of green hills and valleys in my mind.” says one participant, while another comments: “Owen County has an abundance of rural beauty which needs to be protected and preserved.” Owen County is blessed with forests (“the largest wooded area in central Kentucky”), rolling hills, “Owen Co is blessed to have so many natural ponds, creeks and streams,” and abundant wildlife (“we have been #1 in the state in population of deer harvested for years.”). For many of the participants, the combination of the richly diverse natural environment and the rural countryside dominated by productive farms creates a highly desirable and greatly cherished landscape – one that enriches their lives. “I value the country living and the countryside. I made a choice to live here because of these very reasons. I love where I live, the peace, the trust, the friendliness, the space, the trees, the wildlife.”
“It is a safe Christian-based community that is conducive to raising children.”
Many participants commented on “the small community churches where neighbors can worship and work together.” These churches that anchor life in the small communities that dot Owen County in many ways. Within these churches, a shared set of values are developed grounded in a Christian religious heritage. These shared values, in combination with those drawn from the family farming heritage, are the foundation for strong families, a strong work ethic, and the willingness to help neighbors. Moreover, the “churches are cooperative in doing projects and activities county-wide,” contributing in concrete ways to a better life in the community.
CHANGE What is one thing we could do right now to make Owen County a better place to live and work?
While we all feel that our community is a great place to live, every community could be better and the responses to this question identify those things that need to change now to enhance life in Owen County.
More economic activity to generate employment, increase local revenues and provide more choices for consumers
“Owen County has become a place to live, rather than a place to work. I dare say that the teaching profession, outside of farming, is one of the largest portions of the work force. Diversity in farming and attracting small to medium size businesses would help economically and also maintain the small town feel.”
More jobs within the county so that people don’t have to commute for employment, so that women can work closer to home, and so that young people can choose to remain in Owen County in order to raise their own families – this is the first component of a more active economy people desire. These jobs might be in a small to mid-sized manufacturing plant. “Possible try to bring in some sort of manufacturing plant or factory. Something that could provide jobs locally and in return it would boost the revenue of the smaller businesses in the county. It would also save money for those traveling outside of the county searching for work.” Or, they might be in new small businesses. But the job growth is seen as being important if the next generation is to have the opportunity to remain. As one participant explains: “One problem with the community now is that many of the younger generations leave to seek further education after high school and do not return. This is because their hometown has nothing to offer them in terms of a job market and the types of simple amenities they desire when they start to raise a family (such as activities close to home, including recreational parks and services).”
“Do whatever it takes to get employment in our county. Both for the needed revenue and most certainly for our children’s future. The youth need a choice to stay in the county or leave. Right now they have to leave to find opportunity.”
What might attract new industries or businesses to Owen County? From the perspective of the participants in this process, there are many qualities that make Owen County a great place to do business. First and foremost is the work ethic that is grounded in a rural farm community. “Our people have a good work ethic. They need a good clean place to work; good wages. Our people leave out every morning in record numbers and drive 40-50 miles to work. We beg off our neighbors for jobs.”
More jobs and economic activities in the community will not only allow people to end long commutes and spend more time with their families, it will stimulate other economic activity in the community as people stay at home to spend their consumer dollars. Participants identified a host of specific types of businesses and services that they would patronage if only available in Owen County ranging from clothing and hardware and grocery stores to a broader range of restaurant and entertainment options. Some participants cautioned that local businesses need to evaluate their own practices in order to stay competitive with new businesses in Owen County and those outside the county.
More jobs and economic activity will also generate more revenues for local government. “Possible try to bring in some sort of manufacturing plant or factory. Something that could provide jobs locally and in return it would boost the revenue of the smaller businesses in the county. It would also save money for those traveling outside of the county searching for work.” Another noted that the increased tax revenues could be used to fund needed school improvements.
But for some, the desire for more jobs is not jobs at any cost. Many were cautious in their support for more employment, concerned about the environmental effects of some types of industry, and the impact of economic growth and what it brings for the nature of life in a rural community. These concerns are captured by these two participants:
“Some people think getting another factory in town would be good. If it’s environmentally safe and it doesn’t gobble up acres and acres of good farm land, it could be good for the county.”
“The county needs more working places so people do not have to travel but at the same time there needs to be a way to keep Owen County a rural community.”
From the perspective of some, the challenge for Owen County is how to stimulate new economic activity and new employment opportunities without jeopardizing the small town way of life and the rural landscape that makes Owen County such a special place to live. “Continue to recruit industry and develop tourism – many say they want to work in a city but live in a small community. Those that can would like to live and work in a small community but you must have the jobs. Tourism and light industry as well as services – restaurants, retail, leisure activities, hunting and fishing would provide jobs.”
Revitalizing downtown to make it more attractive to shoppers and visitors combined with a greater emphasis on tourism can add new jobs, stimulate new business activity and build on the small qualities of small town life. Madison IN and Georgetown KY are examples of the kinds of Main Streets that invite visitors and new businesses and could be the spark for revitalization efforts in downtown Owenton. It is the kind of economic activity that builds on the characteristics of the community that people have said they value.
Assure the continuation of a viable agricultural economy through diversification of opportunities
”If the vision were to preserve the beauty of what is there now, into a future time – it would seem some means of preserving the land as farmland is necessary. There is a necessity to aid the farmer of yesterday’s crop, tobacco, into a crop or crops that is good for today and into the future. If the farmer is sustained then the land can remain open from housing and shopping mall development. If the farmers are sustained by new cash crops would he/she be less motivated to sell off the land as housing development – perhaps even to preserving of some road frontage – so that there isn’t housing from Frankfort to Owenton.”
