Comprehensive Plan – Culture & History
Maysville and Mason County have been one of Northeastern Kentucky’s cultural centers for decades. Since Mason County’s permanent settlement in the late seventeen hundreds, each generation of rural and urban citizens has prospered by changing their business models to meet the market’s needs of their time.
In recent decades Mason County lost all our dairy and most of our tobacco income—the two most significant contributors to Mason County’s rural prosperity in recent decades.
Several large businesses also left our area during this period, and local leadership and citizens vigorously worked to create a welcoming environment for new industries and retailers. Just as we strive to fill local industrial parks and retail areas, our future prosperity requires we also look for ecologically sound and profitable uses for our rural land resources.
Some say Mason County should base its rural economic future on only livestock, cash grain, and agri-tourism enterprises. The 2017 USDA census shows Mason County’s annual agricultural income (in 2022 dollars) declined $64 million between 1974 and 2017. Our county has “worked and hoped” to recruit new major urban industries while spending as if we still have the tobacco and dairy income.
With lower county-wide income to support local services and cultural opportunities, we must raise our tax rates or reduce cultural and historic preservation spending. Either option makes us less likely to win the industrial recruitment lottery. How many more tax increases, like the recent payroll tax levy, can our taxpayers stand?
Failure to embrace new large rural enterprises will continue to deplete the culture and public institutions future Mason County generations will inherit.
No “magic bullet” will ensure Mason County’s economic and ecological future. If we hope to regain $64 million in annual rural income, this comprehensive plan must embrace old and new ways rural resources can fulfill current market needs. It must balance future generations’ living standards and prosperity with current residents’ preferences by reducing artificial barriers that increase the land needed to produce the same value.