Inside Harlan Co. government
Fall is definitely in the air! It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year in the mountains of Harlan County. Thankfully, Harlan County didn’t receive much of the remnants from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and Harlan County citizens and visitors to our county over the next few weeks will get to enjoy seeing the leaves turn to their beautiful fall peak. Even though we were spared, let’s continue to remember the folks in Texas and Florida in our thoughts and prayers as they put their lives back together.
The city of Lynch celebrated its centennial this past weekend! It was a fun event and one that showcased so much history of this area. Times have changed a lot over the course of 100 years but the culture and persona of this town still remains the same. Congratulations to Mayor Johnny Adams and the Lynch Centennial Committee on a tremendous job with this event. More than 100 people toured Portal 31 on the Centennial Celebration Day. If you have never visited Portal 31, I encourage you to do so. You won’t be disappointed.
9/11 was last week. It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since that awful day that those of us alive then will never forget. We have many dedicated first responders right here in Harlan County. We were able to host an event at the courthouse on Monday evening of 9/11 to feed those first responders and let them gather and visit with their friends and family and enjoy good food and good music. I would like to thank Kudzu Killers and Brooklyn Collins for donating their time to showcase their exceptional musical talent for the enjoyment of our first responder community. It was an honor to organize this event but I would also like to thank the individuals and businesses who donated their resources to provide a meal for almost 150 of these folks who are looking out for us each and every day. It was a great event and we hope to do it again next year!
This past weekend, the fire department in Verda re-opened. I’m thankful to the volunteers affiliated with Yocum Creek Fire Department and those that have joined them to provide adequate fire protection to the citizens of Kildav, Verda, Jones Creek, Ages-Brookside, and Coxton. Maintaining a fire department is no easy task. These members have accepted the incredible challenge of taking on another coverage area because of their love for the people of these communities. I’m grateful that we have so many incredible firefighters here in Harlan County who spend many hours training, preparing, and responding to the needs of our citizens.
The Harlan County EDA and Economic Development Director Larry Calhoun have been making great strides. Since January 2016 we can point to 248 direct new jobs in our county, which is terrific news! Teleworks USA has created 150 new jobs, Kitts Creek 23, Addiction Recovery Care Lydia’s House 15 and an additional 60 new coal jobs have been filled in Harlan County. We need more diverse jobs and we are committed to continually creating an environment for additional job growth.
Much of the economic development ground work is now being put in place. Little diversification efforts in the past has definitely set us back some in this regard. People often ask me, when will we be able to land a company that will create 250-500 jobs? The answer is a tough one. Given our current lack of developed land with infrastructure has actually prompted the answer to be more of a question. Where would we put them? That’s what we’re working on. We have to be prepared to attract a company that would create 100 or 200 or 300 jobs. A contract has been awarded for the development of a 5 acre state certified build ready site within the 139 acre Sleepy Hollow Golf Course site in Cumberland. This will create a pad that can house a 100,000 square foot facility. This is a crucial piece of the puzzle for new company recruitment. It will expedite a company’s ability to locate in Harlan County due to having all permitting and environmental clearances out of the way once this build ready process is complete. This will make Harlan County more competitive because there aren’t any state certified build ready sites in this region and only a handful of them in the state. According to employment statistics, there are 9,080 people available in the Harlan County workforce and 8,189 of these citizens living in Harlan County have a job. Therefore, 891 are not working and are looking for work. Our goal is to find those folks who are looking for a job….a job, and increase the amount of good paying jobs in our county so that those who have went to work elsewhere could return home if they want.
Our new economic development website targeted toward site selectors for companies has now launched thanks to an Appalachian Region Commission grant the Fiscal Court and EDA received earlier this year. Mr. Calhoun has been able to place 3 advertisements in Site Selection magazine that targets expanding companies all across the world thanks to the assistance from our partner in Economic Development, One Harlan County. Additionally, our quest for higher internet speed availability to our citizens took another step forward recently with AT&T announcing that Harlan County would be one of the first in the state to receive the new fixed wireless project, an initiative that will give some citizens access to high speed internet who have never had it, and increase speeds for others who have had low speeds.
The feasibility study for the proposed Harlan County Wellness and Recreation Center is still underway. I will be meeting with the consultant later this month to review their recommendations. This study will identify the best sites in Harlan County for this facility, whether or not Harlan County can afford to build and maintain this facility, and what types of things would be needed to be included in the facility to best address the health and wellness needs of our people. I look forward to the completion of the study so that we can share the results with the general public and decide how to move forward with this idea.
The relocation of the Cawood community park to the site next to Cawood Elementary School is nearing completion and should be completely finished by October. The Dayhoit park project is also moving along very well and will be an asset to the people of the District 5 communities.
If you need or want to contact me, you can call my office at 573-2600. You can email me at email@example.com or write to me P.O. Box 956 Harlan, Ky. 40831. As always, I would love to hear from you. Also, feel free to drop in and see me any time I can be of assistance. My office is located on the top floor of the old courthouse. Thank you!