Despite challenges, officials optimistic about Warren County’s future
BOWLING GREEN, Ky.- Ron Bunch will be the first to tell you, Bowling Green is booming.
“We’ve been very blessed,” said Bunch, the president and CEO of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce. “We have a very balanced economy, which is fantastic. I really see that continuing into the future. We will continue to be very strong in each of the different sectors.”
Bunch is referring to sectors like manufacturing, where new companies are coming in and existing companies are expanding in areas like the South Central Kentucky Industrial Park and the Kentucky Transpark.
While Bunch is more than optimistic, he’s also well aware of the challenges over the next 10 years, especially when it comes to baby boomers in the workforce.
“We are going to see 165,000 transitions in the next decade; 65,000 people, or about 40%, are the retirement of people moving out of a position,” said Bunch.
That’s where local school districts come into play. The Chamber is partnering with many of them by teaming up on programs to prepare students for work after high school.
“We’ve been investing in SCKLAUNCH and working with the schools. With the people that are here, we’ve got some great systems that we built some world-class results in,” said Bunch.
Yet, those schools districts are facing their own hardships and working to prepare for growth. Warren County Superintendent Rob Clayton has been at the helm for the last seven years.
“Based on just the last five years alone, when you look at the fact that we’ve grown approximately 2,500 students and more than 3,000 students since I’ve been here, we can anticipate, unless the economy shifts, that it very well could be double that amount in 10 years,” said Clayton.
For that reason, the district is building bigger schools. One example is the new Cumberland Trace Elementary, which is set to open early next year.
“We are watching development occur throughout our county, and again, we want to position ourselves to be in the best position to be prepared,” said Clayton.
Going to school or work wouldn’t be possible without adequate infrastructure and with the community growing rapidly, leading to more people on the roads, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is planning ahead.
“I think we are looking at large corridors. I think we are looking at U.S. 31 W and Three Springs Road. What can we do to address U.S. 231, along with how do we address rural areas? Those needs need to be met. There are a lot of challenges, but a lot of exciting things that are happening and going to happen,” said Wes Watt, a public information officer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
One exciting thing is an initiative that started a couple years ago and will continue over the next few years. The Bridging Kentucky program addresses replacing, repairing and rehabilitating 1,000 aging bridges in the state.
“Can a bridge handle a fire truck? Can a bridge handle a school bus? If they can’t, the routes around the bridge are tremendous and we are looking at a whole lot of problems,” said Watt.
Whether it’s Bunch, Clayton or Watt, no one wants to encounter problems between now and 2030. While no one knows for sure what the future holds, those officials are firm believers that with some strategic planning, successful collaborations and a little hard work, Bowling Green and the surrounding area will continue to be booming in the years to come.