“Rezoning to help Transpark expand again” is not the sort of headline one would have expected to ever read when the debate over development of the northern Warren County industrial park was raging two decades ago.
That debate, fueled by opposition from Sierra Club types concerned about impacts on the environment and locals worried about losing their pastoral pastureland, has apparently been put to rest.
By any measure, the Kentucky Transpark has been a resounding success, as evidenced by that very headline in Monday’s edition of this newspaper.
The industrial park started with the 2002 rancorous rezoning to industrial of 153 acres of farmland.
That rezoning passed the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County by a single vote after hours of testimony.
Contrast that to Thursday, when the planning commission voted unanimously to approve a rezoning that will add another 232 acres to an industrial park that has grown from that doubtful debut into a thriving community of manufacturers that is arguably southcentral Kentucky region’s main economic engine.
Nary a naysayer showed up for Thursday’s meeting. In fact, Commissioner Rick Starks made a point of praising the Inter-Modal Transportation Authority that oversees the Transpark for its recent successes.
We agree with Starks. After bringing in automotive-parts manufacturer Bowling Green Metalforming in 2004, the Transpark has expanded both in size and in number of occupants.
That expansion is a key reason why Warren County grew in population by 18% from 2010 to 2020, making it Kentucky’s second-fastest growing county.
Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ron Bunch and his economic development team have brought in a broad mix of employers, ranging from such international companies as Germany-based Bilstein Cold Rolled Steel to U.S.-based manufacturers Ball Corp. and Crown Holdings.
Now close to 2,000 acres, the Transpark is home to nearly two dozen employers and some 3,000 workers.
Bunch is quick to call the economic development successes “team efforts” that involve the city of Bowling Green and Warren Fiscal Court, which issue bonds, and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, which has put together tax incentives that have helped lure employers to the Transpark.
But it’s Bunch who has quarterbacked these recruitment efforts and is continuing to put the Transpark in position to grow through land purchases and the construction of “speculative” buildings that can give industrial prospects ready-made homes.
As Bunch said after last Thursday’s meeting, in an environment where many communities are competing for employers, “we need to make sure we have sufficient land to show prospects.”
Last week’s rezoning approval was just the latest example of a successful strategy that has transformed an industrial park that almost never got off the ground into one that is now flying high.
We hope the strategy – and the growth – continues.