Monday, May 8, 2017

Multi-county economic development discussed again

There is once again some discussion about a multi-county economic development group forming to replace some of the frail or non-existent efforts in Crittenden County and a few of its border counties.

The topic was discussed recently during a regular meeting of the Crittenden County Economic Development Corp. (CCEDC), which may be among the strongest organizations in the immediate area. Caldwell and Lyon counties have shown interest in a regional concept and the group hopes to bring Livingston into the fold, too.

This isn’t a new concept. It’s been kicked around at least twice before and some of the same communities are back at the table rehashing the idea. Truth is, Crittenden County Judge-Executive Perry Newcom said that most of the small counties don’t have the resources to adequately fund an economic development program.

“I think we can do more collaboratively than individually,” Newcom told the CCEDC’s directors. “None of us has the resources to do it on our own, not even Caldwell as much as they have.”

All three counties have had varying forms of economic development programs and are still generally active, but like Crittenden’s effort, all are crunched for cash.

The CCEDC was created here in 1996 and has withstood some troubled times. The group is a public-private entity with most of its operating capital coming from major contributors such as local government, banks and industry. In earlier times, the CCEDC had annual financial pledges approaching $90,000.

“Membership is down,” Newcom said.

Although the group’s financial condition was in dire straits a few months ago, it has stabilized by selling timber at Industrial Park North, securing an option to sell about 15 acres at the same industrial park and benefiting from a recent membership drive.

Terry Bunnell, president of The Peoples Bank and chairman of the CCEDC, said the economic development organization has about $24,000 in cash assets right now. It had gotten down to about $9,000 about two years ago.

Preliminary plans include hiring a qualified economic development director that would perhaps be headquartered at the Marion Ed-Tech Center. Since Crittenden already has the facility, there is some talk about it being the most logical place for the multi-county office. The airport in Marion is also a selling point for this being the main office.

Early discussions of a multi-county effort include budgetary needs of about $160,000 to make it feasible.

Newcom said recent job creation announcements in eastern Kentucky illustrate that rural areas can join forces to lure firms that provide employment.

Chris Cook, treasurer for the CCEDC, said he thinks the future of economic development will require a multi-county effort.