State Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty talked about the need to improve infrastructure, provide workforce training and other business-related matters during the Floyd County Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon on Wednesday.
Laferty said it’s time to invest in building “21st century infrastructure” to improve the economy in Eastern Kentucky.
“It’s time to make up for decades of underinvestment in our region,” she said, explaining that long and winding rural roads become a liability to employers because of lost time, lost productivity and workers compensation.
She talked about attending a legislative meeting in which investors of a business that expanded in northern Kentucky reported they chose that area because of its “quality roads” and “quality waterways.”
“Just think about that for just a moment,” she said. “Good roads and good water. An answer like that would certainly cause concern for anyone in Eastern Kentucky...”
She talked about the need to complete the Ky. 680 connector and the Mountain Parkway expansion, calling those roads “vital” to attracting businesses to this region.
“Now is the time for the completion of these two roadways, which will help drive economic development throughout Eastern Kentucky,” she said. “No longer can we put off making these essential investments.”
She also talked about the need to provide “hands on job training,” apprenticeships or programs for youth in career fields “that actually exist in our area.” She said she’s reached out to school district officials and local colleges and universities to start a conversation about revising the high school curriculum to offer training for careers that are prevalent in this area.
She also talked about the need to help find work for former coal miners, reporting that 4,000 people applied for 50 jobs that were available at the new SilverLiner in Pikeville, and about the need for businesses to address problems associated with drug addiction in this region.
“Kentucky employers have a growing awareness of this devastating impact that the epidemic is having on our state. They know that this epidemic is both a public health issue and a serious workforce issue,” she said. “It’s a problem that all employers know that they must, that it must be addressed if they are going to meet the challenges of finding and retaining a solid workforce. Some employers are now working toward being a part of the solution, which keeps offenders from returning to their addiction.”
She talked about the need to educate the public about resources available to small businesses. She said it’s “imperative that we show our commitment to excellence to make a profound difference in their bottom line.”
“We have the workforce,” she said. “We need jobs.”