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Among other attractions, Jessamine County is home to the first commercialized vineyard ever licensed in the United States, multiple horse farms, and the Camp Nelson National Monument. Camp Nelson began as a Union supply depot during the Civil War, but it eventually became a symbol of freedom to enslaved African-Americans in the region. It was the third-largest enlistment center for African American troops, securing freedom for both them and their refugee families.

Did our adult education program and our broadband access. We put a plan in place to teach the kind of soft skills that employers are looking for to our high school students, and were able to get fully certified as a Work Ready Community.” Having Work Ready certification is vital in attracting both large and small business to Jessamine County according to Craig McAnelly, executive director of the Jessamine County Economic Development Authority. McAnelly is overseeing construction of a new industrial park on the southern end of the I-27 Bypass. We’re doing $1.3 million in construction costs right now with roads, water, sewer, gas, electric and fiber optics,” McAnelly said. “There’s about 80 acres there, with potential to expand to 180.” McAnelly says there have been some setbacks related to COVID-19, but in the two years he has been there, many positive changes have occurred. “We’re in the middle of a three-phase transportation upgrade creating an eastern bypass around Nicholasville that will mirror the existing (Route 27) western bypass,” McAnelly said. “This is going to take pressure off of 27 and bottlenecking as you’re coming down 27 and improve the flow on Main Street in Nicholasville. “We’re hoping someday to see a connector over to I-75 in southern Jessamine County or northern Garrard County,” he added. Economic development is measured by a different yardstick in Wilmore, a small town of about 7,000 souls and two colleges, Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary. “We have no industry to speak of,” said Mayor Harold Rainwater. “But we look at our institutions as our economic engine. When you look at the colleges and the Thompson Hood Veterans Center, those three are in the top eight of Jessamine County’s largest employers. There are over 1,200 jobs there.” A concern developed earlier this year when a barber with a one-seat shop retired after 64 years on Wilmore’s Main Street. “It might not mean a lot to a big city, but it’s a different story for a small town,” Rainwater said. After a brief closure, a young barber stepped in to fill the shoes, resume operations and restore order.


THERE’S a real spirit of cooperation on the rise in Madison County. You can hear it in the halls of city government, in county government and in the chamber of commerce. It echoes through the economic development and tourism offices as well. “Madison County is in the best place it’s ever been as far as us working together,” said Mendi Goble, executive director of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. “There’s been a lot of competition over the years, and now we’re all pulling on the same rope more than we ever have before.” 

Or when the City of Berea was selected as a top retirement destination this year by Where to Retire magazine in a feature titled “Eight Cities for Hikers and Walkers.” Or last year when Outdoor Magazine rated the trail to the Pinnacles of Berea as the “Best Hike in Kentucky.” These superlatives may have been doled out based on what business and industry regard as soft factors, such as scenic beauty, healthy lifestyles, an active arts scene, lowcost daycare and affordable education. But one of Madison County’s strengths is its ability to attract the kind of industry that values these attributes as much as land availability, tech capabilities, infrastructure or a skilled workforce.

On the grid with room to grow Madison County is centrally located in Kentucky’s Bluegrass area and is comfortable with saying it is central to most of the nation as well. “We’re located within 600 miles of 50% of the U.S. population,” said David Stipes, executive director of Richmond Industrial Development Corp. The county seat is Richmond, which is Kentucky’s sixth largest city according to the Kentucky’s Cabinet for Economic Development. Berea, known as the “Folk Arts and Craft Capital of Kentucky” is Madison County’s second largest municipality.


Eastern Kentucky University, located in Richmond, Ky., was founded in 1906 and serves about 16,000 students a year. Its four-year graduation rate has risen in recent years.