Given the prominence of comments about the heritage of family farming and the value of farming and farmland in the landscape of the countryside, it is not surprising that many participants commented on the need to support the continuation of a viable agricultural economy. While some may say that agriculture in Kentucky is a dying industry, many of the participants in this process see great potential for growth in the economic contributions of agriculture in Owen County. But this will require support from the larger community that sees the value of farming and is willing to invest whatever it takes to maintain the family farms that have been so central to life in Owen County. Two participants see the issue in these ways:
“Put more energy into our agricultural community. There is a great diversity of ag alternatives. We all eat! Food crops “could” help offset the loss of tobacco revenues. Also, organic or naturally-grown produce brings a higher price. We need more education in this area.”
“We need to focus more on what we have and what it will be worth in the future. At the rate of development of housing in neighboring counties I’m envisioning a time in the near future when farm land will be very valuable. Even now, while we still have a lot of farm land, growing organic vegetables, fruits, berries and nuts are becoming more profitable because aging Baby boomers are coming to terms with you are what you eat.” We need to preserve tillable land and support our local farmers in alternative programs to tobacco.”
Manage the impact of growth and land use changes by developing and implementing a plan
A significant number of participants stated a desire to find some way to have growth, but to have a growth that does not alter the qualities of Owen County that make it such a desirable place to live. For some, the fear is that Owen County will lose its unique and cherished qualities because of growth that creates “anytown, anywhere.” Two participants state the issue in these ways:
“Work to protect it as a rural area and keep the urban sprawl from infecting the county. I’d prefer to have to drive to Frankfort, Carrollton, or Dry Ridge to see a Sprawl-Mart.”
“Our county needs a plan for our town/county so that it doesn’t become another Florence. If we want our county to be a planned out place – there has to be planning/thought before growth. Just like you don’t just build onto your house – you think about how it will look with different changes and different options and then you make your plans.”
There are several qualities that seem threatened by the growth that has been occurring in Owen County. Key among these are the natural beauty and the rural character of Owen County. Here’s how two participants explained the situation: “If there is to be development, we would want it very well coordinated and regulated so that homes or businesses have to preserve as much of the natural land as possible.” and, “If we continue to let small subdivision and uncontrolled growth continue, we will soon be without the beauty of green grass and rolling hills.” There is a sense that the pattern of development is fundamentally altering Owen County and in some areas, creating a place that is no different from any city, but this is not the city. “I have noticed the trend to parcel land into ugly subdivisions creating visual chaos to the landscape. If you want to live 10 feet from your neighbor, move to Owenton or to Lexington.”
Others felt that there was a need to “Plan for growth, especially in rural areas to keep property values from falling behind.” For many, the kind of growth that has been occurring in Owen County has not always been of high quality, and this tends to affect the value of adjacent properties. As several noted, too often the growth in Owen County represents the kind of housing that neighboring communities have “rejected” through restrictions on mobile homes and tract subdivisions dominated by small parcel housing. “Find a way to “control” and “manage” growth, particularly residential growth – to encourage good quality additions to the county and community. Stop the influx of trailer homes and low quality modular houses.”
Participants had several suggestions for what to do to change the path they fear Owen County may be on. First, many argued for the need to “prepare for future growth through land use planning.” What might be included in this is exploring how other communities have dealt with growth and land use changes. Or,
“perhaps a growth analysis could be done that contrasts costs to expenses of different types of growth to actually see what were talking about. What other economic growth could be developed that would allow the land to remain farmland?” So, changing what has been happening must begin with a land use plan that creates a picture of what people want Owen County to look like in 10 to 20 years.
But a land use plan will be effective only if it is implemented. For many, the way to do this is to “adopt sensible, realistic planning and zoning.“ What does this mean? As one participant explains, this is a “common sense, practical approach to land management, best brought into being by a managed planning and zoning that does not take on a life of its own as it has been allowed to do in surrounding counties because of political pressure and favoritism.” While zoning can be a scary word, many feel that it can be as good as a community desires it to be, or as bad as can happen if a community allows it to get out of control.
Zoning is seen as a way to avoid or at least mitigate the negative consequences of the growth that has been occurring in Owen County. “Zoning or some form of division of land control needs to be put in place. Right now our county is a refuge for all the land uses that are restricted or denied by neighboring counties where they are not tolerated.” For some, this will require establishing minimum lot sizes as well as building codes to assure quality construction. For others, it is important to consider whether there should also be some restrictions on the location of mobile homes in the community.
It is important to remember that while planning for growth and land use changes received generally positive endorsements, many expressed a cautious support for zoning, acknowledging that it can be a double-edged sword. Thus, if this change is adopted, residents of Owen County need to clearly define what they want the zoning ordinances to say with regard to how land use changes develop in the county and then be vigilant in how the ordinances are implemented.
Clean up Owen County to demonstrate the pride people have in their home community and to make it an attractive place for businesses and visitors
“Institute program for cleaner road-sides and residences. There are trash, litter, and eyesore residences everywhere.”
The desire, no demand, for a clean community comes through the comments of participants loudly and clearly. Participants used words like “garbage dump,” “eye-sore,” “junk-yards,” “trashy,” and “blight” to describe Owen County. Quite frankly, a significant number of people are appalled by the trash and litter that accumulates along the roadsides of Owen County. A significant number of people are appalled by the junk that accumulates in the yards of too many homes. A significant number of people are appalled by the dilapidated condition of too many homes and buildings as well as the sight of some literally falling down. As one participant comments, “I would like to see an intensive effort devoted to improving the initial impression of Owenton, city itself, as a person enters – some of the houses are neglected and run down.”
