Adair County, Kentucky
Work ready and wonderful!
Business View Magazine interviews Gale B. Cowan, Judge Executive of Adair County, Kentucky, for our focus on American Infrastructure
Steeped in heritage and natural beauty, Adair County is a gem of South Central Kentucky on picturesque Green River Lake. While its setting is somewhat rural, the county is strategically located on the Louie B. Nunn Parkway with direct access to all the major interstates – embracing the best of both worlds. Visiting Adair County is a pleasure in any season, but the summer months are an especially good time for enjoying recreational activities on Green River Lake and Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, just minutes away. The county is less than two hours away from the Kentucky State Capital of Frankfort, as well as Lexington, and Louisville, and Nashville Tennessee.
Adair County was formed on December 11, 1801 from sections of Green County, and Columbia and was chosen as the county seat the following year. The county’s town square in the city of Columbia is a cornerstone of the community with an abundance of history, featuring a central courthouse (completed in 1884 to replace the original 1806 structure) and charming 19th-century buildings and churches. The county was named in honor of General John Adair, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and Northwest Indian War. Later, he commanded Kentucky troops in the Battle of New Orleans and served as the eighth Governor of Kentucky. Adair was the 44th of Kentucky’s 120 counties to be organized. A historical footnote from early crime annals: after the American Civil War, a gang of five men, believed to include notorious outlaws Frank and Jesse James from Missouri, robbed the Bank of Columbia of $600 on April 29, 1872. They killed the cashier, R.A.C. Martin, in the course of the robbery.
With a population expected to top 20,000 in the 2020 census, Adair County offers prime educational and quality of life opportunities for residents. Lindsey Wilson College, a four-year liberal arts college and home of the beautiful Begley Chapel continues to grow and enhance the area, and the addition of Lindsey Wilson Sports Park and Doris and Bob Holloway Health and Wellness Center in 2010 has been an asset to the entire community. Adair County’s high school students pursuing careers in counseling and nursing have also been able to take advantage of the Fugitte Science Center and the Goodin Nursing and Counseling Center.
Gale B. Cowan has been Judge Executive of Adair County for one year, although she’s worked in the office for almost 25 years, so she knows the area well from a local government perspective. Speaking to ongoing projects, Cowan reports, “The tax base is mostly residential and rural and most of the businesses are located within the city limits of Columbia, the county seat. The City of Columbia is now in the process of trying to expand their natural gas company and the county fiscal court is looking at doing a joint project with the city to expand natural gas throughout Adair County. Natural gas isn’t offered in all locations at this time and I think having that service would be especially beneficial to our farming industry. We have several poultry farmers in the county and it would mean a big boost to them because they have to keep the chicken houses at a warm temperature for the young chicks. We surveyed two farms, with two barns each of the same size, and there was $20,000 difference in cost between the one heated with natural gas and the other with propane.”
Another notable project: The Louie B. Nunn/Cumberland Parkway is a four-lane, 70 mph highway that runs through Columbia and has two exits. It is considered by locals to be like an interstate, with less traffic. Adair County officials, along with state officials and the Kentucky State senator and U.S. congressman, are now in the process of trying to get that stretch renamed to a spur off of Interstate 65. “We sit directly between I-65 and I-75,” says Cowan, “and we think that will greatly boost our economic development.”
Columbia–Adair County is certified as a Kentucky Work Ready Community – a big plus point in the ongoing mission of business attraction and retention. A Kentucky Work Ready Community certification is a measure of a county’s workforce quality; an assurance to business and industry that the community is committed to providing the highly-skilled workforce required in today’s competitive global economy. There are two levels of certification – a Kentucky Work Ready Community and a Kentucky Work Ready Community in Progress. Earning certification status provides tangible evidence to economic developers that workers are skilled and the county is committed to keeping them skilled.
Kentucky Work Ready Communities:
- Attract new businesses and investment
- Gain a competitive advantage over other communities
- Help existing companies grow and add new jobs
- Recruit creative, talented, and innovative people
- Revitalize their economies and keep them growing
Because certification requires collaboration and cooperation among key stakeholders (community college staff, secondary education, economic development professionals, elected and appointed officials, employers, chambers of commerce, school boards, community organizations, and others) communities can also reduce duplication of services and leverage resources to fill gaps and improve quality.
On the education front, Cowan notes, “Lindsey Wilson College has a beautiful campus here in Columbia, and our high school campus has a technology center onsite that offers welding and nursing programs for students. The ACHS Marching Band has led the state for many years and recently won an unprecedented 24th KMEA Championship. Academically, the district has seen success in the past three years. In 2018-19 all schools in the district were three-star schools and they continue to explore other pathways and ways to prepare students for life after high school. The latest addition to the high school will be an athletic trainer for the sports programs and this will hopefully lead to students being able to take classes that will lead to certification in that field.”
A proud farming and outdoor community, the county has high involvement in 4-H and FFA. The Adair County Cattleman’s Association is the 4th largest in the state with over 300 members. Tourism is a key economic driver and the Green River Lake is a great attraction. To accommodate outdoor enthusiasts, the Holmes Bend Marina and Resort has a fishing pier, dock restaurant with fishing and boating essentials for sale, nature trails, 125-site campground, playground area, picnic area, houseboats, public beach, and cabins for rent. Other boat ramps are Snake Creek Boat Ramp, Arnolds Landing Boat Ramp, and Butler Creek Boat Ramp.
Holmes Bend is slated to host the National Crappie Fishing Tournament this October 22-24, 2020. According to fans of the sport, “The Crappie USA Classic is the Super Bowl of Crappie Fishing” boasting a payback of over $125,000 annually – making it the largest crappie event nationally each year since 1996. More than 400 fishermen are expected to visit the area for the three-day event. A local competitive fisherman that lives in Adair County had the biggest weigh in crappie of the entire tournament trail in 2018.
Adair County is also host to several festivals each year, including Downtown Days, Revisit Knifley, Christmas in Columbia, and Homeplace on Green River (HGR) – a tri-county event between Green, Taylor, and Adair Counties. In addition, Cedar Valley Fine Upland Hunting offers hundreds of acres dedicated to upland bird hunting.
If you’re looking for a fabulous place to put down roots, consider Kentucky’s own Adair County – home of Lindsey Wilson College, Green River Lake, outstanding business opportunities, and lots of wonderful people!