Good, stable, high-paying jobs.

The promise of attracting them to the region is at the crux of every promise for politicians from the federal level all the way down. Jobs are at the heart of the debate about Kentucky Power’s rate increases, as they have invested a great deal of money in economic development in the hopes of jump-starting local industry and creating a broader customer base. Jobs are the other half of the opioid crisis Catch-22: If we had a surplus of great-paying jobs, there would be fewer people turning to drugs, but it is difficult to attract jobs to a region with the stigma of addiction hanging over it.

All we hear about is the heyday of the coal industry, when great-paying jobs were there for the taking. 

In 2018, an industry with high-paying jobs is going to require a new set of skills. Not content to merely talk about the prospect, Kathy Walker and the team behind the eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute have done the impossible, and with investments from Gene Haas, AEP and others, made it a reality. 

At their grand opening event last week, Walker said that in the past, at other Haas training facilities like eKAMI, manufacturers that use these new, computer-controlled technologies moved into the region not long after the schools opened, as they opted to set up shop in the places where they know they will be able to find a continual wealth of workers with the skills they need. 

The next step is not a waiting game, but rather, to work with economic development agencies who are already aggressively pursuing businesses to locate to our region’s open industrial parks. 

Our job is to embrace eKAMI, and encourage those among us with mechanical and technological aptitudes to attend the program. Our job is to continue putting our best foot forward as a community, and exhibiting some hometown pride. 

Whether you are disparaging or whether you are positive about our region will have an impact, but it could be larger than you think. As Chuck Sexton with OneEast Kentucky will tell you, when you see a person in everyday clothes and a ball cap walking the grocery store, attending the school board meeting, or just walking around town, you never know — they could be a representative of a major corporation feeling things out and learning what they can about Paintsville, about Johnson County, or Eastern Kentucky. 

Johnson County needs to continue putting its best foot forward, until we get to the point that industries are competing to come here and make use of our workforce.

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