What it comes down to, for many of the participants, is a lack of pride – a lack of pride in self, home, and community. If you do not have pride in the place where you live or pride in yourself as a person, you do not take care of your community or your home. And for many, this shows and creates a poor impression in visitors. As one participant notes, “It does not give potential residents or businesses an urge to come to Owen County.”
Participants offer many suggestions for how to address this problem including: mandatory garbage pick-up, tougher littering laws, better enforcement of nuisance laws, recycling, requiring property owners to clean up properties, using inmates to clean roadsides, and everyone simply caring about the place they live. One participant said it this way: “Right now I see a decline in the cleanliness of our town. Have volunteer activities throughout the year to clean up and pretty up sore spots. Have a clean up fund drive for our town/county to have money to do projects. Apply for grants for our town/county/improvements”
Develop places to go and things to do for youth and families
There is a real need for places for youth to go and for things for youth and families to do in Owen County. From the perspective of a significant number of participants, teens leave the county or drive the streets and parking lots, while younger children have even fewer opportunities. The absence of places to go and things to do, many believe, leads to a greater likelihood that kids will get into trouble due to sheer boredom.
There were a myriad of suggestions for how to resolve this situation, and a majority of these focused on examples of things to do. One suggestion pulled many of these ideas together. A multipurpose center offering a safe place to hang out, entertainment (e.g., a theater, game room), as well as activities (e.g., bowling, skating, swimming pool, putt-putt golf, skate board park). Several participants noted that the empty industrial building or the old IGA building offers a perfect site for such a multipurpose center.
Some talked about the need to expand the county park in order to offer new opportunities and to also offer more playgrounds for younger children and more parks throughout the county. As one participant said, “Provide more programs out in communities for youth. Not programs centered in Owenton or the schools. Transportation makes it difficult for students in these outer communities to participate.”
Develop and improve infrastructure and services in particular….
Access to clean water for all households throughout the county
The lack of access to water and perceived problems in the quality and functioning of the water system that does exist is seen as a very serious and immediate problem – affecting individual lives and health as well as opportunities for economic development. “To provide the whole county with city water. There are several businesses who cannot “open” until they get city water. Its 2005!” Access is about the fact that there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to who has access to public/city water in Owen County. As one participant notes: “Water must be available to everyone. There is water on my road except for one mile in the middle. Why isn’t that part finished before water lines are put on another road close by?” Many others commented on the hopscotch pattern of access to city water and the sense of unfairness and inequity that comes with this situation. Why, many asked, do the homes across the road or down the road a bit have water but we don’t?
Clean water is about a concern for the quality of the water provided through community systems. There is a concern that even when water is available it does not meet quality standards. Finally, while people understand that it might take some time to extend water lines through the county and to create a processing and distribution system that assures quality water, they want the current stopgap measures to function and do so fairly. “Upgrade equipment at water station. Until then make sure that water stations are working and price is right for people who haul water. The one at the end of Rt 36 Long Ridge is always broke and cost way too much.”
Improve roads and access to interstates
What’s the old saying? “Everyone complains about the potholes but no one ever fixes them.” Well, this is the message sent by a significant number of participants who feel that the roads, many intersections and bridges in the county are dangerous and limit economic development and residential growth. Participants provided specific examples of each of these in their recommendations for change. This comment illustrates the concerns about the transportation infrastructure in Owen County:
“ROADS. As a resident on one of the county’s worst roads, I feel that the improvement of these roads is vital to the survival of our community. Many people wish to come and reside in Owen Co. to take their family out of the fast paced Northern Kentucky/Ohio area and choose to commute back to NKY for their career. I believe more people would choose to settle here and become active in our community if there were improvements made on our county’s roads other than those three major ones that run through town. I think sometimes elected officials forget that this county comprises several sq miles, not just those in the city limits, around the schools, etc. The majority of people who populate Owen Co. do not reside in the actual city of Owenton.”
Increase public safety and directly address the drug problem within the community
There is a desire for more comprehensive police coverage of the county and a desire to see a general increase in the sense of personal safety. Of particular concern is what is asserted to be a serious drug problem within the community. “Stop pushing the drug problem under the rug. Owen County has a huge drug problem and it seems everyone is scared to address it.” There is a general sense of unease that the sense of safety and protection that once defined life in Owen County might be slipping away under the pressures of change. “I think the Sheriff is doing a good job. However, as our county grows, they as well as all other dept (fire, ambulance and rescue) will be called to do more.”
Strengthen the commitment to and support for educational excellence
There is a desire to see a range of improvements in the school system – from a greater commitment to achieving higher educational standards to lowering the drop out rate to increasing the graduation rate to more engaged teachers to enhancing school facilities. There is a recognition that growth has increased the stress on the school system, as this participant notes: “Our classrooms and test scores are being affected (by growth). We have many transient students who move in and out of our classrooms. They are behind academically due to the numerous school they have attended.” Yet people also acknowledge that the community itself has lost sight of the importance of education. “We need a well educated work force, therefore we need to do a good job educating our children so that businesses will be attracted here. There are many of our children that don’t have text books in their classes. This must be changed and we must have teachers that are excellent teachers.”
