EDP should focus on advanced manufacturing, logistics, health care, consultant says

If Danville and Boyle County want the biggest bang for their economic development bucks, a strategic economic development consultant says leaders should focus their efforts in three industries: advanced manufacturing; logistics; and health services and products. 

“I prefer the rifle approach over the shotgun approach,” said Kyle Talente, the RKG and Associates consultant hired by the local Economic Development Partnership to guide the creation of a strategic economic development plan. “If we get very, very good at one or two or three industries, we’re going to be a lot more successful than if we try and do all 12. Because you can’t become an expert and you just don’t have the bandwidth as a community to be come experts in 12 different ones, so let’s focus on the ones we think are going to be most successful.”

Talente said the Danville-Boyle County EDP currently has 15-20 different industries it’s interested in bringing to the area. Last year, Talente identified five top industries he said would be good to target. This month, he narrowed that list to three, eliminating entertainment/recreation; and a category that included consulting, corporate, professional and information services.

“You as a community, you as the EDP need to decide if you agree with that or not,” Talente told elected leaders and members of the public when he presented to them this month. “But at the end of the day, you should pick one or two or three and just drive for those.”

Talente said he believes the EDP should begin “on-site recruitment” efforts, which means paying to bring prospective business leaders to Boyle County and show them around. Such trips should be done to attract the targeted industries, he explained.

“We are very, very good at going out to conferences or events and meeting with prospects,” he said. “There’s a lot of value to bringing them to the community and showing them what Danville-Boyle County has to offer. It’s been said to me and I frankly agree that this community fights above its weight in a lot of different aspects of life.”

Advanced manufacturing

Talente said the region where Boyle County is located has had good success in the past of attracting advanced manufacturing businesses, which are factories where a lot of the physical labor is automated. The jobs associated with such facilities are generally higher-paying and involve managing and maintenance, he said.

Denyo and Meggitt are two companies already operating in the area that are considered advanced manufacturing, he said.

“Companies like that want to be here and they see that there is a labor force,” Talente said.

However, the local population probably limits the size of a manufacturing business that could be attracted.

“The idea of a 500- or 1,000-person facility coming here is probably much more of a long shot than small, mid-size, up to 250 (employees),” he said. “That’s about labor force. We are a relatively small community. We do have access to a decent-sized labor shed, but the thought of someone being able to drop 500 high-tech jobs in Boyle County and those being absorbed very, very quickly I think is a lot harder of a sell to a company than (Louisville or Cincinnati) just upon labor force size.

“That’s not to say don’t go after them, but once again, this is about putting you in a position to be successful, and I think this community will appeal to the 100- to 250-person firm much more and on a competitive basis than the 500-plus firm, and that’s just about capacity.”

Logistics

Boyle County’s location and transportation options mean it can be competitive in attracting companies that need to move products around the country, Talente said.

“We are centrally located to a vast majority of the United States population; we have a 5,000-plus-foot runway airport right here in the community; we have the active Norfolk Southern line that connects you via rail; and while we’re not right on an Interstate, it’s not like you have to pass through 600 traffic lights between here and the Interstate to get access to the road network,” he said. “So we are very well situated to attract and to maintain logistics-based businesses. I’m not going to be naive enough to say we have a greater competitive advantage over some other communities that are right on the Interstate and also have (an airport and railroad), but I believe that that is compelling story we can tell, that we can be competitive in that market.”

Health care

Talente said the area of health care is a “two-headed beast,” with potential for growth in both health care providers and medical research and manufacturing.

The EDP could work to bring in new health care services that will “augment” what’s already offered by local medical professionals and the Ephraim McDowell regional hospital, he said.

“On the production side of things is how do we work and use access to a facility like Ephraim and a medical school like (the University of Kentucky)?” he said. “How do we then tie in to the hospital, the medical training that goes on, and get into research, get into product manufacturing, get into product development and be a hub for that type of activity?”

Production and development of medical tools would fall into both the health care and advanced manufacturing categories, Talente noted.

Other businesses

Talente said targeting specific industries doesn’t mean the EDP can’t also attract other businesses.

“This doesn’t mean you do these at the expense of all the other ones,” he said. “The reality is if a business is interested in moving to Boyle County, we should be open to hearing what they have to say, regardless of what it is. What I’m trying to encourage the community to do is be more focused in its recruitment efforts.”

Talente said he thinks currently, “we’re not doing a whole lot of targeted approach.”

“I would want to see the Economic Development Partnership expand its outreach efforts and do more of it, but do it focused within those three areas and be specific about — if we’re going to go attend a trade conference, for example, make it in one of those three (areas).”

“You may disagree with me and you may say, ‘You know what? We would absolutely love to be the next biotech center of the United States,’” Talente said. “My response is it’s going to cost you a lot more money to get yourself into that game than it is for these and I’m trying to help this community be as efficient and effective with its resources as possible.”