- Community Development
When Community Ventures purchased the Millersburg Military Institute a few years ago, the company was making a long-term commitment to the town of Millersburg, KY. Thankfully, Community Ventures were not the only ones who made such a commitment. Kevin Hopkins is a current city councilmember in Millersburg, and his wife, Julie, is a city councilmember-elect. Together, they share Community Ventures’ vision for continued growth in Millersburg, through Mustard Seed Hill and through the work of the city council.
The Hopkins’ are new residents of Millersburg, having relocated to the town four years ago from Lexington. In that short time, the Hopkins’ have become an integral part of the Millersburg community, working to spark a new season of economic development in the Central Kentucky town alongside Community Ventures. While they came from Lexington, they both originated from smaller towns in Kentucky, which brought about a sense of familiarity when they came to Millersburg.
“I came from Eastern Kentucky to Lexington, but I’m more of a small-town person,” says Julie. Her husband Kevin shares her affinity for small towns. “I grew up in Murray, KY and I always liked the small-town feel. My mom grew up in a small community called Almo, KY, and the town only had a school, and a general store, and a couple of other shops. I watched it drift away and fall apart. We didn’t want the same thing to happen here,” says Kevin.
“When we moved into the town, we realized it was struggling to survive. We wanted to be a part of revitalizing the town and making it thrive,” says Julie. “[W]e made friends quickly. People were so friendly - someone brought us an apple pie, another brought a 7-Up cake. The town was really nice, the homes were beautiful…there were just not a lot of businesses, and not a lot of things happening.” For Kevin, the quickest way to be a part of the change came when he ran for Millersburg City Council. “Before we joined City Council, we would attend the meetings to stay updated on what was happening. That’s when we first learned of Community Ventures plan for Millersburg.” When the couple first learned of CV’s plan to renovate the buildings on the campus to bring visitors to town, they had some skepticism. “I have a critical eye, due to the nature of the business I’m in,” says Kevin. “I was hesitant at first, because there had been so many things previously that never really panned out for the town. In some ways, the entire town was hesitant.”
But their concerns were soon assuaged as the first phase of construction progressed. “The school opened first. That is when I realized [CV] was a top-notch organization. This was no ‘fly by night’ deal. They actually invested time and effort and money to make it a top-notch set up,” says Kevin. Julie adds, “After the first phase, there was just excitement. Everyone was quite excited. It also helped that CV was finding other ways to help the community while the campus was being renovated. They even helped with a few upkeep items for the town’s civic center.”
Today, both Kevin and Julie share renewed optimism and excitement for Millersburg, thanks in part to Mustard Seed Hill, including its annual Christmas at Mustard Seed Hill celebration. “I think the most important part of the Christmas festivities at Mustard See Hill is the exposure to our town. A lot of people didn’t even know Millersburg existed until this event,” says Julie. The couple agrees that the statewide, and even regional exposure has caused people to want to be a part of the event. “What they’ve achieved in these past couple of years, would have taken us a decade or more to do on our own,” says Kevin. Beyond the visual changes they see at Mustard Seed Hill, both see a change in the town itself. “We’ve seen hope increase. It’s generated a culture of people sharing ideas for the town. People want to voice their ideas, and CV has given them a bigger platform to do that. They’ve also introduced some diversity to the town, which is a good thing,” adds Julie.
Both local leaders recognized the impact Community Ventures was having on the town, beyond just Christmas. “Community Ventures has become more and more integrated in the community. Stamler, was an old employer that hired many people from the town, before they closed the plant several years ago. When people talked about Millersburg, they used to always talk about Stamler because that is how important it was. Today, when people talk about Millersburg, they talk about Community Ventures. That is how important they have become,” Kevin stated. Julie also notes the support Community Ventures has provided on many levels, “When we first moved here, my team was working from our home. We now have an office in the CV business incubator in Lexington. Also, coming from Eastern, KY, as the coal industry started to fail, we started bringing young men from Eastern KY to stay with us in our home, to help them get jobs at Toyota. Those young men got jobs in Georgetown and ended up purchasing homes with CV as first-time homebuyers. So, Community Ventures has become a big part of our lives”.
Having seen the potential for the town to grow and for businesses to be revitalized, the Hopkins’ felt it was important for the town to have leadership to encourage growth and excitement. They now look forward to the coming years with renewed energy and a shared vision for Millersburg, especially when it comes to the Christmas season. “We hope to integrate more of the city functions with Mustard Seed Hill. We want the city to be more involved. It is also our hope to get a few businesses in town next year, and more residents. CV has brought about this cultural change, and it’s inspired growth.”
The Hopkins’ hope that as many as possible will come to Millersburg this year to visit Christmas at Mustard Seed Hill to continue to build momentum for Millersburg. “I just love to see people coming together. I love the group setting,” says Kevin. Julie adds, “My favorite part is that every year it changes. If you did not see it last year, you missed out, because now this year is different. I also love the market because we do a lot of our holiday shopping there. We go every weekend. We see our friends there, it’s such a fun social outing for us.”