Participants commented on the need for more parental and community involvement in nurturing better schools and a greater commitment to educational achievement in youth. ‘More support of the educational system by all parents. By this I mean that the goal of each parent in this county is that their son or daughter graduates and has the skills necessary to succeed in post secondary life.” There is a sense that everyone in Owen County – whether they have children in school or not – have to accept responsibility for insuring that the children of Owen County have access to the best educational opportunities available.
VISION Imagine Owen County as you would like it to be in 20 years. How is that picture different from what it is today?
Twenty years from now, Owen County will be not much different from what it is like now……
What people cherish about Owen County defines the characteristics of the community they desire tomorrow. Still a rural community with a landscape of farms and natural areas; still reflecting small town life; still a friendly place with a strong sense of neighboring. From the perspective of many, Owen County should retain its unique qualities because they will set it apart from the “anytown anywhere” life in urban suburbia. As one participant notes, “sometimes change is good, sometimes it’s not,” and as many look into the future they feel that what might be best is not much change at all.
“I would like to think that Owen County will be almost the same in 20 years as it is now. There are too many places that are putting in subdivisions and taking up beautiful countryside just to bring in more money and people. I see Owen County as a small community, somewhere where I can establish a nice safe home and be able to raise my children without the dangers and influences of the city. “
Yet, this is not to say that Owen County can’t be better, and so many participants felt that they would like Owen County to be much as it is today, only better. What can be made better? For some, it is having more choice of employment, for others it is access to more retail choices or better community services, or as one participant explains, “A picturesque community with a balance of the rural lifestyle and modern needs. A thriving community.” The specifics of what would make Owen County “the same but better” 20 years from no, varies with the person’s perspective on what would make this the ideal place to live, but most of the suggestions revolve around enhancing the qualities of Owen County as a place to work and do business.
“Much the same as it is today – small, rural and quaint. The only difference I would like to see is a little more attention put into education, and possibly a few more small businesses. This does not mean industries, it means small family owned businesses.”
“If it is possible to keep the small town atmosphere but manage to create more jobs, more entertainment for youth and the young at heart, more variety in places to eat and more places to shop (clothing and groceries) this would be my picture.”
“I think we should keep it as a small town environment with large town/city accommodations. What I mean by that statement, natural gas, skate park, better city water, city sewage, nice roads, playground for the kids, maybe even a public pool (large city). The rural environment is great, keep the little “mom and pop” stores. This keeps the community close (small town). Do not get too commercialized (Wal-Mart, fast food on every corner). No huge subdivisions.”
“Basically just like it is today, but with Owenton massively revitalized. It would be nice to keep our quiet lifestyle in most of the county, but have Owenton a booming place with a restored downtown with many restaurants and enough variety of shops and businesses to where we could stay away from Florence forever. We can do this without selling our souls to Wal-Mart and chain fast food stores. I believe Maysville has managed this.”
Develop the tourism potential of Owen County
“We’ve developed a tourism industry based on wildlife, farming and the arts community. A thriving year-round craft mall is a focal point of the tourism industry.”
From the perspective of many participants, Owen County has enormous potential for new commercial and business development centered around multiple facets of tourism – natural resource-based tourism, agri-tourism, arts and crafts, and the small town, home town feeling. Participants provided many ideas about what tourism assets to develop and how to nurture new tourism businesses. The energy and enthusiasm about the potential for economic growth built on tourism is enormous and suggests that with some support, new businesses would develop around tourism.
“[What] I would like Owen County to be in 20 years is maybe still small with maybe a lot of small town stores where other people come here to shop and spend the weekend. With bed and breakfast and other get-aways. With craft stores and art stores to shop.”
“Owenton restored to an 1860s town that becomes the focal point for the whole county for tourism based on a master plan for a “return to yesterday” community.”
“The town would have Mom & Pop shops, a movie house, hotel with a swimming pool, restaurant, larger stores. Tour busses, horse farms with riding paths and lessons, camp grounds, fishing.”
“More tourism centered around arts and crafts, farms for visitor (to see animals, pick pumpkins), hunting and fishing for the visitors. To preserve things as they are, we need job opportunities for those in the community.”
“Family recreational campground; great for many travelers, such as attendees to the KY Speedway and other nearby functions – could be a fortunate business opportunity; great for local community.”
“A strong resource base (soil, water, air, plants and animals) and utilizing what we have to benefit the rural economy, like grassland management and rural recreation (hunting, fishing, hiking, camping).”
“This is the number one county in the state for deer hunting and we have built a wildlife tourism recreation industry based on a key asset of this community.”
“Our western border is the Kentucky River and Eagle Creek is on our northern border and we will have found a way to capitalize on these resources with tourism and recreational activities.”
“Building up the small rural areas on the many resources that are available. Small businesses, arts, crafts, natural resources, wildlife and lakes and campgrounds for example use the resources that God has blessed us with to continue growth in the rural areas.”
A vibrant local economy that provides employment opportunities and choices for consumers
In the future, Owen County will have more jobs, more higher paying jobs, and a greater diversity of jobs so that people at different points in their careers can find opportunities in the county. “Commercial and industrial growth would be great. It would produce the revenue from taxes to support the schools which will be needed as more people move here. The new businesses will provide a place for the people of Owen County to work.” The industrial building offers a ready-made site for new firms. This is essential for insuring that young adults have the choice to return home once they get their education. “I want to see our children go off to college and be able to come back to Owen Co. to make a good living. I want to see businesses prosper.”
