By JEFF JOBE
I love newspapers and the communities we serve.
That may sound self-serving, but it’s not completely. I’ve worked inside the industry my entire adult life, but I actually pay for three other newspapers to be delivered to my home and visit other communities as much as I possibly can.
If God is willing, I’ll be visiting my daughter Reagan in Vienna, Austria this fall and there is a very good chance I’ll pick up a dozen newspapers in my travels at that time. It is a way of life for me.
It is because of this job that I have love for our communities and can see our true beauty.
A “pet peeve” of mine is assuring officials following our laws and spend our tax dollars wisely.
Over the years I have come to realize there is nothing more important to a community than their Main Street or Public Square and it is the most neglected aspect of our Kentucky heritage.
I am so passionate about the downtown communities in which we serve that I have managed our company real estate portfolio to include 11 downtown properties in the 7 communities we serve.
Among them is the oldest standing building in one downtown community, one with a full walk-in safe in the basement, old post offices in another two counties, the oldest homestead type structure in another, the newest in one and the biggest in another.
One common factor in all of these buildings is that they require maintenance and over the years I have seemed to throw money out the window in trying to keep them updated and some need more at this time.
I have put new windows in buildings, painted the fronts, and installed costly awnings while other properties have cardboard covering windows or holes where windows should be and paint jobs one might think someone’s drunk uncle might have done.
I’ve seen dozens of politicians spend thousands of dollars for study after study and just as many say we can’t do anything until the study gets back. I attended another first and last one of those a few weeks ago. They are a waste of anyone’s time who really wants to roll up their sleeves for a community.
It’s not the money, heck I have authorized more than $300,000 in downtown renovations this year alone. I am planning another $200,000 in the next few months ahead and if the economy continues to grow another $250,000 in one of the newest communities we serve for fiscal year of 2020.
This downtown revitalization effort my family has taken on isn’t going unnoticed and this in itself is a tremendous feeling. Local and state officials seem to be very appreciative and there is not a day that goes by that several individuals in Glasgow don’t stop in at Yancey’s Gastropub and Brewery or the Barren County Progress office to say thanks.
The renovation of the historic Yancey building, starting the microbrewery and having it going so well has encouraged us to purchased the old Glasgow recreation center and the lot behind it. In the coming months, we will officially announce the regions first amphitheater, dinner theatre venue, concert venue and more.
None of this would be possible without local people supporting the brewery and our live music venue; it is because of Glasgow that these tourist destinations are coming.
Being appreciated is a very powerful motivator and one that costs nothing. It costs not a single dime to show appreciation to the property owners maintaining their property by enforcing ordinances about making sure others aren’t boarded up, or awnings, plaster and concrete falling on the sidewalks.
If I could have one wish granted that I know would help us grow South Central Kentucky it would be to stop spending money on studies and enforce maintenance ordinances. Yet I believe we should enforce with love in our hearts. By this I mean require the repairs, but offer incentives instead of fines. Tell the property owner who has 10 boarded up windows that if they fix by a certain date then they could get a 25-50% one time cost sharing reimbursement; but if not fixed, then they will be fined.
I’m not sure this is legal and since I came up with it, I’m certain there are several extreme liberal and conservative attorneys out here who will find issue with it anyway. Yet I’m comfortable my readers understand my point.
We do not have a single downtown that could not be a tourism destination and I am seeing thousands being spent to push entertainment and commerce away from downtown when those of us who have traveled know people would rather stay in the heart of the communities they visit. Spending $5-$10,000 for the hottest band in the world does nothing for SCKY if hosted in the middle of a lot 5 miles out of town.
Just imagine how cool it would be if we could come together and help make a town square we all choose to support, one with nice restaurants we could visit after church, a place to have a cup of coffee before work or a cold adult beverage after. How cool would it be if we had people riding bikes, walking and selling their crafts every weekend, and just imagine a hometown where people could live above our shops and walk to an inside comedy show or outside blues festival.
Just as in the popular movie “Field of Dreams,” if we build it for ourselves then they will come. Literally, hundreds of thousands of people are visiting Mammoth Cave, Green River, Lake Cumberland, Barren River Lake, our museums, and theaters and driving past the heart of who we are in South Central Kentucky because we can’t agree that our downtowns are a priority.
Jeff Jobe is founder and CEO of Jobe Publishing, Inc. His commentary reflects his personal views and does not reflect the views of personal or professional associations and affiliations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his previously published commentary at sckentucky.com