The three featured speakers at Thursday’s Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce Power in Partnership breakfast were asked to share new information regarding community development with the business audience and they didn’t disappoint.
Bruce Wilcox, Greater Paducah Economic Development president/CEO, may have saved the best for last in following Dennis Rouleau, Barkely Regional Airport executive director, and James Stapleton, founder of Cape Girardeau, Missouri-based Codefi, to the podium.
“We have some great news to share with you today that Drake Lighting is expanding to Paducah,” he said, of the distributor of obstruction lighting solutions in Mayfield.
“Drake will be investing $2 million into an existing facility (American Commercial Barge Line) in Commerce Park, coupled with construction of a warehouse distribution facility in the coming months.”
The company will be employing 60 full-time workers and generate an anticipated recurring economic impact of $6.8 million per year. Wilcox also introduced David Shepeard, the company’s president, and Doug Jones, vice president, who were in attendance.
Wilcox highlighted GPED’s successful efforts over the last year-and-a-half, “in spite of the COVID restrictions that have been in place.”
In the last 12-14 months, GPED has announced 243 direct jobs with more than $57 million in private sector capital investment, he said.
“Utilizing our partnership with Murray State University and their economic modeling software, we know that these 243 jobs produce an additional 100 in new and direct jobs offering the total impact of 341. These jobs have a recurring economic impact to our community of over $27 million per year.”
He also praised the interlocal agreement between the city of Paducah, McCracken County, GPED, and the Industrial Development Authority, that creates a revenue stream for IDA which will allow for future asset acquisitions and job growth.
In his presentation, Rouleau highlighted the progress being made on the planned new passenger terminal, which will replace the existing 67-year-old facility.
He illustrated the plans with slides depicting a new ticket area, which will resemble a modern hotel environment, a more inviting “front porch feel” to the terminal entrance, and a gate area with several different seating options. Each of those will be powered so passengers can connect their iPhones or other electronic devices.
“When we designed the project we wanted to make sure there was room for economic development well beyond the terminal,” Rouleau said. “The terminal is just going to be the start of activity for the airport.”
The new airport construction is being done in phases. Rouleau outlined the recent bid opening for the airport apron project and the terminal building itself.
“We’re hoping we can start (construction) in the fall for those projects,” he said.
Currently, airport officials are working on “trying to bring in more air service to Barkley Regional Airport. We’re looking at a couple of different options. One, is enhancing the service that we have now, and also trying to attract another airline to bring more activity to the airport.”
In its partnership with Sprocket in Paducah, Codefi is helping to attract startups and find workers in support of the digital economy, Stapleton said.
“We’ve learned we have to quickly develop skilled technicians who would work in the software-based companies we recruit and hope local individuals will fill,” he said.
The Codefi founder also listed a number of things the audience probably did not know, including:
• Last Friday and Saturday, there were eight new startup companies from around the United States who visited Paducah in hopes of winning one of the relocation grants to attract tech companies to the community.
• That while tech occupations are some of the highest paid, fastest-growing jobs in the country, there are an estimated one million unfilled software developer jobs that can be done remotely from the region.
• The company is partnering with companies like Computer Services Inc. to provide capstone projects and internship work experience and plans to offer similar programs in quality assurance and testing and other digital areas like cybersecurity.
• McNabb Elementary students beat dozens of schools from five states last spring in youth coding league competition.
• It is estimated the company’s efforts over the next three years will create jobs that generate more than $15 million in annual economic impact in the region.
In closing, Stapleton offered, “you know and can be excited about the new sports complex being developed, but you may not know that we’re working with a group to bring an e-Sports program and facility to Paducah.”