This kind of employment growth will spur the emergence of consumer-related businesses and will also generate new revenues for local government. Equally important, residents would not be forced to leave the community in order to find employment or consumer goods and services. Hence, “the county would be a more self-sufficient, independent community with enough goods, services and employment for citizens to reduce the amount of gasoline they burn driving to other towns.”
While a significant number of participants agree on these general statements, there are differences when people begin talking about specifics. Some believe that the community needs to be sure that whatever new businesses come, they are friendly with the environment. Others noted that while it would be good to attract high tech and more professional jobs to Owen County, the educational and skill level of the local work force might not sustain this kind of growth. Still others raise a cautionary note, that while growth would be good, too much growth can threaten what is most desirable about a community. “Jobs would fuel limited population growth, which will create a demand for commercial growth. But I don’t think we want to be another Georgetown or even a Carrollton.”
When it comes to the types of commercial and retail businesses that people feel would add to their choices in the future, there are also differences of opinion. People commented on a wide variety of types of stores and restaurants but there is a split as to whether these should be the popular franchises (e.g.,
O’Charley, Applebees, K-Mart, Kroger), the mega-stores such as Wal-Mart or, “home-grown” businesses owned and operated by local people. Some recognize that this does not have to be an either/or issue, but this would require innovative entrepreneurs who operated businesses that offered goods or services competitive in price and/or quality with the franchises. And it would also require local people to shop locally and support local businesses.
What is clear, is that people want more consumer choices as well as more and better employment opportunities. Whether participants would say that the following description represents a dream come true or a nightmare depends on how they balance economic development and the preservation of the cherished aspects of the community.
“In 20 years from now, I would like to see an updated town which is Owenton. People in Owen Co aren’t much of making changes. I think a Big Super Center Wal-mart, Kroger store, video store, more women’s clothing stores, like Cato’s, Goodies, Fashion Shop. A multiple variety of restaurants to eat in. Especially a place to get fresh meats and vegetables that stay open until 10 of a night. A six movie Cinema, a bowling alley and a big building for relaxing, indoor pool, tennis court, volley ball court and I can go on and one. The picture that I see today is Owenton and Owen County has none of this. This big change will keep our own money in our own town and it will prosper 110% overall. This will make Owen County a wealthy community.”
Growth will be managed and linked with improvements in the infrastructure so that the rural beauty and small town culture will remain intact
“I would like to see OC grow but we need to try to keep somewhat of a rural and small town image at the same time it will take a lot of planning and people to get this done.”
While there is a belief that growth will and for some, should happen, there is a belief that growth should occur within the context of a plan that manages the impacts of growth on the essential character of the community. Participants note that you only have to look beyond Owen County’s borders to see what happens if you do not plan for future growth. “We need only look at the Florence area and other towns to remind us of mistakes – small towns forced into change….The management of growth was so short sighted and ill-advised that Florence was easily transformed into a present day nightmare.”
If growth is going to happen, then participants want it to occur because newcomers cherish what they do about Owen County, not simply because Owen County is more convenient for certain types of development. One participant explains this as follows: “I am concerned that Owen County is vulnerable to short-sighted or mismatched agendas from several large metropolitan areas that surround it. Relatively inexpensive land and few restrictions on its use should not be the motivating factor for either residents or newcomers to live here.”
With “reasonable controls” so that there is a level of regulation of “residential growth and commercial development” it is possible to achieve “a planned community” and avoid “urban sprawl.” As one participant commented, “To prevent over development and to keep it in control, we need some zoning and regulation installed before urban sprawl could take over.”
In the future many participants say they hope comes to Owen County, the rural landscape will remain because where residential development occurs has been planned to protect this treasure. The residential development that does occur will be of good quality because building regulations insure that construction meets standards consistent with community expectations.
For a significant number of participants, there is a sense that the future landscape of Owen County depends on the actions taken today. Balanced against the awareness that not everyone in the community will enthusiastically embrace planning and growth management is a belief that such regulations are as inevitable as the growth itself. “I know that as city water comes to rural areas homes on one or five acre lots mushroom. This development has to happen. We can’t stop it. What we can do is plan – yet I’m afraid that includes zoning – clusters of homes surrounded by green space for hiking, hunting, fishing. Yes, I would rather have complete rights to do whatever I want on my property. Put up a huge windmill, maybe, or raise a gazillion chickens or prigs. It’s mine. But I mind very much seeing land chopped up and disfigured by others. And I would loudly object to a factory farm. So again, we need fair and careful regulations.”
Finally, future growth must be linked to improvements in the infrastructure, in particular access to adequate supplies of water. “Owen County would have all the basic infrastructure needs (water, gas, roads, etc) in place to handle the moderate growth from population, leaving the larger metropolitan areas.” The kinds of infrastructure that will be available to meet the needs of the future ranges from natural gas to better roads and Interstate access to telecommunications to enhanced police and fire protection and better health care. These infrastructure improvements will both support and encourage growth, and planning where and when they are introduced to Owen County will help determine the direction and rate of new development.
“Water for all areas of county to increase the value of land and attract more people from outside Owen County.”
“Owen Co has natural gas which brings industry, so young people don’t have to leave to get jobs. That changes everything! Population grows, bringing activities and stores that these people want.”
“We will be a wireless community throughout our county and we’ll have access to information at our fingertips for all households. Communication will be effortless and all citizens will have access to that communication.”
“As more houses are built, we will have to have more emergency services which will eventually call for a fire district tax to support more fire protection and ambulance services.”
