State of the Partnership: EDP Chairman talks highs, lows of last year, what to expect in ‘17

Published 8:58 am Monday, January 23, 2017

The Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership had several completed efforts and accomplishments in 2016, according to its chairman, Ben Nelson. Nelson spent some time explaining the ups and downs associated with EDP, as well as what the organization considers to be new efforts to attempt going into 2017. 

Nelson explained the highlights of EDP from 2016: 

• EDP “learned the Danville Micropolitan Area (Boyle & Lincoln Counties) was ranked No. 10 among all 576 micro-communities in the United States and No. 2 in Kentucky for new and expanding business projects in 2015,” according to Nelson. “This was the highest national ranking for our community in the history of ‘SITE Selection’ magazine’s recognition.”

• EDP “aided facility expansions at Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems, Denyo Manufacturing Corporation, TransNav Technologies Inc. and Wilderness Trail Distillery,” he said. 

• EDP supported the start-up, expansion, relocation and/or opening of several new businesses in Danville-Boyle County, he said. 

According to Nelson, the new businesses include Nellie Burton’s Steakhouse & Bar, Burkmann Nutrition, Plank on Main, NuBlend, Healtheaze, Holland Farm Adult Daycare Center and Viking Partners’ redevelopment of Ridgefield Shopping Center (Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, Rack Room Shoes, Workout Anytime, Aspen Dental and AT&T).

• Danville-Boyle County experienced one of the highest annual hotel occupancy rates in the state at 75 percent, he said. This brought in a 2015-2016 room tax total of $197,717, according to Nelson. “That is our highest ever and an increase of 11.1 percent over the prior year as we welcomed the opening of another hotel, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites,” he said. 

• He said they represented the community in national and international events to recruit new businesses and create jobs for Boyle County. This includes the Hannover Messe trade show in Hannover, Germany, Europe’s largest industrial automation and technology trade show.

• “‘Global Trade’ magazine identified the EDP as one of America’s 18 leading economic development organizations,” he said. “Our community was the smallest community in population among all other state, metro and county organizations recognized.”

• Nelson said EDP passed a resolution in unified opposition of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and are continuing to advocate against their proposal to transport natural gas liquids through Boyle County.

• EDP supported the funding of Constitution Square Endowment, which was created by the Boyle County Fiscal Court, he said. EDP also “hosted educational school field trips and community service projects and helped maintain and improve the park for all citizens and visitors to enjoy for years to come.”

• Nelson said EDP advocated for the top priorities around issues of downtown pedestrian safety and created a cohesive and appealing downtown streetscape.

• EDP “worked together towards advancing and funding the Bluegrass Community & Technical College’s application for $4.5 million in grant funds from the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative to build a new Advanced Manufacturing Center at the College’s Danville Boyle County campus,” Nelson said. 

• In 2016, EDP was named best Main Street Partners “for our collaboration in co-hosting a mini-conference designed to foster a culture of historic preservation and creative business development in Boyle County,” he said. 

• They helped organize and support various local events “that help make this a great place to live, including the award winning Heart of Danville Soul of Second Street Festival, Danville’s third “Most Spirited Community” award for its participation in the 2016 Bourbon Chase, Battle of Perryville Commemoration, the Harvest & Heritage Festival, the 2016 Kentucky State BBQ Festival and the Great American Band Festival,” Nelson said. 

• According to Nelson, EDP secured nearly $500,000 in grant monies for trail construction in Boyle County.

• EDP also developed and facilitated educational opportunities for our community, he said. This included three Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forums for the elections of Junction City and Perryville City Councils and Danville City Commission, the Heart of Danville and Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur Panel, including their new Start Smart program, the Chamber’s Leadership Boyle County and Youth Leadership Boyle County designed to further the development of Boyle County’s present and future leaders, and open forums for interested citizens to share their ideas for economic development in Boyle County, Nelson said. 

Although there were several efforts and accomplishments from 2016, Nelson said, “The partnership neither deserves all the credit or blame for economic development in Boyle County. We create conditions that aid our community in being a great place to live and work.”

EDP had its “fair share” of challenges in 2016, according to Nelson. 

Something EDP has recognized in the community is that Boyle County needs more jobs and ones that are high wage with benefits, he said.

“Anytime a business closes, re-locates, or has a reduction in force in Boyle County, our county economic health is adversely impacted,” Nelson said. “It is naïve to believe any one individual within the partnership can prevent these business decisions. However, when the partners get news of these decisions we attempt to help ease the financial and social impact.”

Nelson said there are individuals who believe Boyle County needs to recruit a 400 person manufacturing plant. Even thought that’s a great idea, he said, “unfortunately, those types of opportunities are very hard to come by these days and we will need to be more resourceful in our recruitment strategies to win them.”

“Today, most opportunities for new manufacturing firms average between 25-50 jobs,” he said. “Our new reality is that the competition for opportunities is increasing while the size and number of opportunities is decreasing.”

Because of the competition with other communities in the state, Nelson said EDP still has “more to do to step up economic development than resources allow.”

“We did not attain our revenue targets for the most recent fiscal year from public and private sources,” he said. “As a result, we scaled back on things we could do.”

Nelson, the organization is looking at several other opportunities in 2017. 

• Nelson said EDP “should continue to provide assistance to businesses that may want to locate in Boyle County by helping them find suitable land, buildings, employees and then start-up.”

• EDP “should promote and recruit diverse retail and service offerings and prospective employers, pursuing leads and requests for information, and attend events making sure Boyle County is viable site for growth while maintaining the community’s character, livability and quality of life,” he said. 

• According to Nelson, EDP should push for better broadband services in this area, “as it currently limits the ability of our citizens and workforce to be productive.”

• EDP “should adopt, resource and implement an economic development strategic plan for Boyle County and identify key goals for our community’s economic prosperity over the next 5-7 years,” he said. 

• He said EDP should work towards a more “business friendly” environment “that encourages the profitability and growth of existing businesses and promotes an entrepreneurial spirit.”

• EDP should help support “the further development of Boyle County’s tourism and recreation activities and marketing to enhance their positive economic and quality of life impact on the community,” he said. 

• Nelson said EDP should develop strategies “that help attract more high paying jobs, preferably with good benefit packages that positively impact the occupational tax revenues for city and county governments.”

• And lastly, EDP should continue to “create better connections between education/workforce development and employment opportunities to assure our workforce is skilled and available to serve,” he said.