By ROBYN L. MINOR, The Daily News, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce is both narrowing and broadening its path to creating jobs and boosting economic development for southcentral Kentucky.
A recently completed target market analysis will help guide the chamber in going after jobs for the region, according to Chamber President Ron Bunch.
The idea is to attract businesses or industries that would bring in new dollars to the region or to help existing industries expand through export, which also can bring new dollars into the region.
In some respects, the study narrows the focus of which industry sectors it should foster, and in others, it broadens them because the areas have not previously been studied.
Bunch said the study was actually conducted before he took over the post in January but was only recently completed, reviewed and is now being implemented, at least in part.
A group of site selectors visited Bowling Green in 2009 and suggested that the chamber conduct this target sector analysis, according to chamber marketing and communications director Jessica Thompson.
The analysis takes into consideration the skill level of the available work force, infrastructure in place for a particular field, whether the industry is a growth sector and has average wages above $35,000, as well as other factors.
The analysis made the chamber take an introspective look at the “talent supply chain” in the region and consider how to coordinate education and skill development for the already available jobs, as well as for jobs in new sectors that might work for Bowling Green.
“I have shared this information with our superintendents and educational leaders,” Bunch said of the targets.
Those areas being targeted include food processing and the manufacture of equipment needed for that industry, automotive parts and suppliers, distribution and logistics, fabricated metal, niche and emerging industry sectors, such as cyber defense, cellulosic biofuels and green building products.
The food and green industry categories would be a new focus.
Such things as headquarters and management offices were eliminated.
“Mostly because of the lack of Class A office space available,” Bunch said.
Class A refers to the top-of-the-line finish and amenities available for the space.
Western Kentucky University can play a role in helping develop those niche markets with its applied research capabilities. WKU President Gary Ransdell said he would like the university to be able to provide more applied or practical research but is somewhat limited because of state law. Is that something Ransdell would like to see change? Yes.
“But we have to play the political dynamics as best we can given the funding challenges we have in Frankfort and Washington,” he said. “But we want to use our emerging research capacity to benefit the region as much as possible.”
Ransdell cited one recent example of how such research can help the region. University researchers and Bowling Green Municipal Utilities this month opened a high-speed computing center at the Center for Research and Development and have had in place a scanning electronic microscope, both of which are available to business and industry in the region.
“That is infrastructure they don’t have to develop,” Ransdell said.
In going after these target markets, the chamber has or will develop marketing sheets for each of those industries.
In the automotive supply industry, the chamber shows that the operating cost in southcentral Kentucky is less than that for facilities in Nashville, Huntsville, Detroit and Windsor, Canada.
This region already has 10,462 full-time workers at 56 vehicle-related facilities.
“Just because something isn’t one of those targeted industries (of the study), doesn’t mean we won’t consider going after it,” Bunch said.