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Picture a community completely devoid of industrial parks, only two large companies, and only a small water supply barely adequate to serve its residents.
That was Shelbyville in the 1950s, before an organization was born that took Shelby from a trickling economic climate to the thriving business community it is today, with seven industrial parks and more than 70 industries.
The Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation is celebrating 60 years today with a reception at Jeptha Creed Distillery that will include such guests as former Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins.
Libby Adams, executive director of the foundation, said the organization's 10 community leaders, who established the foundation on March 25, 1957, did so with the goal of trying to find a way to improve Shelby's economic climate to the point where it would attract industry to build here so that young people could find jobs at home after graduation.
To do that, they decided that the main thing that the community needed to support such an industrial base was a better water supply, so they raised $30,000 and purchased the land on which the Guist Creek dam was located, and had a large lake built, she said.
That set the wheels in motion, she added.
"If that lake had never been built, Shelbyville wouldn't be the city it is today, because industry wouldn't have been able to come, because there wouldn't have been an adequate water supply," she said.
The foundation was formed out of a committee composed of the following members of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce: Everett Hall, Ray P. Weller, Auldon G. Edwards, Harry M. Long, Bernard B. Davis, William A. Scearce, George Bussey Jr., Stallard Smith, Alfred Moffett Jr. and Samuel Liss.
Through the years, the foundation has been instrumental in completing several key projects throughout the community, including establishing Shelby's seven industrial parks, Shelby County Parks Family Activity Center, the building of Guist Creek Lake and the building of Jefferson Community and Technical College.
Adams said that everyone who has ever been involved with the foundation, including its current 15 board members, has a great sense of pride in the organizations' achievements over the past six decades.
"Just the amount of industry that we've been able to work with at some point in time to bring about 8,500 jobs here," she said.
David Eaton, who has been a board member for more than 20 years now, said that sense of pride is just as strong now as it’s ever been.
“It’s been a privilege to be on this board because we’ve brought so many quality jobs into the community and as a result of that, people have a higher quality of life in Shelby County,” he said. “The benefits go far beyond the jobs because it’s helped in the educational system; it’s helped grow our parks system. The people that have involved in the Industrial Foundation over the years have just done an incredible service for our community.”
Adams said the founders accomplished their goals by working to raise money to finance some key projects they believed would become the backbone of Shelby's economic climate.
"So part of what they did, they sold shares of stock and raised $30,000, and used that money to start the industrial park [Brooks Industrial Park was first] and with some of that funding, they helped to secure the land rights for where Guist Creek Lake is now, and that lake was built," she said. "Guist Creek was dammed up. Then the lake was constructed. That's why we own and operate Guist Creek marina today, because we were instrumental in helping to get that lake built.”
Said Adams: "We had a hand in bringing the majority of those [jobs] here. We were instrumental in bringing the community college here. We worked with a group that secured the land where the land is and worked with them and sold the land back to the state at a much reduced cost, so we've got about $300,000 invested in the college. We were also able to give a $100,000 donation to the parks system when it started for the Family Activity Center. Only the Waldridge Center was there then."
Since the establishment of the Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation 60 years ago, Shelby’s industrial base has grown from two industries, Logan’s Laundry and Roll Forming, to its current 70 industries.
Most of that time, the organization has been under the leadership of Bobby Hudson, who has served as president for the past 47 years.
“We are very lucky,” he said. “There may be two [industrial foundations] in the state; the rest are authorities, which means they’re run by the cities and the counties. We are a stand-alone; we have never taken any money from the city or county or anybody. We’ve got a location and a workforce here that people can trust and a place where they can bring their companies to our town where they knew they would get a good day’s work out of their employees. I think the word got out that we are a great place to locate a company and a great place to live.”
State Rep. Rob Rothenburger (R-Shelbyville), said during the decade and a half when he was Shelby County Judge-Executive, he appreciated working with the foundation to improve the county’s economic climate.
“It was extremely fortunate that Shelby County recognized the need for an industrial foundation years and years ago,” he said. “The gentlemen who started the foundation sixty years ago, they had the foresight to take on a very continuous endeavor for Shelby County that many people at that time did not think we needed. But they pressed forward and this county has benefited enormously as a result of the charter members’ efforts to secure land, to bring in manufacturing and industrial jobs and to work with Fish and Wildlife to secure a water source. The benefits and fruits of their labors have paid tremendously sixty years later.”
Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty echoed those sentiments.
“I feel like the economy of Shelby County has been greatly enhanced over the last sixty years by the Industrial Foundation and its partnerships with Shelby County’s three governing bodies,” he said. “Thousands of people owe their jobs and careers to the Industrial Foundation for the recruitment and retention efforts that the Foundation has done for Shelby County.”