Scott County

Scott County’s population growth brings benefits, challenges

Construction along Johnstone Trail among existing homes in Georgetown.
Construction along Johnstone Trail among existing homes in Georgetown.

Evidence of Scott County’s growth is everywhere.

From mom-and-pop shops to new subdivisions to a recently completed interstate interchange to new industrial development, it’s difficult to find a facet of the county that is standing still.

Here’s why: In 1960, according to the U.S. Census, the population was 15,376.

In 2015, it was 52,420.

By 2040, about 97,745 people will be living in the county, recent data shows.

Much of the growth is related to the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant — the car company’s first stand-alone vehicle manufacturing facility in the United States — that opened 30 years ago and now employs 8,000 people.

How are the county and its residents handling all the changes that come with the population uptick? Here’s a look.

Downtown development

Melissa Miller, co-owner of em+me boutique on Main Street, has seen downtown Georgetown grown substantially in the past decade.

“The downtown has really been revitalized,” she said, with new businesses and restaurants over the past year. And that’s helped her customer base as well.

Some of those businesses include Red State Taps, a craft beer bar just off South Broadway on 123 Opera Alley and Slainte Public House, a pub on 320 East Main Street.

Lori Saunders, director of the Georgetown/Scott County Tourism commission, said the downtown businesses are doing well.

“They are feeling the effects of prosperity, of growth and people are coming to their places of business to shop and dine,” she said.

Top-growing Kentucky county

Scott County’s growth is projected to make it the top-growing county in Kentucky by percentage by 2040, easily beating out the two biggest counties, Fayette and Jefferson.

According to a projection by the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville, Scott County’s population will see about an 86.5 percent increase by 2040.

The data is based on historic trends, said Matt Ruther, director of the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville. And jobs play a major role in that growth.

“If you have more jobs, then people are going to be closer to that,” he said.

In the past decade, Scott County’s growth has been “tremendous,” mainly because of migration, Ruther said, and he expects to see that migration pattern continue.

Industry, property also expanding

Toyota’s success — including the 2015 announcement of its expansion with the production of the Lexus — has affected other aspects of the county’s manufacturing sector.

For example, there have been expansions at Leggett & Platt Inc., which produces residential furniture including bed springs and bed frames, and at Toyota Tsusho America, which manages the marketing, sales and exports of vehicles, parts and accessories, said Jack Conner, executive director of Scott County United, the group that assists companies with economic development.

Both businesses were approved in 2016 to add as many as 108 jobs combined, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

Conner said he has been in discussions with companies about other new expansions. The recent economic developments further substantiates Scott County’s focus on both new investment and its existing economic base, he said.

New jobs bring new people and people need housing, which means another area of country growth is in property values.

Currently, the total amount of real estate in Scott County is assessed at more than $3.8 billion, said Tim Jenkins, the property valuation administrator for the county.

In 1986, the total amount of county real estate was assessed at slightly more than $318 million. There were some years, such as in 2007, Jenkins said, when the amount of assessed real property increased more than the total assessed real property that was on the books in 1986.

“It’s crazy,” he said.

Some of the notable developments in Scott County include the Rocky Creek Farm east of Georgetown, the Mallard Point subdivision north of Georgetown and the Homestead subdivision west of Georgetown.

Development is also happening in the areas near Interstate 75. Most recently, Camping World, a recreational vehicle store that also sells supplies for camping, has started building near the southbound side of Exit 125 on Interstate 75.

Construction on the site began late last year.

Toyota’s impact

A lifelong Scott County resident, Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby credits Toyota as the catalyst for the county’s growth. Before the plant broke ground in Georgetown in 1986 and began production in 1988, the county was a negative trajectory, Lusby said.

“The first three or four years, (there was) very slow growth,” he said. “And now it’s just rampant.”

Just four to six years ago, Scott County was a small farming community, he said. It’s biggest restaurant was probably a fast food restaurant or Fava’s restaurant, a local eatery. Now, the county economy is focused on manufacturing, with agriculture playing a smaller part and there are many chain restaurants in the area.

“We’re blessed,” he said.

Having a good working relationship with Scott County officials has been important to the growth of Toyota, said Rich Hesterberg, Toyota North America manager of external affairs.

About four times a year, the executive Toyota team meets with the Georgetown mayor and Scott County judge-executive to discuss the needs of the community and the affairs of the automotive industry, he said.

Good relationships with the state government have helped the company, too, he said.

For example, Toyota has partnered with Bluegrass Community and Technical College to create a manufacturing center that will serve 1,200 students on Toyota’s campus. The center’s programming will include industrial maintenance, electronics, robotics, mechanical drives, and industrial electricity. The center is scheduled to open Jan. 9.

Toyota has 8,000 full-time employees now. Hesterberg said he doesn’t have any projections for how many employees Toyota could have by 2040.

“After the expansion of Lexus, it would be hard to be imagine us expanding beyond that,” he said.

County growth concerns

Joe Kane, director of the Georgetown-Scott County planning commission, said there’s a plan to help manage Scott County’s projected growth.

A five-year comprehensive plan provides “a snapshot of where Scott County is in terms of its growth management” and provides guidance to decision-makers in their efforts to develop and implement consistent growth policy decisions. The plan — created with help from the public — is called “Great Scott!”

According to a draft posted online from September, the plan includes preserving prime farmland for agricultural use, and increasing the construction standards for new roads to reduce the length of roads. A final version is in the works and is anticipated to be completed by early 2017.

It is important for Scott County to continue to develop as more employees with higher-paying jobs work there, he said.

“We really need to address local infrastructure, like the local roads,” he said. “We’ve got good regional roads, but we need upgrades to local roads to handle the growth.”

Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather said it’s important for the city to manage its projected growth, too.

“Clearly too much growth can be unhealthy and it’s our responsibility to find the correct balance,” he said.

To help handle some of the growth, the county is planning to hiring five to 10 full-time employees next year, Lusby said. Currently, the county employees about 225 full-time and 40 part-time employees. The city of Georgetown employs just over 200.

The growth brings concerns about crime, fire protection and health care. Prather said one priority is to keep the public safe as Georgetown grows.

“The primary job of local government is public safety, so it is essential that we have adequate police, fire, (and) ambulance personnel,” he said. The city might look at building a new fire station in the next few years.

The Scott County jail is overcrowded, which county officials attributed partly to its growing population. Lusby said it is likely the Scott County Fiscal Court will tackle the issue within the next two years.

Also, the growth is affecting the public school system. The county has one high school, and school officials are planning for a new high school called Great Crossing High School.

This fall, about 9,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade students were enrolled in the public schools. According to the Kentucky Department of Education, Scott County’s enrollment in 2006 was about 7,200.