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Date: 12-11-2017

Op-Ed 

Rebounding slow and steady

By Jeff Vanderbeck
Appalachian News-Express

The move away from coal has been a slow and arduous task. But it’s happening. While coal is seeing slight upticks in production, it won’t be what it was, and the number of people needed in the mines has dwindled.

The announcement next week will tell folks about a battery manufacturer that plans to locate a production facility in Pikeville, I’m assuming at Marion Branch, as there is a meeting next Friday for a big job announcement.

Pikeville has been leading the region in small but steady job opportunities with the restaurants and retail outlets opening. The university opened the optometry school and the hospital is once again expanding. All this growth is the culmination of many years of planning, vision and cooperation. Even Coal Run has seen some business growth, with more on the horizon.

The cooperation between the officials of Pikeville and the county is now more necessary than ever. Their gesture in Tuesday’s meeting was a humbling one for them as they voted to approve the measure to use coal severance money to pay for the core drilling at Pikeville’s Kentucky Enterprise Industrial Park. Their approval shows their willingness to work with others who are creating jobs. 

The money was awarded and set in place but needed final approval from legislators and the county judge. Three of the four legislators showed leadership by sending their letters of approval well in advance to the state to release the coal severance money for this project. And now that the fiscal court is on board, the project can move along more harmoniously. 

The better news is this approval may eventually lower our taxes. These manufacturing jobs should generate more than $400 million in payroll that will be subject to the occupational tax. And because the industrial park is in the county school district, the school system will benefit as well, potentially lowering the school tax.

Within three years, the plant should be in full operation. In the meantime, the people in this and surrounding communities should gear up for a sustainable source of jobs. You can expect people who are out of work to have the opportunity to obtain gainful employment. You can expect that the housing market will get significantly better. You can expect some of the mom-and-pop stores to reappear to support the newly-expected workforce.

The announcement will be made next Friday and that should be formal, official and a day for celebration. But, caution needs to be exercised. While the county had little to do with this deal, they need to work with the city and start to foster better relationships.

In the last fiscal court meeting, Chuck Sexton, the president of ONE East Kentucky, addressed the court and explained the importance of working together and how many opportunities are on the table for this region. And how Pikeville is and being considered by many other companies.

The Pikeville city commissioners, mayor and city manager have worked tirelessly to get this deal. The Pikeville city commissioners make less than $4,000 a year and the mayor makes less than $5,000 a year. Coal Run’s mayor makes about $9,000 and is responsible for his own taxes. The magistrates make 10-12 times as much and need to consider following Pikeville and Coal Run’s lead.

The magistrates have taken a lot of heat over their salaries. Former Pikeville city manager took a lot of heat over his salary, but he was a producer. The deal is partly because of his hard work and fortunately, the replacement city manager, Phillip Elswick carried the ball across the goal line, making their salaries worth the expense.

With good leadership, this could be the start of many more positive announcements of jobs coming to the region.

 

Comments  

0 #1 Plowboy 2017-12-13 03:55
Lawrence County is pathetic.
Quote

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