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How is Boyle County doing on its economic development plan?

By BEN NELSON

Guest columnist

The Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership Strategic Economic Development Plan Implementation Strategy released in June 2017 identified eight goals, six key result areas, 34 objectives and 187 actions/tactics time-phased over ten years to foster economic development.

The plan is being led by The Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership Board — a volunteer alliance of the Boyle County Industrial Foundation, Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, Danville-Boyle County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Heart of Danville Main Street Program, Main Street Perryville, and the local governments of Boyle County, Danville, Junction City and Perryville.

As we approach the completion of the second year of implementing the plan I want to share some highlights of our progress and our challenges. You can find the full plan on the partnership’s website: www.developdanville.com.

The first key result area, organizational structure, has been completed in accordance to the plan timeline. The plan suggests this community needs to hire several additional economic development professionals to accomplish our aggressive goals. We recruited and hired a second economic development professional, Hal Goode, as a first-ever chief operating officer in mid-August 2017. Unfortunately, he resigned in May 2018.

We have lacked the resources to move some of our objectives forward. Our efforts to add additional staff, re-organize and mobilize our board as “working” volunteers, and expand our outreach through regional alliances like Kentucky United and Kentucky Crossroads are continuing to make slow but steady progress.

Comprised of Anderson, Boyle, Casey, Garrard, Lincoln, Marion, Mercer, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Taylor and Washington counties, Kentucky Crossroads continues its collaborative effort 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.

Kentucky Crossroads, our regional economic development partnership, is celebrating its business growth achievements during 2018, a year in which a record nearly $800 million in new capital investments were announced within its 11-county borders. The amount more than doubles the previous highest investment year set back in 2010.

Making the year even brighter is the nearly 830 new jobs announced within the region, representing an 85-percent increase over 2017.

The second key result area is workforce development. Under the leadership of Dr. Erin Tipton of Bluegrass Community and Technical College and Ennis Tillman, citizen at large board member, the Workforce Development Committee is made up of about 20 volunteers. Recent newspaper columns from this committee have highlighted the past, present and future work happening on this important community need.

The third key result area is recruitment. Under the leadership of Danville Mayor Mike Perros and Farmers National Bank President Marty Gibson, the partnership’s Marketing Committee facilitates business recruitment and expansion targets. As of now, with the input of a diverse set of citizens, we have identified seven target areas.

Our regional partners Kentucky Crossroads hosted a successful regional event at our local Wilderness Trail Distillery for site selection professionals. We are identifying additional marketing and recruitment efforts that will advance our recruitment “wins.” The plan also identifies the opportunity in year three to invest aggressively in strengthening our community’s entrepreneurial development.

The plan covers retention and expansion, looking at supporting existing businesses in and aiding their growth. This is an area that lack of staff has hindered our progress. We have pushed the suggested annual business survey to every other year.

We do have industry roundtables around the distillery and hotel sectors thanks to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, but hope to expand those ongoing roundtables to other sectors of businesses to aid in better understanding their needs and challenges.

Finally, given our resource constraints we have not made the progress on monthly outreach to existing businesses.

The fifth key result area is marketing and outreach. In year two, the partnership has refreshed and updated our community’s web and social media presence, including an award-winning tourism site for visitors and enhanced Develop Danville site for prospective businesses. We welcome feedback on our current sites as we improve them.

Going forward, the objectives around local citizen outreach and educational materials still needs more effort so our community fully understands all the work underway to advance economic development in Boyle County.

The final key result area, asset development, outlines things we need to consider doing to make sure our community has the needed infrastructure. Under the shared leadership of Perros, previous Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney and new Boyle County Judge-Executive Howard Hunt, the partnership’s Asset Development Committee facilitates and coordinates targeted initiatives to enhance infrastructure and other community assets impacting our community’s economic development and growth.

The eight volunteers working on this have been focused on advancing our community’s broadband and transportation needs. The staff has made good progress in developing and maintaining a comprehensive property and asset database that allows prospects to see the full array of what is currently available in our community.

Finally, our community’s Planning and Zoning Commission and staff are making good progress in improving our regulatory approval processes to foster a business-friendly climate.

We have made some good progress in year two, but we have much more to do in year three to further our community’s economic development needs.

I remain convinced that by working together on a specific plan of action and pooling our resources, our community achieves things no one alone can do. We can be proud of the many private and public leaders whose commitment to this positive steadfast collaboration fosters a great quality of life and a solid, growing economy.

This important work is an investment helping make clear the difference of a bright future for Boyle County for years to come.

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