We recently sat down with Team Taylor County founding board member John E. Chowning to get his reflections on Taylor County’s economic development strategies, workforce partnerships, community assets and biggest opportunities. As Assistant to the President and Vice President Emeritus at Campbellsville University, Chowning has served on the Campbellsville-Taylor County Economic Development Authority for more than 21 years. Learn more about his vision for Campbellsville, Taylor County.
Describe the role of the Campbellsville-Taylor County Economic Development Authority.
The role of the Authority is to help grow the overall economy of Campbellsville-Taylor County. We do this by working with local governments and other community partners to help recruit new jobs for the community and by working with existing business and industry to retain and expand jobs. The Authority also helps identify and advocate for issues and community assets related to encouraging economic growth and development.
What do you view as Taylor County’s greatest economic strengths?
Our greatest economic strengths include our central location to major U.S. population centers, highway accessibility, ample water supply, an affordable cost of living and excellent quality of life. We are also fortunate to be home to a growing and innovative university, excellent local school systems, regional hospital and healthcare center, and a high-quality workforce.
How important have local, regional and state partnerships been to Taylor County’s success?
Such partnerships have been essential to our community’s success over the past two decades. We have been able to put aside partisan political differences and forged the Team Taylor County brand to show our unity to prospective businesses and industries. Close regional partnerships have advanced progress on the Heartland Parkway highway project and other projects. Our community has also worked closely with state government over the past two decades regardless of the political affiliation of those in office in Frankfort or locally. These partnerships have been essential to our progress.
Campbellsville and Taylor County educational providers are collaborating on several important initiatives to support workforce development in the region. How important is that collaboration to delivering upon the community’s economic development goals and how has the community’s focus on creating workforce solutions evolved?
Workforce development has become an essential part of our overall economic development strategy in recent years. One leading indicator of that focus is our designation as a Work Ready Community. This designation is a direct result of our strong partnerships with our local school districts, Campbellsville University and its Technology Training Center, and many other community partners. Team Taylor County has been a leader in forging alliances to help move the area forward in advancing workforce training and solutions. Our Executive Director, Ron McMahan, works closely with the manufacturers in the community and with the educational community to help facilitate the ongoing collaboration that is required. A primary example of what has been accomplished is the new Central Kentucky Career Academy. The soon-to-be-completed Academy involved the collaboration of Taylor County Schools, Campbellsville Independent Schools, Green County Area Technology Center and Campbellsville University and will offer a variety of expanded high school and postsecondary career tracks and certificate training programs that directly support local business and industry. Additionally, CU’s Technology Training Center is offering 20 new online certificate training programs that are providing expanded training opportunities in the community and area. Training programs are also available via KCTCS.
What do you see as Taylor County’s biggest opportunity over the next five years?
Completion of the Heartland Parkway will certainly enhance economic opportunity in Campbellsville-Taylor County over the next five years, both in terms of benefiting existing manufacturers, as well as improving our ability to recruit new employers to the community. A continued focus on improving workforce training programs, enhancing water and sewer infrastructure, and expanding broadband access will also create new opportunities for the community. I believe we will see continued growth of Campbellsville University and Taylor Regional Hospital, while many of our existing industries will add new jobs and investments. All of this is expected to further spur our population growth, just as it has done over the past several years.
Taylor County has a diverse and growing industry base. What might the average person not realize about the existing businesses in the community?
The average person may not have an appreciation for the number of international companies that are now located in Campbellsville. Companies such as Murakami Manufacturing USA, INFAC North America, Teleperformance, Fluortubing and WEG Electric Corp. each represent various parts of the world. A number of our companies are also major exporters of goods to other countries, including Ingersoll-Rand. Campbellsville Industries has designed, constructed, and installed more than 17,000 steeples, cupolas, clock towers, and similar structures in all 50 states, Canada, and in at least six other foreign countries. What may be most surprising to people is that Amazon operates its largest non-metropolitan fulfillment facility right here in Taylor County, employing more than 1,000 people. Even with such a large employer, we now have a much more diverse base of employers in the community who represent a variety of sectors of the 21st century industrial base.
What industry sectors are ripe for growth in the area?
With improved job training and upgrade of highway access, the area should be more competitive long-term for small to medium-size employers. Our abundant supply of water would be ideal for companies in the food and beverage industry. In short, businesses looking for communities with a central location, dedicated workforce, a cost of living that allows for a great quality of life, ample infrastructure and utilities, improving broadband, and quality education systems and university will find that Campbellsville, Taylor County is the perfect place to do business.
What is the board’s vision for the Heartland Commerce and Technology Park and how does its Build-Ready Certification help in fulfilling that vision?
Our vision is to locate additional employers to the Heartland Commerce and Technology Park that will diversify and expand the economic base of Campbellsville-Taylor County and the state’s heartland region through job creation. The Build-Ready certification tells prospective employers that our community has been progressive and has eliminated many of the barriers you’d find elsewhere. The certification will increase the number of prospects who take a look at the site, thereby increasing the opportunity for a new company to locate.