Most importantly, the education system – the facilities, the teachers, the programs, and the students’ performance – will reflect the fact that “Education [is] valued and supported strongly by the community as a whole.” An outstanding educational system attracts newcomers and brings young adults back home; and growth provides the tax base that helps support the enhancement of education. “Higher level classes and more electives are being offered at the schools, along with lower class numbers per teacher. Then students can be prepared to attend colleges and succeed in jobs to come back to the community and build these houses and work at the businesses drawn into the county.”
There will be entertainment and recreational opportunities for children, teens and families
“How about a community park that actually has activities besides rec leagues for kids, churches, and more events other than the fair and truck/tractor/lawn mower pulls. I can see further extension of the walking track, renovation to the tennis courts, and additional basketball court, a shuffle board area, miniature golf, more picnic tables, more playground area for older kids, a rental booth where people can rent shuffle board equipment, putters for putt-putt, other sporting goods such as basketballs, soccer balls, tennis rackets, etc. The list goes on and on. We have a great piece of park available. It just needs some attention from the community. If it did receive the attention it deserves, then it might receive more business and some of our dollars may stay in the community instead of driving to Dry Ridge, Frankfort, Carrollton, Florence, etc. to find something to do.”
In the future, Owen County will have a youth recreation center that provides facilities and programs that will offer young persons alternatives to hanging out in parking lots or getting into trouble with drugs and alcohol. Many believe that if only youth had something constructive to do within the county, the behaviors that concern them will go away. In the future, residents hope to see an expansion of the community park system and the introduction of new recreational programs. “I would like to see the Parks and Recreation have its own park, such as a water park, baseball fields and softball fields and a community center for meetings, dances, and different activities.” Places to go and things to do for youth is seen as key to a better future.
Many also commented on the need to develop “More entertainment venues and family fun activities (parks, movie theaters, bowling alley, etc.),” so that families have choices within the community for social interaction. One participant noted the need to think about things for adults to do and said, “I would like to see venues for entertainment or constructive interaction for adults other than school activities for those with children or church functions for those of religious persuasion. I would like to see centers of activity encouraged, such as small canning kitchens, film showing like the ones this year in Monterey, informal musical performances and adult continued education opportunities for local residents.”
Development of entertainment and recreational opportunities in Owen County not only addresses a real need within the community but offers entrepreneurs possibilities for new businesses. Many of the specific types of entertainment activities suggested by participants in this process are often family-owned businesses. Moreover, recreational and entertainment opportunities are attractive to visitors and so can contribute to the diversification of tourism attractions in Owen County. As one resident notes: “More recreational facilities – lakes, camping, fishing, riding trails (horses, 4-wheelers, etc). [makes for] A good place for people to visit, relax, have fun and spend their money.”
The pride people have in Owen County will be reflected in a clean and well-kept landscape.
For many, their vision of the future is that Owen County will be “a clean, beautiful county that welcomes all visitors.” The littered road sides, poorly kept yards, standing junk around homes, and the dilapidated housing that many define as scars on the county today, will be gone. County-wide trash collection, recycling and the enforcement of nuisance ordinances combined with a growing sense of pride in the natural beauty of the county will lead to a clean community that will be attractive to both residents and visitors.
ACTION What do we need to start doing now to achieve our vision?
The path to the future begins with planning, creative ideas, and the will to act for the future people say they want. Participants endorse the need to engage in planning and goal-setting to prepare for action on key issues. Participants generated innovative ideas for how to address key issues; and most feel that Owen County had reached a place where new actions can be initiated and supported by the community at large. What follows are the key actions that need to be done to achieve the community’s vision for the future.
Increase opportunities for residents of all ages to be involved in planning and working for the future of Owen County and nurture a belief in the possibility of change that is in the best interest of the entire community.
“Form a steering committee to prioritize problems, pursue avenues of funding, propose studies and actions to be taken to solve the problems we face in the immediate future as well as the long-term. This committee needs to figure a way to promote pride in this “community” through a successful public relations campaign to get “buy in” from the established families of this county as well as the newly arrived.”
The path to the vision for the future begins with a belief in the possibility of change and a willingness to set off on the path of change. As one participant says, “We need to convince ourselves that it is possible to make the vision a reality,” while another argues, “We need to think big – “think of the possibilities” – rather than worrying about what we can’t do.” In a sense, many believe that change begins with the right attitude.
To guide change and to identify creative ways of addressing current and future challenges, knowledge is important. Several participants suggest that Owen County needs to “get serious and research and make contacts with knowledgeable people who can help us get started on accomplishing our goals. We need to get busy and get the job done!” The knowledge gathered will become the foundation for planning for and directing change. This will require the community to “take inventory on what needs to be put on the `priority list,’” and to decide on how to generate the resources necessary to support community improvements.
To be successful, planning and action will require that everyone get involved, especially “young people” because this is a process of creating a better future for the next generation. Everyone must “work together to make this come true.” One participant says that a key to the success of implementing the plan “is commitment to the organizations in our county. They are the ones who are the best promoters of the county and its benefits. Of course, this includes the churches too.”
Finally, the process of moving toward the vision for the future will depend on effective leadership and a “strong county-wide government [that] govern[s] for the common good.” Underlying many of the comments throughout this process has been a sense of growing differences within the county and a concern for what these differences mean for the future. A significant number of participants in these discussions believe that a shared vision for the future can become a rallying point for collaboration and partnerships that bring the community together.
