To the Editor:
In the past two weeks some very good news has arrived on the job front – for our neighbors in London – with announcements from both General Dynamics and Serco bringing an additional 1,000 and 634 jobs respectively to Laurel County.
Congratulations goes to London and their team of elected and appointed officials, including the London-Laurel County Industrial Development Authority, Executive Director Charles Pennington, Jr., Judge Executive David Westerfield, and Mayor Troy Rudder, as well as local business people, who all know how to work as a team to recruit business to their city. London does an outstanding job of promoting the attributes of their community as well as utilizing their resources – both political and local – and deserves all of the success they have achieved.
It is a shame the same cannot be said about Corbin. The bottom line is London works much harder and smarter for the businesses they recruit, and works as a team instead of preferring to get individual acclaim or nothing at all. While London is a fine community, it offers very few advantages over Corbin, and I can give you many demographic and economic advantages Corbin offers over London. It is very clear London wants to succeed and prosper more than Corbin does and the proof is in the efforts and results, which everyone reading this can acknowledge. Corbin officials can say that they want to succeed in recruiting business and job creation until they are blue in the face but their actions, or lack thereof, speaks otherwise.
One thing I’ve learned since I’ve been here is that you can’t help people who don’t feel that they need help or need to do a better job. There is a feeling by some people that if you tell them they need to improve at something, even if the facts are staring them right in the face, that it is some sort of knock on them or the city, the “the heck with you, we are already great and don’t need to improve” attitude. As great a basketball player as Michael Jordon was, he never thought he couldn’t improve his game, and throughout his career he never settled for his level of play, always working his tail off to constantly improve even though he was already the best in the game. That’s the difference between mediocrity and true success. That is also why Corbin doesn’t grow and prosper.
While there will be some Corbin and Whitley County residents who will gain employment with the 1,634 jobs General Dynamics and Serco are bringing to Laurel County, it is London, Laurel County and their residents who will receive the major benefits in the future. These recruitment successes will help attract more new businesses to London, help strengthen the London housing market, bring new sales revenues to local London and Laurel County businesses, and bring in new tax revenues to Laurel County, which in turn will help pay for improved city and county services, help hire additional law enforcement, and help give pay raises to city and county employees. On the conservative side, let’s say those 1,600 jobs pay an average of $20,000 per year. That is $32 million in new wages paid out every year to workers in Laurel County, and approximately $320,000 in additional occupational tax revenue per year for Laurel County and on top of the approximately $12.5 million already taken in annually. There appears to be several people in Corbin who feel that our community does not need any of the above, although I’m sure it’s not our local businesses, the City and County Police Departments, the Fire Departments, or city employees, some of whom I’ve been told haven’t received pay raises in five years.
It is time for the Southeast Kentucky Regional Industrial Development Authority to either do their jobs, or for several board members to step down and let other individuals who have a stronger passion for area growth and possess greater business knowledge fill the board. If not, then Corbin needs to dissolve this commission and save the approximate $150,000 per year it costs the city to participate. There has not been one new business brought into the Southeastern Kentucky Regional business park since 2005, and every member on this board should be embarrassed. When you research the Kentucky Department of Economic Development website you discover that the “Reported new job creation since 2010” reads London/Laurel County at 2,777 – 2,937 total jobs created compared to Corbin/Whitley-Knox-Laurel County’s embarrassing 28 – 168 total jobs created. There is absolutely no accountability for anyone, and that is not how Industrial Commissions, Boards and Directors in successful communities operate. This lack of business recruitment into Corbin’s Business Park not only hurts our community but also adversely affects the counties who participate in SKRIDA, namely Bell, Clay, Knox, McCreary, Whitley, and yes, even Laurel.
This is not just inclusive to Industry either. For example, besides industry Corbin fails to recruit, every restaurant such as Cheddar’s, Starbucks, Gondolier or Steak & Shake that chooses London over Corbin also means anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 in lost restaurant tax revenue per year, per restaurant – the majority of which is actually paid from patrons who reside in other cities and states who stop at our exits to refuel and dine – not to mention the other lost tax revenue.
No, I’m not bidding or running for anything, I’m not a politician. I’m just sick of the excuses, and so should everyone throughout Corbin. But it’s not going to change until some people who have made past promises to improve the way Corbin conducts its business grow a backbone and do what they promised to all of us that they would do. If not, the same old way of conducting business will continue to cost the area jobs and hurt the local economy. It takes guts, not turning the other cheek, to make changes and improvements, and as many people around here have told me, two or three people in charge of various aspects of local government don’t appear to have the guts to do what they said they would do, or to do what they know needs to be done. You know what they say, “No Guts, No Glory.” I guess it’s easier to do nothing for some people, but it is Corbin and its citizens, public workers, and local businesses that eventually pay the price.
Bob Terrell Jr.