Looking back at economic development in Boyle in 2017, and forward to 2018

Published 7:20 am Saturday, December 23, 2017


Economic Development Partnership

Prosperity in 2018 for people in our community: What does that look like to you?

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For me, I believe a strong community enables strong employers. Strong employers enable strong families. Strong families enable a strong community. And vice versa. It is a virtual cycle that makes our community great.

The Economic Development Partnership is nine organizations made up of both public and private organizations who have voluntarily agreed to work together to advance the economic development of Boyle County. It exists to further this virtual cycle of common good.

Those organizations’ shared cause is noble and deserves our attention, support and guidance.

Today, we have folks in our community who are food-insecure, under- or unemployed, and some struggling with addiction. That is part of why we need strategies that develop more high-paying jobs, preferably with benefit packages, that increase disposable income for goods and services and positively impact occupational tax revenues for local governments.

We need to create a more business-friendly environment that encourages the expansion of existing businesses and promotes an entrepreneurial spirit. We need to diversify and support retail and service offerings as a regional hub to enhance the livability and convenience for county residents. We need to pursue economic development strategies to enhance the community’s public and technology infrastructures for growth, while maintaining our communities’ character, historic preservation and quality of life that are assets for Boyle County. We need to create better connections between education/workforce development and employment opportunities to promote opportunities for our communities to flourish in Boyle County.

These and more are the partnerships’ agreed-upon strategic goals for our community.

In the past year, the nine EDP partners have worked together toward our shared goals to create a community where all succeed and have a good life:

• We invested in an expert firm that facilitated the creation of a strategic plan to serve the community in setting its priorities and actions for the next three to five years. The process tapped many diverse citizens and resulted in a set of concrete steps worthy of our consideration and action.

• We added capacity to do more, hiring Hal B. Goode, former CEO of the Kentucky Association for Economic Development as chief operating officer. Between Jody Lassiter and Hal B. Goode, both award-winning professionals, we have a staff unparalleled in most economic professional circles as the most competent economic development staff in the state.

• We rolled out under the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s leadership an update to our community’s marketing, positioning our community as “Historically Bold” to leverage our strengths and appeal as a great place to work, visit, and live.

• We benefited from transformative moves between Planning and Zoning and our partners to assure business-friendly agility and support of smart growth in maintaining the integrity of what makes our community great.

• We reorganized the partnership’s board, improving the equity and parity of those who actively invest in economic development, while reaffirming that the private-public partnership is the best way to serve our common good.

• We are continuing to work on 95 projects in our community’s economic development pipeline that have the potential to add new jobs and/or capital investments.

And yet, we cannot ever become self-satisfied. Looking ahead, here are my hopes for the team of partners as we move ahead:

• We need to resist tribalism. Turf battles and power and control issues between partners undermine our community. Each partner has a unique role to play in collaborating together and pitching in to improve our outcomes. No partner is better than another as we share a common mission.

• We need to recognize economic development is a long-term investment. We cannot tax and spend our way to prosperity. We cannot cut our way to prosperity. An investment in economic development is the one thing we do that gets a return on taxpayers’ and private donors’ dollars. Being good stewards of that investment matters.

• We need to support economic development as significant work. Intentional undermining of the partnership’s credibility is toxic. That is not to say we don’t and won’t make mistakes. Let’s find solutions, not dwell on division and perceived problems.

As one elected official recently said, we need to get “in our boat and row all together in the same direction.” Looking to 2018, I am confident that the over 98 civic leaders that give their time to this partnership are willing to do just that.

“United we stand, divided we fall.” It is best practice to achieve prosperity for Boyle County.

Together, we have a bright future.

Ben Nelson is the chair of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors.