The impact former state Rep. Jody Richards has made in Warren County is so vast as to be almost immeasurable.
Many of the amenities we take for granted – such as Bowling Green Ballpark, Stadium Park Plaza and the Southern Kentucky Performance Arts Center – would likely not be here if it were not for his efforts.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, community leaders had their eyes set on using Tax Increment Financing legislation to get such projects built in downtown Bowling Green. The problem was that the state’s TIF regulations at the time did not support the kind of project that was then being proposed in Bowling Green.
Enter Richards, who was House speaker for more than a decade and served for a record 43 years in the legislature before retiring in 2018.
Despite his influence, “it really was a tough battle,” Richards previously told the Daily News. “The Revenue Cabinet could see down the road (that) the state would lose a considerable amount of money.”
But Richards said when he saw “what it could do for Bowling Green, we really went to bat. ... It was quite a battle because it was something different.”
Richards successfully shepherded through legislation that led to the formation of the WKU Gateway to Downtown TIF District, which has now seem more than $350 million in investments in downtown Bowling Green.
Richards was also able to secure separately more than $6 million for construction of SKyPAC, which has served as the center of arts for the region since it opened in 2012.
That’s why it was a fitting honor when a plaque was unveiled last week at SKyPAC marking Richards’ contributions.
A day honoring Richards’ efforts “was long overdue,” said Jeff Reed, president and CEO of Arts of Southern Kentucky – the entity now operating SKyPAC – at last week’s plaque unveiling.
“Years from now people will come up and read this plaque and remember your contribution,” he said.
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon added that “without a doubt (SKyPAC) would not be here today without ... Jody Richards.”
Several speakers called the 1,800-seat performing arts center the “crown jewel” of a revitalized downtown, and that it is.
It is important to remember that such projects and progress come only through the efforts of many individuals, and Richards stands tall among those who have made Bowling Green and Warren County the thriving community it is today.