Economic development that seeks a balance among retention and expansion of existing local businesses, the creation of entrepreneurial businesses and the attraction of new businesses that compliment the resources, talents and unique qualities of Owen County and its residents
“We are surrounded by 3 major metropolitan areas, could this be a resource for local products and services and tourism? Could we grow in the variety of agricultural products – such as herbs, trees, scrubs, ginseng, help (if legislation were there), nursery crops, home grown organic produce. Could there be subsidiary services such as local processing and transportation companies. Could we discover a self-sustaining economic growth that allows more products and crops and businesses – to keep the rural environment intact. Thus acting globally as an example of local solutions to growth and a conservative effort to steward the natural resources of nature – giving a great gift to future generations.”
“We must encourage business growth within our county. Jobs, materials and services here coupled with a quiet safe community for all ages will make Owen Co a most desirable place for all – not just a bedroom community.”
Diversity characterizes how participants think about the solutions to the economic future of Owen County; there is a realization that there is no “one right thing” that will somehow create a better economic future. Rather, there is an understanding that economic strength comes from diversity in the economic base. Participants argue that it begins with “planning to attract industry and sustain and grow small businesses” and that the community must “pursue and support businesses that share a vision of our goals.” People want “businesses that work together for a better community,” and that will “provide opportunities to young people.” Obviously, economic development will provide jobs for current and future residents as well as expand consumer choices. But a thriving economy adds to the “tax base to improve roadways and schools,” while also enhancing the standard of living of all in the community.
Many feel that this will require attracting new industries “that could hire 100 – 200 people at reasonable wages” and several pointed out that there already exists adequate space for new factories. But others feel that seeking new factories should not be the primary focus of economic development efforts. For these participants, helping entrepreneurs develop new businesses and nurturing the retention and growth of existing businesses must also be the focus of intensive efforts. One participant argues that the action that needs to be taken is “to change our vision of Owen Co. growing as an industrial community and focus on becoming a community to train our citizens to become skilled workers and to focus on becoming a tourist community.” Many note the great potential for natural-resource based as well as cultural heritage tourism. As noted in the answers to the heritage question, Owen County is recognized for the richness and diversity of its natural resources and the community needs to “provide support (govt & community) to those who are interested in starting tourism-related businesses,” and people need to “look for ways to promote and encourage new lakes and camp grounds and hunting areas.” Many participants would agree with this participant who believes that “encouragement for value-added approaches to timber and other primary products that keep the revenue in the county would encourage thriving, not just surviving, commodity production.”
The bounty of the agricultural sector is also seen as a springboard for new businesses and this will have the added benefit of helping to sustain a key component of the community’s heritage and economy – farming and farm land. Many comment on the potential for economic growth based on agriculture, but the following captures the key points: “To keep agriculture important in this county we must have local farmers’ markets and also regional markets. The Phase I money is helping farmers diversify and hopefully this will continue. A certified kitchen in the county would help farmers process what they grow. Marketing cooperatives might become very important.”
Finally, there is a sense that economic development is everyone’s business; it requires the efforts and commitment of everyone in Owen County. To grow the local economy, residents need to “shop locally as much as possible to support the local businesses,” and there needs to be a concerted effort to “promote local businesses – local businesses to provide merchandise that people want – [because] local businesses support people.” It is also important to “develop programs and policies to help entrepreneurs be successful,” and to “advertise ways to turn farms into money and hobbies into a business.” In other words, many argue that long-term growth in the economy is grounded in local people creating new local businesses.
Implement growth and land use management to protect the rural landscape and the quality of life in Owen County
“This is the place where we flounder. How do we maintain and embrace our unique qualities yet not become stagnate? I firmly believe that there should be some very strict regulations regarding the subdivision of land in Owen County. I realize that in one sense this could harm our economy, but instead let’s look upon ourselves as a very exclusive community. If only the wealthiest, blue-blooded individual might belong to some organization or group, then only the best kindest-hearted may belong to Owen County. However, without putting an obstruction in the way of those who think only with their wallets we will soon wind up with a stoplight, strip mall and convenience store every 1/4 of a mile. Because then we will attract those who think that they must have a slushee within 30 seconds of thinking that they want one. And I can tell you from experience the kind of people that will then live in our county. The ones who will call the police and complain when a tractor gets mud on the road coming out of a field or because there are deer in their yard eating their shrubs.”
Growth is occurring in Owen County and land use changes are happening. For a significant number of participants, Owen County is reaching a threshold where a decision must be made: to allow change to happen however it happens or, to manage change and its consequences. While some express concerns about zoning – the most frequently mentioned solution – the alternative – described by one participant above – is even more frightening. What people want is growth management as well as planning for how land will be used so as to protect the integrity of the rural landscape and the quality of life in the county. From the perspective of many, there is a need to “integrate farm space with business areas to promote harmony and balance in a primarily rural community (include housing development in balance).” A way to do this is
“Proceed with Mr. Y’s idea to discuss growth management – by discussing and planning for our growth, we can control it and direct it in a way that’s best for our county.”
“Land use planning which will help preserve the beauty of the rural landscape, manage the strain growth will apply to provide utilities and other infrastructure development..I agree with Mr. X that growth is coming whether we want it or not. We will be sorry if we don’t prepare.”
