The true beauty of Paducah from an economic development perspective is not found merely in the scenic views of our rivers, in the galleries of Lowertown, or in the rolling countryside of our unincorporated areas. The true beauty of Paducah is the vast array of assets in our community which allow us to compete for economic development opportunities in every sector imaginable. Some of these assets we simply are blessed with (rivers, rail, etc.), others have happened because of the hard work of so many of our leaders working together for a long period of time. When I view Paducah, I view the assets which were created by our leaders as far more beautiful than those which we were naturally blessed with because it’s those assets which allow us to have a diverse economic development effort.
For example, in 1992 local leaders partnered together to create the Information Age Park. Did you know we announced three deals for that park this year? TeleTech announced in November their intentions to hire 300 people in a new 30,000 square foot building in this park in addition to 150 in our office we are vacating downtown. Superior Care is developing a $12 million assisted living facility in the park leading to 25 new jobs for skilled nurses and pro- viding a great service to our community from a quality of life standpoint. AEP River Operations purchased the Resource Center from GPEDC in May solidifying their strong presence in Paducah now employing more than 500 people in our area. And speaking of diversity, we have added a call center, healthcare provider, and river company to the park dreamed of 20 years ago. That diversity is what I call beautiful.
Consider the diversity of these announcements from the past two years:
• Murray State University Paducah Campus (higher education; $10 million investment; 2,000 students)
• TeleTech (call center; $5 million investment; 450 jobs)
• Four Rivers Coal Terminal (heavy industry; $20 million investment; 40 jobs)
• H.T. Hackney expansion (distribution; $15 million investment; 40 new jobs)
• Superior Care Home expansion (health- care; $12 million investment; 25 new jobs)
• Shoreline Steel (heavy industry; $2 million investment; 13 new jobs) • VMV Paducahbuilt expansion (heavy industry; $1 million investment; 25 new jobs)
• AEP River Operations (river industry; $2.5 million investment)
• The H Group (non-profit healthcare; $500,000 investment; 75 new jobs)
Did you know the city, county, port, or Paducah Economic Development played a role in making every one of those announcements happen primarily in the way of partnerships for incentives? That’s demonstrative of the partnerships between the public and private sector working together to get deals closed. Add those up and this is the diversity you get: 668 new jobs, 2000 students, and $68 million of investment. Now take a look at the diversity of the announcements in terms of sectors: three heavy industry, two healthcare, higher education, call center, river industry, and distribution. Furthermore, we are currently competing for investments in the automotive supplier industry, the steel industry, and the retail industry. Diversity is beautiful.
In addition, by partnering together we have had two other huge accomplishments which allow us to compete for even more diverse sectors:
• We received funding from the state of Kentucky for the design and right-of-way acquisition for an industrial access road to our river site.
• We lobbied for and received a partial lifting of the state nuclear moratorium.
These two issues alone add more tools to our toolbox as we recruit heavy industry to our river site and work to sustain jobs at the DOE site for years to come.
Success at economic development is all about using your current assets and developing other assets. We now have a legitimate river industrial site with road access being planned, we have an industrial park with multiple rail service, and we have a commerce park for office-type projects. These literally allow us to compete for almost every kind of economic development project imaginable.
In addition to property you also have to have workforce as part of your asset mix. Yet again the leadership of Paducah has risen to give us a tool other communities don’t have: the Community Scholarship. In the past year, I have presented our business case to over 100 prospects, attempting to persuade them to give Paducah a look, and the one thing which grabs their attention more than anything else in our presentation is the Community Scholarship. Business owners want a workforce who will show up on time and show discipline. By awarding our high school students with two years of free tuition at WKCTC not only by maintaining a certain GPA but also by having attendance and discipline as part of the criteria, Paducah has made itself stand out from the crowd in the workforce asset class.
Good things are happening in Paducah on many fronts, and I am convinced great days are ahead because of the willingness of our business, city, and county leaders to partner to diversify our economy. I enjoy Paducah’s natural beauty as much as anyone, but the true beauty for me is competing for jobs and investment for Paducah without limitation and your hard work and partnership is allowing Paducah Economic Development to do just that.