Best of Both Worlds

‘Small Town Sexy’ author Huston
relates tips to La Grange leaders

Discover Downtown La Grange
outlines its plans for 2012

By Don Ward

LA GRANGE, KY. (February 2012) – Kim Huston loves small towns. She grew up in one, lives in one and works for one.

Kim Huston


Huston is a Nelson County, Ky., native who resides in Bardstown, the bourbon-making capital of the world, and where she now serves as the president of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency. The agency also houses tourism, Downtown Development, Industrial Development and the Chamber of Commerce all under one roof but maintaining their separate identities.
But Huston does more than work to attract new business and industry to town. As the author of the 2009 book, “Small Town Sexy,” she travels the region talking about the merits of living and working in a small town.
“I wrote the book because I was tired of small towns having the reputation that they were dying on the vines and tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street.” She interviewed 25 people around the country and discovered that small towns are not dying but rather are alive and well.
“In fact, people are leaving the big cities and moving out to the small towns. I wanted people to know you can live large in a small town.”
She cites small town advantages as having a sense of place, low cost of living, convenience, opportunity to get involved in community organizations or serve in local government, and to essentially enjoy the best of both worlds.

Book Cover

Bardstown, with a population 11,000, is located on the doorstep of Louisville, offering residents there the best of both worlds – rural living with the advantages of the big city just a short drive away. The same could be said for La Grange, just 25 miles up I-71 from metro Louisville. So when Huston was invited to speak to the Discover Downtown La Grange members on Jan. 24 at their annual “State of the Community” meeting, Huston’s experiences sounded all too familiar.
Discover Downtown La Grange is the town’s Main Street Program that works to develop and maintain a vibrant downtown business district. In her book, Huston, like other economic development-minded officials, says the heart of any community is its downtown, so it is essential that it remain strong.
Huston was the guest speaker to about 50 people at the Rob Morris Chapel meeting room in La Grange and provided a Powerpoint presentation of the tenants from her book. A 1983 University of Kentucky graduate, Huston spent much of her career as a broadcast journalist working in TV and radio. Now an “economic recruiter,” Huston also serves on the Kentucky Association of Economic Development Board of Directors, where she has been named the “Economic Professional of the Year.”
Bardstown recently completed a $3 million streetscape project and has developed a strong and active Farmers’ Market.
During her visit to La Grange, population 8,200, Huston said she was impressed with the city’s potential, especially considering its close proximity to Louisville and with a rural lifestyle that people are seeking. DDL Executive Director Linda Goin echoed Huston’s remarks in giving her report on past accomplishments after only her first year as director and outlining the goals for the next year.
“We have had nearly $400,000 in private investment to buy and renovate our old buildings over the past year,” Goin said. “We’ve had 61 jobs created by new business openings in the downtown area. As of right now, we have every storefront rented or filled. And we are starting to build a sense of community.”
Several new events are planned for this year. It started with a very successful second annual Elvis Birthday Celebration, held in January. Then the third annual Shop Local Bridal Fair took place in late January. The Chocolate Crawl is returning for its second year in February. A car club will brings its car show to town on the fourth Saturday of each month between April to October. The Blue Hydrangea Progressive Tea Party is scheduled for April. And the city’s weekly Farmers’ Market opens in May and runs through October. The Railroad and Antiques Festival is scheduled to return in September. There are also Ghost Tours in the fall and the biggest event, the Light Up La Grange holiday event, in early December.
Goin also announced at the meeting that Karen Eldridge of Karen’s Book Barn had been selected as the organization’s “Volunteer of the Year” and that Cub Bank had been selected as its “Business of the Year.” Both were recognized Jan. 25 at the Kentucky Main Street state convention in Frankfort. Jim Zimmerman, an active DDL member works at the Cub Bank La Grange branch and helped to create the inaugural La Grange Railroad Festival last fall.
DDL promotions chair Robin Work reported that the organization hosts 80 events throughout the year, which is quite an achievement. The $200 a year dues all go into the promotions fund this year to help market those events, she said. One new promotion is an online campaign called “The 52 Faces of La Grange” which profiles various people in the community. Also ongoing is a strategic plan being developed by University of Cincinnati design students. A final report is due soon.

• For more information, visit: www.DiscoverDowntownLaGrange.org. For more information about Kim Huston and her book, visit: www.SmallTownSexyBook.com.

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