The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism was held on Thursday, September 20, 2007, at 1:00 PM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Co-Chair; Representative Eddie Ballard, Co-Chair; Senators Julian M. Carroll, Julie Denton, Brett Guthrie, Denise Harper Angel, Katie Stine, Gary Tapp, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Carolyn Belcher, Larry Belcher, Kevin D. Bratcher, Leslie Combs, Mike Denham, Bob M DeWeese, Myron Dossett, Jim Gooch Jr, Keith Hall, Mike Harmon, Melvin B. Henley, Joni L. Jenkins, Dennis Keene, Tom McKee, Brad Montell, Tim Moore, Fred Nesler, David Osborne, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Don Pasley, Dottie Sims, Ancel Smith, Brandon Smith, Tommy Thompson, Robin L. Webb, and Ron Weston.
Guests: Sally Meigs; Stephen Collins, Vice Chair, and Donna Neary, Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer, Kentucky Heritage Council; Lindy Casebier, Executive Director, Office of Arts and Cultural Heritage, Commerce Cabinet; Annette DuPont-Ewing, Executive Director, Municipal Electric Power Association of Kentucky; Chris Brewer, Assistant Manager, Barbourville Utility Commission; Mark Iverson, General Manager, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities; Tony Thompson, General Manager, Murray Electric Systems; and Burkhard Masuhr, President, Masuhr International Marketing, Inc.
LRC Staff: John Buckner, Committee Staff Administrator; Karen Armstrong-Cummings; Louis Pierce; and Dawn Johnson.
Mrs. Sally Meigs; Stephen Collins, Vice Chair, Kentucky Heritage Council and President of the Ida Lee Willis Foundation; Donna Neary, Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer, Kentucky Heritage Council; and Lindy Casebier, Executive Director, Office of Arts and Cultural Heritage, Commerce Cabinet made a presentation to the committee on the Vest-Lindsey House of Frankfort. Mr. Casebier explained that one duty of the Heritage Council is to preserve properties like the Vest-Lindsey House. He said cultural and heritage tourism is vital to Kentucky's economic development.
Mrs. Meigs introduced members of the audience who were supportive of and involved with the preservation of the Vest-Lindsey House, and explained their shared goal of finding ways to restore and safeguard the house. Located in the Corner in Celebrities district of Frankfort, the Vest-Lindsey House was the home of the Kentucky Heritage Council and the Ida Lee Willis Foundation. The house was saved from demolition and restored in the early 1960s to house the Heritage Commission. Later, the house served as a Frankfort meeting location and museum.
Mr. Collins explained the historical importance of the Vest-Lindsey House. Built in the early 1800s, it was the boyhood home of George Graham Vest who served in the United States Senate for 25 years and was a member of the Congress of the Confederate States of America. He is best remembered for coining the term "Dog is man's best friend" during closing arguments of a trial. In 1846, the house was sold to Thomas Noble Lindsey, a prominent attorney and state legislator. The Lindsey family owned the home for the next 100 years until its purchase by the state in 1965.
In the early 1960s, Mrs. Ida Lee Willis, wife of the late Governor Simeon Willis, asked Governor Ned Breathitt to intervene in the proposed demolition of many homes in the Corner in Celebrities, including the Vest-Lindsey House. Governor Breathitt created the Capital City Heritage Commission to develop a plan for preservation, and named Mrs. Willis its first chairperson. During that time, there were similar preservation issues nationwide due to recently created Urban Renewal programs. In 1966, Congress enacted the National Historic Preservation Act that outlined federal preservation policies and mandated the establishment of state historic preservation offices. As a result, the Kentucky Heritage Commission, now the Kentucky Heritage Council, was created and Mrs. Willis was appointed its first executive director.
In 1997, the state proposed turning the home into a full-fledged office building. The Heritage Council, private citizens, and public officials worked together to propose an alternative and the idea was dropped. The Finance Cabinet, which managed the house, named an ad hoc committee to develop a proposal for the long-term use and preservation of the house. The committee concluded that due to its historical significance and key anchor location, the house should remain the official state meeting house and should be open to the public.
In 2003, the entire Vest-Lindsey House was allocated to state offices. Mr. Collins requested that the 2008 General Assembly consider legislation that would implement the original ad hoc committee recommendations to return the home to a state meeting house, develop interpretation, maintain the house as a central location to provide tour and visitor information, assist and support fundraising, create an advisory committee to advise the Governor and Finance and Administration Secretary, and to return to a promise made by the Finance Cabinet to grant an easement restricting use of the building as office space to be effective when a $200,000 endowment is reached. He also suggested that along with the easement, the property should be transferred to a local group or the Heritage Council along with the $700,000 that was raised to be used for operating and maintenance expenses.
