Rural KY 'still lagging behind,' says Blanton, bill would bring jobs

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Promoting job growth in Kentucky’s rural counties was the topic of discussion during a legislative committee meeting on Friday.

House Bill 6, sponsored by Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, passed the House 76-9 during the 2018 General Assembly, but was heavily amended in the Senate and never received a final vote before lawmakers adjourned.

Blanton told the panel his bill is patterned after the New Market Tax Credits that have succeeded in urban areas.

“As the economy throughout the United States has pretty much recovered from 2008, the rural areas of the country, especially Kentucky, are still lagging behind,” said Blanton. “This bill will provide investment opportunities for companies looking to locate in Kentucky.”

The legislation would provide $100 million in private investment capital to businesses wishing to locate in rural Kentucky; $60 million in state tax credits and $40 million in national private equity rural-growth funds.

The program is geared to small, rural businesses with 250 or fewer employees with less than $15 million in income, located in counties with no more than 70,000 population.

Nate Nedley, the chief financial officer for EZ Pack Refuse and Continental Mixer Solutions in Cynthiana, Ky., told the committee state incentives and financing through New Market Tax Credits helped them grow from 80 employees in 2014.

“Given the financial history of the company, we were not a good candidate for traditional lending,” said Nedley. “The company has essentially doubled. We have steadily grown our market share and have also begun talking about implementing new product lines.”

Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett said EZ Pack is now a major employer.

“Under previous ownership, they had plans to leave. They are now our second largest employer, only behind 3M,” said Barnett. “Every Post-It Note in the United States and 90 percent in the world are made in Cynthiana.”

Barnett said EZ Pack’s success has led to other businesses opening in Harrison County presenting some new challenges.

“We have more jobs than we have workers,” Barnett said. “EZ Pack and our other factories are pulling from a 15-county area.”

With more workers, the county is working with developers to provide more housing.

Blanton said he is fine-tuning the bill and working to gain more support before to the 2019 legislative session.

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