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Building Communities Through Quality of Life

Making a Difference

Building Communities Through Quality of Life

As president and CEO of the economic development agency serving Somerset and Pulaski County, Chris Girdler says everything his agency does is informed by a single, overarching goal: improving the quality of life for the region’s residents.

Chris Girdler smiling and sitting in a chair next to a table with his hands clasped

Decades ago, such a goal would have been equated with attracting new industry to the region. But these days, communities have learned that job creation and retention is just one piece of the larger economic puzzle, Girdler said.

“Quality of life encompasses so many things—whether it’s tourism and promotion, workforce development, education, arts and entertainment, or attracting conferences and conventions to your community,” he said. “Quality of life is everything you do that benefits your citizens economically, politically and socially.”

That’s one of the reasons why Girdler’s a big fan of KET, which he says plays a vital role in supporting Kentucky’s economy.

“KET is so much more than just television,” he said. “I’d argue that everything KET does could be considered a form of economic development because it’s all about making opportunities available and accessible to all Kentuckians.”

Girdler points to KET’s educational resources that support Kentuckians “from all walks of life at every stage of life,” such as those for early childhood development, GED test preparation and workforce training.

The son of a public school teacher, Girdler says he grew up watching KET. And he credits the network for instilling in him a love for civics as well as Kentucky and American history—a passion that served him well in his early professional life, whether running several houseboat manufacturing companies, working as a district chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, or serving a term as state senator for Kentucky’s 15th District.

Everything KET does could be considered a form of economic development because it’s all about making opportunities available and accessible to all Kentuckians.

Chris Girdler, president and CEO of the Somerset/Pulaski Economic Development Authority

Now with a family of his own, Girdler says he’s thrilled to see his love for KET be shared by his children.

“As the father of two young girls, it’s neat to see their morning routine, getting ready for school and watching Odd Squad and Wild Kratts on KET,” Girdler said. “I think it’s essential that we get children prepared for kindergarten as early as possible. And I love that KET focuses so much on early childhood development. It’s one of many things KET does that pays dividends well into the future.”

Likewise, KET’s public affairs coverage – its forums and programs such as Kentucky Tonight and Comment on Kentucky – serve as a catalyst for important statewide conversations, keeping Kentuckians informed and engaged with what’s happening in Frankfort and across the Commonwealth.

“That sort of open and constructive dialogue is really important and one of the things missing in much of society today,” Girdler said. “And Renee Shaw does an incredible job leading these discussions, bringing in leaders with different opinions from across the state.”

And if someone wants to learn about Kentucky’s history, its natural beauty and landmarks, or its most famous personalities, there’s no better source than KET, he added.

“In today’s world, where there is so much information at your fingertips, KET remains the go-to source for stories of Kentuckians,” Girdler said. “That’s why I believe it’s paramount we support KET because I see the impact it has on our communities each and every day.”