In Kentucky’s heartland, an economic development initiative known as Wired65 is allowing civic leaders in 26 counties to look beyond the physical and political boundaries that organize them, and devote their time, passion and expertise to regional collaboration. Initiated by the Lincoln Trail Area Development District Workforce Investment Board through a federal grant, the $5 million Wired65 program began as a workforce development strategy covering 15 Kentucky counties, primarily to address the Fort Knox workforce expansion under BRAC. It soon became evident to area leaders that the regional boundaries needed to be enlarged in order to realize their vision of an area that could compete globally in a wide range of economic areas.

“It wasn’t a 26-county focus when we first started,” says Kim Huston, Wired65 co-chair and president of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency. “But once we got into it, we knew we needed to bring the larger Louisville metro area, which meant including southern Indiana and also moving southward to Green County. Now, we have six area development districts that are involved, covering 26 counties.”

Working in such a large region has its advantages and its challenges, Huston says, but because community leaders understand that economic prosperity and innovation occur when regional assets are linked, working in a larger region offers greater rewards.

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