The possibilities include “Project River,” a metals recycling operation that looked at the old Pen Ventilator property in Junction City, “Project Print,” a sign making company out of Ohio, and “Project Harbor,” a company that would supply materials for heavy manufacturing and include 33 jobs and $30 million in capital investment to start.
The largest prospect in terms of number of jobs is a food processing operation being referred to as “Project Newly.” Lassiter said representatives from the company are scheduled to visit later this month and the project could bring up to 100 jobs and $50 million in capital investment.
Although there do appear to be some glimpses of hope, there have continued to be setbacks to go along with the progress made in over the last several months.
The county’s unemployment rate, 11.8 percent through the year’s first quarter, has continually hovered between 11.5 and 12 percent. While some employers have reduced workforce while staying open, the overall job numbers took another big hit when Philips Lighting closed in February, meaning a loss of 79 positions.
Lassiter said frank conversations with economic development colleagues indicate a growing belief that unemployment may remain closer to double digits than the sub-six percent numbers the state was accustomed to before the recession. He noted that the high numbers are also likely missing those who are not seeking a job or unemployment.
Regardless of some grim indicators, Lassiter understands the vast majority of the public is only interested in the number of jobs his office is able to attract and maintain. After years of wooing companies targeting a place to locate, Lassiter said work is paying off, noting that the Meggitt expansion was the culmination of over two years of work, from the initial inquiry until the company announced its expansion.
Lassiter said three companies have made site visits, the economic development equivalent of a recruiting visit, during the last month, with representatives from the food processing operation set to be in town later this month. By the time a prospect comes for a visit, the itinerary for which is tailored to the aspects of the community they want to see, there has been extensive work done gathering information and filling out what Lassiter compares to a 1040 long-form tax return.
“We are not just sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring,” Lassiter said “We have had our heads down and done a lot of work in the trenches the last three years.”
Lassiter said several of the inquiries and two of the recent site visits have been initiated through the EDP’s regional and state partnerships, Bluegrass South and Kentucky United, which allows Boyle County to pay for a portion of overall marketing costs.
One of the areas Lassiter has tried to improve is relationships and communication between his office and local leaders.
The importance of working closely with the governments of Danville and Boyle County, which budgeted $120,000 and $110,000 for the EDP in the coming year — the same level as last year — was stressed in his annual performance review, and Lassiter said he has made a concerted effort to reach out.
One of the more unconventional steps Lassiter took was setting up a monthly “lunch and ride” with Boyle Judge-Executive Harold McKinney. After eating at a local restaurant, Lassiter and McKinney drive a portion of the county to look at infrastructure and potential industrial sites, all with a soundtrack of a mutually approved country music singer.
More tangibly, Lassiter said he has continued to try and engage the city and county on infrastructure needs that directly affect whether industries locate here.