Economic development lessons from Bowling Green

August 14, 2014 

Last September, when the groundbreaking was held for a Hyatt Hotel in Bowling Green, the shovel-wielders included not just city officials and the developer but also Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell.

"I really do think this will be the bridge that connects campus to downtown," he said.

That idea of a partnership — a bridge between campus and community in Bowling Green — has yielded such remarkable results that it drew the attention of The New York Times.

"A University Helps Remake Its Kentucky Home," in Wednesday's business section details the impressive results since the 2007 formation of the WKU Gateway to Downtown Bowling Green — a tax-increment financing district.

Tax money captured from the district, which includes portions of the WKU campus, have assisted in both private and public projects, on campus and off.

All told, 28 projects have been completed or are under construction in the district, according to the Times.

"None of it has been easy," said Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon. But, he said, it's essential to retaining WKU graduates in Bowling Green.

Lexington and the University of Kentucky should learn from this smart example of town-gown bridge-building.

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