I attended — and covered — the press conference held by Gov. Andy Beshear on May 24 at Floyd Central High School for various purposes — to celebrate the opening of the Southeast State Correctional Complex (former Otter Creek Correctional Complex), to announce the funding of the Minnie-to-Harold connector road and also funding for a park project by the Floyd County Fiscal Court.
The press conference followed one held in the morning in Pike County where funding for various projects was also announced. Later in the week, we received noticed that Pike County will be receiving even more money for the Wolfpit Industrial Site, a proposed economic development project made possible through the creation of the new U.S. 460.
All of these things are great news. I love hearing that government is making an actual effort to assist our region in recovering from the economic slump which has resulted from the loss of coal jobs.
It’s too big a problem to be resolved by the private sector alone. It’s going to take all hands on deck and working together to resolve this problem, so if politicians want to use these kinds of projects to increase support, sure, do it all day long as long as the dollars keep rolling in.
With that being said, however, as I listened to each of the speakers at the Floyd County event, which included Beshear, his senior advisor Rocky Adkins, state Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty and Floyd Judge-Executive Robbie Williams, the same feeling kept coming forward for me.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful or unappreciative for these projects and what they mean for our communities — after all, for example, the Minnie-to-Harold connector will make travel far quicker between Pikeville and Hazard, which will benefit both communities and all in-between.
But what kept coming to the surface for me is that, with the exception of the Southeast State Correctional Complex, we’re talking about the future — infrastructure for a proposed industrial park, a road intended to continue to open our area up. All these things put the emphasis on the future tense — they “will” create jobs, “could” create success, “might” help us make up for the coal industry’s losses.
I understand that you have to start somewhere in encouraging growth, but isn’t there someone out there working to bring jobs to our community now or can we provide support to our already-existing businesses in order to help them grow and succeed?
Again, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but are there things we can do in tandem with this future development planning and funding that can have a real impact now? I’m just a bit impatient, but I’ve seen announcement after announcement over the years, and the promises they’ve held have more often than not been empty. Just look at the Minnie-to-Harold connector, which itself has been decades in the works and delayed more times than we can count.
The project will make a major difference in our community once completed, but it’s going to be a while before we get there. In the meantime, we still struggle with the same problems — job loss, etc, and we must find ways to deal with them, even if it’s on a small scale, until these projects come to fruition and begin having their positive impacts.