The West Kentucky Alliance for a Vibrant Economy (WAVE) is a strategic partnership of Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman Counties in Kentucky. These counties share many of the same assets: small town compassion, strategic location, extraordinary ecology and culture, first-class education, strong agriculture tradition and access to social services. Recognizing the need to take a proactive approach to economic development, in April of 2016 the county judge executives of these four counties contracted with CivicPoint, the public affairs affiliate of the law firm Frost Brown Todd, to facilitate a multi-year economic development project for the four county region.
In May of 2016, dozens of community leaders from the four counties attended strategic planning sessions to identify local and regional assets and liabilities and to develop plans to foster cooperation among the counties to foster economic growth.
One of the key recommendations for action was the establishment of a WAVE Steering Team, an informal governing body to ensure implementation of the Strategic Plan. The committee includes committed public sector and private institution champions who have committed to WAVE for the long haul, and who have pledged to facilitate the involvement and support of the region’s constituents. WAVE has also formally enlisted partners from outside of the four counties that include top officials from state and federal government, key stakeholders in the rest of the Purchase counties, and regional and national representatives of private industries and industry groups that could potentially help bring jobs and commerce to the River Counties.
Six Implementation Teams were established to focus targeted attention on six of the most significant issues identified in this strategic planning process: Port Authority Development, Agricultural Technology, Regional Asset & Infrastructure Development, Tourism, Education and Workforce Training, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Among the key responsibilities of this ongoing committee work was the development and planning of an Annual WAVE Confluence, the first of which was held at Columbus-Belmont State Park on October 24-25, 2016. The Annual WAVE Confluence is a two-day affair, with featured speakers, implementation committee meetings and work sessions, supplemented with touring, local activities and social functions that will celebrate local assets and community leaders. Political and civic leaders from across the region, from Frankfort, and from the nation’s capital were invited to address the Confluence, and more importantly, to join in work sessions and be re-introduced to the extraordinary people, ecology and culture of the River County region.
Upon the conclusion of the first WAVE Confluence, Phase Two of the Strategic Plan will now be launched. Phase Two will continue to involve monthly meetings of each Implementation Committee identified in this Phase One plan. These committees would work to implement critical action items designated in the plan and work toward the development of the second Confluence in the fall of 2017. It is contemplated that this Confluence will be an annual affair – an opportunity for the region to assess its success and failures, revisit its priorities and bring key policymakers from Frankfort and Washington to celebrate the River County Region and join in fellowship.
During Phase Two, it is also anticipated that an Executive Director will be hired – likely from the Purchase region – to manage the project going forward, with CivicPoint taking a secondary, consulting role. The Executive Director would be chosen and hired by the Project’s Steering Committee.
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