Local economic efforts earn notoriety

Published Saturday, March 7, 2020
by Eric Walker

Mayfield and Graves County’s economic development efforts have earned special recognition over the past month in terms of an international magazine article and national top five ranking in another publication.

Business In Focus magazine published a six-page spread in its February issue on long-range planning for workforce development through Graves County Economic Development. Then just this past week, Site Selection Magazine listed Mayfield tied for fourth out of 107 top micropolitan U.S. cities for 2019 based on announced, under construction or completed projects.

Graves County Economic Development President Ryan Drane said this recognition on both the national and international scales could be a big boost to Mayfield and Graves County for years to come.

“That’s something we, as a community, need to embrace to continue our momentum of growth that we’ve seen over the past few years,” he said. “This is another building block in what we’re trying to do long term.”

Business In Focus, which is publishes out of Canada with an international subscriber base of 468,000 monthly readers, took note of the work GCED and the community is doing to prepare its future workforce for both white collar and blue collar professions.

In the article, Drane touches on the work local schools are doing to help students select their likely career pathways, which may or may not lead into post-secondary education. He also mentions GCED’s partnering with the Four Rivers Foundation and its developing “Tassel” app, which helps students pilot their interests education to potentially link with local businesses and industries for internships and job opportunities.

A positive aspect Drane also notes in addressing the ups and downs that can come from economic challenges is that Graves County has been willing to tackle new ideas, especially in the fast-paced environment of economic development.

“You can’t be afraid to try new things and fail, because if you are, you’ll be left so far behind it’ll be very difficult to catch back up,” he said.

GCED’s strategy, Drane added, has been to identify issues and see if the area’s resources and knowledge base can apply a solution. The result can be something that works, may not work exactly as planned, or that the timing for the plan may not be right.

“It takes getting over the fact that you’re married to every idea. It’s being able to be nimble,” Drane said. “We have to look to the future and say, ‘What are we building and how are we going to change things three years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now.

“You can’t do that by focusing in on what’s in front of you at the present,” he added. “You have to have a broad scope and wide vision about being tactical in addressing all those issues.”

For Mayfield’s fourth-place micropolitan ranking – behind top-ranked Finlay, Ohio; Tupelo, Mississippi; and Batavia, New York, and along side Jefferson, Georgia – Drane said it increases the local visibility to site selectors and corporate executives who may be deciding on locations for new facilities.

“They can say we have a community here that is one of the best in the nation that is good at this and they need to be a high priority for us to take a first look at,” he said.

Mayfield and Graves County have been in the top 20 for three of the past four years, but the 2019 ranking is the highest achieved. Site Selection has Kentucky second in the nation with the most micropolitan areas (11) along with North Carolina. Ohio is tops at 14 projects.

The other Kentucky micropolitans include Bardstown (T11), Danville (T14), Murray (T20), Glasgow, Mt. Sterling, Paducah, Richmond-Berea, Somerset (T31), Frankfort and Maysville (T59).

Drane said there are 542 micropolitans – which are statistical areas identified by the White House Office of Management and Budget between 10,000-50,000 populations – in the country.

Mayfield is listed with eight projects, which is the backbone of the Site Selector Magazine list, based on new constructions or renovations of existing space and which must meet one of the qualifications of $1 million investment, 20 new jobs created, or 20,000 new square footage of new space.

“Where the rubber hits the road is how many projects are you working, how are you able to recruit businesses, how are you able to help businesses expand, and at what pace are you doing that,” Drane said. “If you’re ranking his in projects, that brings other things with it, like quality of life, transportation, infrastructure.”

He added that with the recent notoriety, it doesn’t mean GCED is easing its foot off the pedal.

“Our office isn’t slowing down,” Drane said. “We see 2020 as a great year of progress, as well.”