EDA: 700-plus new jobs in two years
Woodford Economic Development Authority (EDA) Vice Chairman Mike Coleman prepared for the Friday, Sept. 30, EDA meeting with an impressive list of new jobs and company investments since 2014. Minutes into the meeting, those numbers officially changed, as Chairman John Soper announced that Yokohama's Versailles plant would be hiring 134 new employees. Job stats After the Yokohoma announcement, Coleman gave the report, which he said was prepared by EDA Executive Director Craig McAnelly and himself. Coleman said 1,500 new jobs have been created in Woodford County since 2014, amounting to $467.7 million in new investments: . In 2014, 162 jobs and $82.9 million in investments. . In 2015, 633 jobs and $100.4 million in investments. . In 2016, 762 jobs and $284.4 million in investments. Coleman noted those figures did not include figures from the Yokohama expansion. Coleman and Soper were two of the attendees at an Aug. 29 "workforce development" meeting of government officials, industry leaders and educators at which the need for skilled workers was outlined. Citing statistics given by a school official, Coleman said, "In Woodford County alone, there are 1,600 people between the ages of 16 and 24 who don't even have a GED (general education development test) ." Coleman said many manufacturers require job applicants to pass a basic skills test. "I know from Jessamine County, our approval rate of people passing that test was less than 50 percent. So I had to work with the adult education center (there) and going through the Work Ready program that the state offers, we've been able to increase that to 73 percent," Coleman said. "That's another factor that we need to consider as we think about workforce development and being able to provide people for the jobs that are available." Soper said one local plant official told him that only between 15 and 20 percent of his company's jobs are filled by Woodford County residents. Lakeshore Learning Materials The California company planning to build a distribution center at Midway Station that would employ 262 workers by November of 2017 received a unanimous endorsement for its request to modify an off-site storm sewer system. The Lakeshore Learning Materials plan was already approved by the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission's technical review committee. Planning Director Pattie Wilson said the company discovered if it lowered the existing storm sewer system under McKinney Avenue, it could build a lower building and still have adequate drainage in its detention area. The work would not affect the capacity of the existing off-site system, Wilson said. Wilson said the company must get an encroachment permit from the city of Midway before the work can begin. New member William Downey attended his first meeting as a member of the EDA and was promptly and unanimously appointed recording secretary. Downey, an employee of the RJ Corman Railroad Group, was appointed by Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott. He will fill the unexpired term of Lauren Graves, which ends June 30, 2017. Post-executive session After an executive session called to discuss possible land purchases, the EDA unanimously approved two motions involving Midway Station: . Using the $310,000 escrow account from American Howa Kentucky to bring natural gas to Midway Station and allowing any profits made on future land sales to be used for that purpose. . Authorizing Soper to obtain a grading permit on behalf of Lakeshore Learning if a "hold harmless" document from the company is obtained and the work is agreed to by the EDA and developer Dennis Anderson.