While there are many strategies for managing the pace and nature of growth and many strategies for implementing a land use plan, most participants focus on zoning as the most likely strategy. But zoning can be a double edged sword, and many recognize this and state the need to walk cautiously down this path. As one comments, we need to “recognize the need for some type of community planning and zoning while keeping it limited so as not to diminish the basic rights of individual families to address their own home and property needs.” Zoning needs to be “sensible” and “citizen-oriented” so as to reflect “a cross section of citizens’ interests.” Others state the need for building requirements that will assure the quality of housing construction within Owen County. The general tone of the comments about the need for planning and zoning linked to a clear vision for the future landscape of the county is reflected in the following suggestion:
“Hire a trained person to design (with a lot of help) the “new Owen County” to build a model of future city and attractions in the county so people could visualize what the goal would be. This person would lead and pace the people through the design stage and then the actions part of making the dream come reality. All of this would not be easy but it is a proven fact that i we do not change we die – It can be done, others have.”
Still others say that Owen County must go farther than this if it is to protect its farm land, forests, and other natural resources. This means finding ways to make it worthwhile for rural land owners to preserve their lands and not develop them. Obviously, making farming more profitable enhances the value of farm land, but also important is providing incentives to landowners to keep rural lands open. An example of how this might be done is as follows: “We need the state government to buy the development rights (as they are doing in some counties) and put into agricultural conservation to save farm land from being destroyed. We may need it some time.”
A significant proportion of participants in this process believe that planning for growth and change is essential to the future of the county. The majority of the participants also believe that some form of zoning is necessary to implement a land use plan. While recognizing that this may not be popular with everyone in the community, there is a sense that this may be the only way to protect the qualities of community that make Owen County a special place to live and raise a family.
Develop a plan for the expansion and enhancement of community services and facilities so as to support future growth
“Plan so as the community grows what you put in place now will still work in 2020. Large enough facility to handle waste products if you put in city sewage; large enough water lines to handle the volume of water people will consume. The roads to handle volume.”
Economic and business growth as well as residential development must be linked to improvements in the infrastructure. Without improvements in and expansion of water, sewer and natural gas services in Owen County, it will be difficult to attract new industry and to maintain the quality of the environment. Specifically, Owen County must “develop plan for city water and sewer” so as to “increase water and sewer availability.” Furthermore, it is imperative to “get natural gas to the area for industrial growth” and “plan for…growth by developing a long term traffic plan.” Finally, an outstanding educational system “can help to attract new businesses and increase [the] tax base,” and work-ready graduates who are prepared to enter the labor force encourage business development. But an adequate infrastructure of facilities and services doesn’t just happen, and many participants believe that Owen County must plan to meet the public service needs of current and future residents.
Appoint a Task Force to develop recommendations to the Fiscal Court on adoption of a land use plan and the most effective methods of implementing the plan.
There needs to be further discussion and evaluation of the options available to Owen County to manage growth and land use changes. There is great interest among residents in having an opportunity to determine the content of a land use plan and how it might be implemented. A Task Force of citizens and public officials can identify goals for a land use plan, review and evaluate options for implementation, and present a proposal to the Fiscal Court and other local governments on how to proceed. It is recommended that Fiscal Court members and the mayors of all incorporated places should appoint the members of this Task Force so that the diverse interests in the community are represented. An application form for the Task Force should be developed and all residents provided an opportunity to volunteer to participate on the Task Force. From the volunteers and others nominated by local government, the Judge Executive and Mayors should select the Task Force members to reflect the diverse interests in Owen County (e.g., real estate, financial, agricultural, business, environmental, educational, and towns and neighborhoods).
Adopt an economic development plan for Owen County that expands employment opportunities and consumer choices.
An economic development plan says that a community is serious about creating a vibrant economy that enhances opportunities and increases the standard of living for individuals and families. But economic growth and diversification don’t just happen, they are the result of careful planning and planned actions. An economic development plan must identify the county’s assets – geographic, physical, human, natural resource-based – evaluate current economic conditions, identify opportunities for new business initiatives, and then determine and implement strategies for nurturing new economic activity.
Implement a county-wide beautification program that engages community organizations and residents in demonstrating their pride in Owen County by reducing litter and enhancing the landscape.
A consistent theme throughout these discussions has been the trash and junk littering the community as well as the lack of pride apparent in the condition of yards and homes and other buildings. Many people called for the enforcement of existing nuisance laws and a community-wide effort to clean up roadsides, yards, and dilapidated buildings. This isn’t a dream, it can easily become a reality through a community-wide effort that engages youth and adults as well as civic and nonprofit organizations and local government in cleaning up and beautifying the county. There is a sense that the “look” of a community reflects the pride that people have in their place and that new businesses are not attracted to places where there is no pride.
Convene a public services summit to build partnerships and establish goals and a time line for expansion and enhancement of community services.
Development and expansion of the community infrastructure is essential for both economic and residential growth and is the foundation for protecting the quality of the natural environment. Communities that are successful in matching the capacity of their infrastructure to the demands on it achieve this through capital improvements planning. Capital improvements planning develops a 10 to 20 year plan for the development and expansion of public infrastructure and services; specifies the geography of development and expansion; and establishes strategies for funding. This kind of planning requires the cooperation of public agencies, local governments and the private sector. A public services summit brings together representatives of these different groups and identifies key goals for infrastructure development.
Appoint a Task Force of youth and adults to make recommendations on improvements and expansion of parks and recreational programs.
Parks and recreation programs are at the core of what many persons and businesses define as a “good quality of life.” A Task Force of youth and adults can help Owen County to identify facilities and programs that address the needs and interests of youth of all ages, adults, and families. It is important that youth be a part of this discussion because they will be the users of the facilities and programs.