Senator Denton said she would be happy to again sponsor the Vest-Lindsey House bill for the 2008 Session and thanked Mrs. Meigs for her activism.
Ms. Donna Neary said the Kentucky Heritage Council will work diligently to preserve and protect the Vest-Lindsey House.
A motion by Governor Carroll and second by Representative Thompson to approve the August 16, 2007 minutes was approved by voice vote.
Representative Ballard welcomed Annette DuPont-Ewing, Executive Director, Municipal Electric Power Association of Kentucky. Ms. DuPont-Ewing introduced Chris Brewer, Assistant Manager, Barbourville Utility Commission; Mark Iverson, General Manager, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities; and Tony Thompson, General Manager, Murray Electric Systems. Ms. DuPont-Ewing explained that Kentucky Municipal Utilities Association (KMUA) consists of the Municipal Electric Power Association of Kentucky (MEPAK) and the Municipal Water and Wastewater Association. KMUA represents 59 municipal utilities that are owned by the citizens and provide local essential services like telecommunications. Ms. DuPont-Ewing said she was before the committee for three reasons. She explained that municipal utilities have made a positive economic impact by providing broadband service to the cities of the Commonwealth–the economic engines of the state. She said businesses locate in cities with low cost, reliable, state-of-the-art internet services. If they cannot get these services in Kentucky, they go elsewhere. She said municipal broadband services have been a success for the state. Ms DuPont-Ewing explained that protecting municipal broadband providers is necessary for their continued success. She said legislation favoring one type of technology or one industry over another is detrimental to the success of municipal utilities. She suggested economic incentives or tax breaks be offered to consumers, not large corporations.
Ms. DuPont-Ewing explained that municipal utilities have had a positive impact on economic development in the state. She said Glasgow, Kentucky is considered a pioneer in providing advanced telecommunications by being the first to provide these services. Nationwide, 700 municipals provide broadband services to hospitals and schools and 200 provide broadband to the public. Ms. DuPont-Ewing said there are 13 municipal utilities in Kentucky providing broadband services to 57,000 people. Outside of the major metropolitan areas, telecommunication companies are not providing broadband services to Kentuckians. Ms. DuPont-Ewing said that although testimony was given that 94 percent of the state has been mapped for broadband, only 34 percent of Kentuckians actually have internet service in their home. She said large private investors cannot justify the investment of millions of dollars to lay a complicated network of dark fiber. Without a metropolitan-size customer base, private companies have difficulty justifying the expense to their shareholders. She said small private companies and public entities are filling this gap. She said municipal entities are nonprofit, locally-owned, and focus on small territories, making them more efficient.
Ms. DuPont-Ewing said that internationally other countries are outpacing the United States in the availability, usage, and speed of internet services. She said it is important to understand that digital subscriber line (DSL) is not the broadband delivery service or speed for Kentucky cities and economic engines. She said the legal definition of broadband should be set high enough to encourage globally competitive facilities and services.
Ms. DuPont-Ewing said three of Kentucky's success stories were Barbourville, Bowling Green, and Murray. Chris Brewer, Assistant Manager, Barbourville Utility Commission; Mark Iverson, General Manager, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities; and Tony Thompson, General Manager, Murray Electric Systems described the success of their local municipal telecommunications services.
Referring to Representative Harmon's question, Ms. DuPont-Ewing said that any incentives should be passed on to consumers through lower rates.
Next, was Burkhard Masuhr, President, Masuhr International Marketing, Inc. He explained that Masuhr International facilitates international companies moving to the Kentucky. He said that European knowledge of what Kentucky offers is limited to the well-known industries of bourbon and equine sports. He said the state should focus on inbound tourism from Europe, specifically Germany. He said tourism trade is based on perception and developing it requires sensitivity. He recommended culturally sensitive tourism diplomacy through public relations and promotions. Mr. Masuhr said that with the international political climate, sensitivity is more important than ever. He said Kentucky should identify its marketable products, cross match those with targeted interest groups and develop strategies to encourage tourism. He said the upcoming Ryder Cup and the 2010 World Equestrian Games are great opportunities to market Kentucky. He said the state should have an experienced coordinator with a single focus on Kentucky, grounded in the culture and business environment in the state and in Europe.
Senator Harper Angel asked that the co-chairs request a subcommittee be created on international tourism to further discuss these and other related matters. Representative Ballard agreed that such a committee should be created.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 3:00 PM.