I am a multi-generational Trigg County native, the descendant of a man who came to what was then western Christian County before 1810, when his name first appears in census records. Thus my ancestral roots in the county go back two hundred years. If ancestral longevity counts for anything I think that the Calhoun family’s two centuries of residency entitles me to speak as a native. At the same time, I am essentially an outsider because, although I have been legally a life-long resident of Trigg County, I have spent a far greater portion of my adult life outside the county than in it—because I was never smart enough to figure out how to make a living in it. That, I think, gives me the ability to look at Trigg County from an outsider’s perspective.
Today, with the closing of Johnson Controls with its over five hundred jobs, and those among the best-paying in the county, Trigg County must identify and remove the impediments that for too long have made it unattractive to companies looking for a place to locate. To an outsider looking in, many of those impediments are obvious, but to a Trigg County native on the inside they are hard to see. Worse, some of them have the quality of sacred cows that native Trigg Countians defend instinctively.
One of those sacred cows—or rather ten of them—are Trigg County’s volunteer fire departments. To an outsider accustomed to tax supported municipal or county fire departments, Trigg County’s arrangement appears not only inadequate, but ridiculous. As small as it is, Trigg County should have one county-wide volunteer department that is tax supported and under control of the elected county government, not ten independent organizations that are essentially private firehouse clubs that rely upon a compulsory fee that three lawyers, one of them a professor of law, have assured me will be struck down if it is ever challenged in court. If Trigg County wishes to have fire protection that is attractive to potential businesses—and before the lawsuit that will bankrupt them and shut them down comes—begin an orderly process to consolidate the ten volunteer fire departments into one Trigg County Fire Department, with fire stations scattered throughout the county as they now are and in new locations as needed to provide optimum protections.
Trigg County’s status as a dry county also hurts its prospects. I have spent most of my life in the business world, in a business where entertaining customers with food and alcohol was vital. I can assure you that no business that has to entertain its customers and clients is likely to locate in an area where it cannot do so. If businessmen looking for a new location discover that they must drive 25 miles to Hopkinsville to entertain customers, they will locate in Christian County. If you want jobs to come to Trigg County, vote to legalize liquor sales in the county—and not just at a private country club, but in the county generally.
There are many other things that need to be looked at and considered, but these two are a good place to start. Once these two psychological barriers are broken, I think that everything else that needs to be done to make Trigg County attractive to new employers will fall into place.
Historically, Trigg County has tended to set goals by looking into the rearview mirror, not ahead into the future. Focused inward upon itself as it was, the local elite who shaped public opinion in times past either did not recognize or simply refused to admit that for the county to prosper it had to have modern infrastructure, institutions adequate for the times, and a progressive mindset. Trigg County cannot afford to make that mistake again.