Yesterday morning I had the privilege of moderating a panel during KACo's 43rd Annual Conference and Exposition.
This was a great panel - the presenters included Dave Adkisson from the Kentucky Chamber, Boone County Judge Executive Gary Moore, and KYTC Secretary Greg Thomas.
The Secretary informed attendees about where we are as a state with our transportation network. He spoke of the billion dollar backlog in resurfacing, the more than 1,100 structurally deficient bridges in the state, the additional $30 million that is needed to create a multi-modal transportation fund, and the additional $500 million that is needed every year to maintain the roads and bridges we have and to build the new roads and bridges we need.
Judge Moore spoke about the needs in his area. Northern Kentucky is fortunate enough to be experiencing growth. That growth, from new employers to new residents, will require significant infrastructure improvements to accommodate all the changes in the area.
Dave Adkisson spoke of infrastructure's importance to economic development. He noted that, without a well maintained, modern infrastructure, we will not be able to attract the employers we want and need in the state.
Their comments were great. They provided real, timely examples of where we are today and what we stand to lose in the future if we don't invest more in our infrastructure now.
But as clear as their comments and examples were, I learned of another example in the hall after the presentation.
One of our Judge Execs told me about a company that was looking at their county for a new site for more than 50 employees. The county gathered all the information on their workforce, the available land and buildings, their infrastructure, and provided it to the company. The company, by and large, liked what they saw. There was an available workforce. There was available land and buildings - as well as opportunity for growth.
The only thing truly lacking was transportation infrastructure.
Even though the company knew that the county's road infrastructure was not exactly what they needed - they continued to work with the county because of the opportunity.
This is where the story could have a happy ending but unfortunately it doesn't.
The company, knowing that the county currently lacked the needed road infrastructure and that the likelihood of getting the needed road improvement was slim to none - chose to locate in North Carolina.
There are lots of things about this story that are troubling. The fact that a new employer didn't come to rural West Kentucky and bring additional tax revenue or other economic growth to the area is troubling. The fact that more than 50 people didn't get jobs because the company didn't come to Kentucky because of a less than stellar road access is troubling.
But, to me, the most troubling thing is that this isn't the only time a company chose not to expand or locate in Kentucky because the transportation infrastructure wasn't in place.
Wouldn't it be better for our state if we just addressed these needs now - so our transportation infrastructure will be in place in the future?