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Lassiter updates Rotary about Develop Danville activities

By DAVE FAIRCHILD

Danville Rotary

Develop Danville is the economic development agency for Boyle County and the cities of Danville, Junction City and Perryville (formerly known as the EDP). Jody Lassiter is the President and CEO of Develop Danville and spokesperson for “Kentucky Crossroads.”

“I’m a regionalist, because arbitrary jurisdictional boundaries don’t adequately reflect how the flow of commerce and wages comprising the area’s economy really works. For example, 66 percent of Boyle County’s workforce commutes in from outside of our county every day to work here. Most come from Lincoln County.”

For that reason, the Develop Danville partnership works with data from the Danville Micropolitan Statistical Area, which comprises Boyle and Lincoln counties, Kentucky. The area is an urban cluster with socially and economically integrated interests, with Danville at its center and providing many bigger city amenities for businesses, residents, retirees, and visitors.

Kentucky Crossroads is a collaborative effort comprised of Anderson, Boyle, Casey, Garrard, Lincoln, Marion, Mercer, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Taylor and Washington counties. It’s purpose is to market the region as a business destination for new and expanding industries. The partnership has resulted in more than 4,500 new jobs and $1.7 billion in new investments over the past five years.

Automation is definitely a significant factor in economic development consideration in today’s marketplace, according to Lassiter. “25 jobs can easily do what 100 jobs did 10 years ago by virtue of automation technology.”

He characterized the trend as much higher investment intensive in automation than in job creation.  Lassiter feels this trend can work to Danville-Boyle County’s benefit, because it minimizes the impact of the area’s skills gap and undersized workforce.

After establishing that background, Lassiter focused on Develop Danville’s 2017-18 fiscal year achievements, which were summarized as: a net of 187 new jobs; $41.5 million in investments; $98.8 million in tourism expenditures, and 17,182 employed and only 5% unemployment.

He featured the “Economic Development Strategic Plan” as a 2018 highlight achievement. With a 10-year timeline, the plan addressed 190 action items, 72 of which have been completed or are ongoing.  Thirty-three of the remaining action items are in-process. All business development work was centralized under an oversight board. Four new committees were launched: Executive, Workforce Development, Marketing and Asset Development.

Develop Danville projects are tracked through four stages: inquiries, qualified projects, due diligence and announcements. In the past year, Develop Danville received 113 inquiries; 13 were lost; nine were determined to be “unqualified,” which means that there were requirements which the area could not meet. Ninety-seven projects met all requirements and were “qualified.” Twenty-seven of those were subsequently lost. Forty-eight projects continued to the due diligence phase, where 17 were lost. Of the continuing 31 projects, 13 have been announced. NIne of those 13 have been completed and another 4 are in process.

The announced projects include: Luca Mariano Distillery, LLC; Whiskey Service, LLC (IJW Whiskey Company, LLC); American Greetings Corporation; Wilderness Trail Distillery, LLC; Hobart Corporation and Dana Incorporated. Luca Mariano and IJW came to the county because they were contract customers to Wilderness Trail Distillery, already the 14th largest distillery by production capacity. In a Nov. 9, 2018 article in Forbes magazine by Fred Minnick, Wilderness Trail was ranked in the top 15 nationally in blind taste tests. The remaining announced projects were smaller business projects; some of which are startups and one was a child day care center at Living Waters Church.

Next, Lassiter addressed the importance he attaches to his annual submission to Site Selection magazine. “It is kind of the Wall Street Journal of the economic development world, so their coverage of us influences corporate decision-makers and site selection consultants that are advising companies about where to expand or relocate.”

His partnership organization will be submitting their 2019 data package soon and hope to continue placing in the magazine’s top 20, maybe in the top three. “We’ll be able to announce that result soon, hopefully about March.”

Asked about his thoughts for future growth potential, Lassiter commented: “We have the largest capacity for clean water in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Water is going to be critical for many industries, as it is for bourbon. We should also be supplying more Kentucky corn to the bourbon industry, but our current capacity is maxed out. Cattle production farms are beginning to convert to growing corn. Hopefully we will ramp up other grain production, too.”