Rising local employment rates, more industrial prospects and plenty of national attention over the past year have created a more promising economic forecast for Danville and Boyle County.
Eighteen industrial businesses are employing about 9.4 percent more people than they were a year ago, according to a reporter’s audit of quarterly reports compiled by the Boyle County Industrial Foundation and the Danville/Boyle County Economic Development Partnership.
The employment outlook is also optimistic in other counties. Kentucky was ranked second in the nation for job growth over the past year, according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of October, Kentucky had 47,000 new jobs available, a 2.6 percent increase from 2011.
Danville and Boyle County had two “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities” in 2012 with the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Perryville and the vice-presidential debate held at Centre College, said Jody Lassiter, EDP president. Those events did not necessarily create long-term jobs for people. But as a result of the international media attention, more people, including entrepreneurs, have their eyes on Danville, Lassiter said.
By the end of the summer, Danville will be the smallest city in the United States to have a Cheddar’s franchise. Two additional franchise restaurants are slated to come to the bypass area in 2013 and two locally-owned food service businesses are scheduled to open in the downtown area, according to Lassiter, who declined to identify the businesses.
One chain restaurant such as Cheddar’s could employ as many as 200 people in a range of part-time and full-time positions, some of which do not require extensive work experience or education, he said.
Boyle County’s “Work Ready Community” status is another factor that should help bring more businesses back to the area in 2013, Lassiter said. Four industrial companies are seriously interested in bringing some of their operations to Danville, he said, again declining to name the prospects.
The EDP and the Chamber of Commerce have partnered so the organizations can offer more workforce training, especially concerning industry. If industries start coming back to the area, Lassiter hopes people who wish to work will take the right steps to become more gainfully employed. Businesses creating jobs and officials increasing workforce training in any community will not instantly improve the lives of the under-employed or unemployed if people do not have a good work ethic or are unable to give up self-destructive habits, Lassiter said.
Drug screening is a long-standing part of the application process for industrial jobs and is also becoming more of a standard in other sectors, especially restaurants and stores. While employment locally and statewide has increased, so has drug use. Lassiter acknowledged that untreated substance abuse issues could present a problem for some people who might otherwise qualify for an industrial job.
“Prescription drug abuse is a problem that is shattering families in every corner of the commonwealth and it is preventing Kentucky from being all that it can be,” said Attorney General Jack Conway in a recent press release.
Though no one has the power to instantly end any economic or social problems, life for many Kentuckians today is more hopeful than it was even just a year ago.
The state is now adding jobs at the same pace as the pre-recession period, economist Manoj Shanker of the state Office of Employment and Training stated in a press release.
Job growth also garnered first place on Gov. Steve Beshear’s “Top 10 Accomplishments of 2012,” which was released Thursday.
“I’m proud of the work we have done this year to help our families recover from tough times, from prescription drug abuse to tornadoes,” Beshear said.
“We remain focused on the goals we brought into the administration – to create new jobs and keep them here.”