Jack Conner will hate this story.
That’s because it’s about Conner, the director of both the Georgetown/Scott County Chamber of Commerce and Scott United, who absolutely despises attention.
But talk to people who know Conner — and his critical role in Georgetown’s economic growth for more than 30 years — and they’ll tell you the man deserves every accolade that comes his way.
“Jack has a consistency of excellence in every effort he undertakes,” Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather said.
“I think today he’s considered the gold standard of economic development efforts, not just here but throughout the (central Kentucky) region,” Prather added.
Gina Greathouse, Commerce Lexington’s executive vice president for economic development, echoed that.
“We adore him. Jack is a team player in terms of economic development,” Greathouse said.
Asked to describe him, Greathouse called Conner “honest, genuine, kind and smart. His kindness is over the top.
“Jack operates above the board in terms of ethics and honesty,” she said.
Conner’s service to Scott County extends to Frankfort, where lobbyist John Cooper said Conner played an essential role in helping iron out state laws that could have blocked the local net profits and payroll taxes that now provide most of the revenue to Georgetown city and Scott County governments.
Conner repeatedly has declined requests to be interviewed for profiles. Instead, he deflects efforts to get him to talk about himself by describing the roles others have played in projects he largely has spearheaded.
Take Lanes Run Business Park, the industrial facility the city owns northeast of town.
Three years ago, the park attracted six new tenants in just a few months, a level of activity that would be the envy of any similar facility across the country.
Lanes Run has been so successful, in fact, that both the city and Scott County Fiscal Court ponied up several millions, partially matched by Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, to buy several adjoining properties and install utilities and other infrastructure.
Conner won’t discuss his role.
“He’s horrible about that,” joked Cooper about Conner’s reticence to accept praise.
“I think he understood early in life that (seeking recognition) is not the way to be effective,” Cooper added.
“He absolutely wants no praise. That’s just Jack,” said Mike Hockensmith, owner of The Hockensmith Agency and a local economic development activist.
“He’s quiet, unassuming and very controlled with any information he shares about any clients,” Hockensmith added.
“I think Jack is sort of an unsung hero. He has been involved in so many things he doesn’t get credit for,” said Mike Scogin, the News-Graphic editor-publisher who is active in the chamber.
“Jack always likes to stand back and let somebody else get the glory.”
But those involved in local and regional economic development efforts know the way he gets the word out about the park’s advantages for manufacturers and how he maintains prospective site buyers’ confidentiality.
“I’m president of Scott United, and he won’t even tell me who he’s talking to,” Hockensmith said.
“Jack is as discrete as the day is long. In the economic development arena, confidentiality is essential,” Prather said.
“Jack respects that confidentiality to the point that with the legislative bodies he works with” — Georgetown City Council and the fiscal court — “he identifies prospects only by their industry codes,” Prather said.
Prather said Conner first arrived in Georgetown nearly 35 years ago.
“Jack came to town to help us with a (federal) community development block grant,” said Prather, who was on council then.
When the grant was secured, Conner stayed, becoming a constant at the chamber.
“He has served this community remarkably ever since,” Prather said.
“Jack is detail-oriented. An example: He always has maps” he uses to help magistrates, council members and other officials envision where industrial and business clienmay locate and fit in, the mayor said.
Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby, who has been in office almost as long as Conner has guided local economic development activities, also notes Conner’s impact.
“I think he’s probably the most important individual in the 29 years I’ve been county judge in bringing manufacturing to Scott County,” Lusby said.
Conner, 74, is a Texas native who grew up in Columbus, Indiana, according to a resume shared by the chamber staff. While earning a master’s degree at Purdue University, he served as an assistant to the Columbus mayor with a focus on economic development.
He came to Georgetown in 1979 for the block grant project, and has stayed since.
He has three children, 11 grandchildren and is expecting his first great-grandchild next month.
But there’s another aspect to Conner’s character that Lusby highlights: his faith.
On the corner of his desk at the chamber’s office rests a Bible usually opened to Psalm 18, which begins, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
“I talk to Jack quite a bit. I consider him a counselor and a friend,” Lusby said.
“I think his faith is his strongest suit. That’s what he leans on,” Lusby said.
Conner also has had roles in helping others’ faith grow, said Kim Menke, a government liaison officer for Toyota.
“When I came, Jack was helpful in starting Georgetown’s first Lutheran Church, and he’s worked with several other churches,” Menke said.
Menke said Conner sees a goal and marches toward it single-mindedly.
“He goes until he can’t go any more,” Menke said.
And both Menke and Lusby said Conner does not restrict his energy to big projects.
“Jack and I talk very early in the morning. Usually it’s after he has done his devotional,” Menke said.
“His energy level, I think, he gets from that” morning practice, Menke said.
Finally cornered last week, Conner was asked about his refusal to accept recognition.
He alluded to his faith without directly mentioning Christ’s admonition about accepting praise on earth.
“It’s quite simple. I believe my accolades will come someplace else,” he said.
DAN ADKINS is a freelance journalist. Questions regarding this article can be emailed to email@example.com.