Economic development is a community-wide effort

Published 9:41 pm Friday, July 5, 2019


Guest columnist

What does economic development really mean? What constitutes impact on our economy? If you ask 100 people you will probably get at least 99 different answers.

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Some would say it means jobs. Government entities would say taxes and revenue. Retailers, restaurateurs and hoteliers might say it means people are traveling and spending money.

But I believe economic development isn’t limited to stacks of dollar bills trading hands. There are economic impacts across our community from every store, factory, restaurant and small business in Danville and Boyle County.

I recently learned there is a couple who attends every play at Pioneer Playhouse. This month, they are bringing six other couples with them! They will all stay in a hotel room (six or seven rooms total), eat at restaurants (12 to 14 people eating three meals a day). They will probably shop retail when they are here.

I believe the average citizen is not aware of these types of impacts and isn’t taking them into consideration. How many other people are having similar impacts that we don’t even know about? Such as the people who choose to live here because they attended an event here, countless volunteer hours invested by citizens and business owners, Centre College graduates that relocate here to retire, others who spend money here but don’t live in this county.

It seems that any conversation about economic development solely focuses on industry and jobs. Economic development is so much more than industry.

The new philosophy is to attract start-up and incubator type businesses or small industry with higher wages. These types of business and industry bring a different level of economic impact. The younger generations operating these businesses are community-minded, very involved and want to make global impacts on local levels. The current workforce will not only work and raise families here but will also focus on quality of life amenities such as recreation and walkability.

The bread and butter of economic impact lies in our small businesses that collectively contribute several hundred thousand dollars annually. The variety of small businesses draws over 100,000 people to our county with a population of barely 30,000. These people from several surrounding counties shop, eat, attend events, utilize parks and public spaces and infrastructure in our community.

People from other areas and surrounding counties could relocate to Boyle County so they can be closer to where they spend their time working and spending time and money. This impact isn’t small, but it is a collective impact over time.

Again, the impact is from the people who operate these businesses, employ a small number of people, and contribute to the wellbeing of the community. The impact of this is almost immeasurable.

Economic development has been a very contentious subject in our community. We have passionate citizens and a beautiful community with a lot to offer. While we may not all agree on exactly what economic development actually looks like, we can agree that we have a great community full of wonderful people who contribute countless hours to making Danville and Boyle County a better place.

Denise Terry is a Danville city commissioner and a member of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership’s Board of Directors.