'Uniquely Woodford' campaign will spread word of county's distinctiveness

gkocher1@herald-leader.comSeptember 28, 2013 

Uniquely Woodford aims to put its horse and bourbon barrel logo on local products.

Now the real work begins.

After successfully completing an eight-minute promotional video, a two-hour documentary and a logo for a new economic-development campaign, the grassroots effort known as "Uniquely Woodford" must now put these tools to use inside and outside the county.

Uniquely Woodford aims to promote the distinct character of products created in Woodford County. Organizers hope to foster job growth by pushing a Woodford brand, in the same way that Kentucky Proud promotes agricultural products from the Bluegrass State.

The first local business to adopt the horse-and-bourbon-barrel logo was Woodford Wicks Candle Co. of Versailles. The four-year-old company makes and sells hand-crafted scented candles, including a line of Duck Dynasty candles and even candles with bourbon and wine fragrances.

Uniquely Woodford has value because "it identifies the products that are made here in Woodford County, businesses that are grassroots-homegrown, and letting the world know that Woodford County has a lot to offer," said Woodford Wicks co-owner Patti Butler.

In the coming months, the logo will become more visible as it spreads through social media, letterheads, websites, product labels and even shirts and caps.

Meanwhile, an eight-minute video, made for $11,000 with a combination of public and private dollars, is already making the rounds of various economic-development outlets. The video concentrates on interviews with local people talking about what sets Woodford County apart from other areas, and makes only scant mention of roads, rail lines and other amenities that industries might wish to know.

In November, KET will broadcast My Kentucky Home: Woodford County, a two-hour documentary that was made through $90,000 in private `contributions. The documentary, which debuted in August, gives a fuller picture of the county's history, landscape and quality of life.

Focusing on quality of life was deliberate, said Ken Kerkhoff, a Versailles City Council member who directs the marketing and implementation of Uniquely Woodford.

"Those are the things that employers are looking for — for their employees to have a strong quality of life," Kerkhoff said. "All those things take a concerted effort. They don't happen on their own. Somebody's got to decide what we want and go after them."

Ultimately, the success of the campaign will be judged on the attraction of new industries and the retention of existing ones.

Kerkhoff noted that Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott has appointed a task force to look at the retention and recruitment of commercial businesses, such as a Wal-Mart, restaurants and unique shops.

The grassroots group called Woodford Tomorrow is the guiding force for the campaign at the moment. With a membership drawn from a cross-section of the county, the committee started a fund for community development, which was the vehicle through which the promotional video and documentary were produced.

In the coming months, Woodford Tomorrow will go to local governments to seek funding to take Uniquely Woodford to a wider audience.

But Kerkhoff, Butler and Woodford native and consultant Doug Henton of California said people will ultimately determine whether Uniquely Woodford is sustainable. Henton was involved in the early stages of Uniquely Woodford, and led a workshop to get participants talking about what differentiates the county from others.

"In this day and age, small companies are where the work is," Henton said in a telephone interview. "There are very few really big companies. What drives them are the people. People start businesses, people sustain businesses and people grow businesses.

"And so, the key to this economy is human capital and holding onto talent," Henton said. "Quality of life and the ability to provide people with a community where they want to live is critical to human capital. When you think about a place like Woodford County, maintaining the quality of the community and making it a place where people want to live and want to come and stay, is critical to the future vitality of the economy."

Henton said Uniquely Woodford is as much about telling the story of Woodford County to residents as it is to the world beyond the county's borders.

"You can't really tell people to come to your community if you don't really believe what you are," Henton said. "It's almost like you have to have the self-awareness first."

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader

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