Boone presented awards to members of the chamber for their help in making base personnel feel welcome in the community and for their work in developing materials used by base personnel, to help them access community services. Judy Jolly, Karen Robinson, Linda Ward, Carmel Rich, Penny Clardy, Tommy Barton and David Provost were all given certificates of appreciation from Boone on behalf of the National Guard. Boone also gave Minute Men awards to Greenville Tourism, Central City Tourism and Maple Manor for their financial backing of the 2014 Leadership Project.
The Chamber presented Leigh E. Stewart and Mark Stewart a new business certificate for their new shop, The Painted Window. Stewart's shop is an art gallery and gift shop that focuses on displaying and selling artwork by local artists.
The central speaker for the meeting was Ken Robinson who leads the Muhlenberg Alliance for Progress. Robinson gave an overview of the group explaining that MAP is a 501 non-profit group that was formed about three and a half years ago and receives funding from Muhlenberg County. MAP's overall purpose is to improve the economy of Muhlenberg County through the attraction and retention of quality jobs and investment.
Robinson spoke in depth about the strengths and resources Muhlenberg County has to offer to industry including land, water, natural gas and access to highway systems and railroad lines. Robinson highlighted the Paradise Regional Business Park in Graham, which has recently been expanded to 643 acres, making it the third largest industrial park in Kentucky. According to Robinson, the expansion greatly enhances marketability, and has drawn the attention of businesses looking to relocate or expand.
Robinson also discussed issues he believes is holding the county back. Currently, Muhlenberg County is considered a "Work Ready Community In Progress." This means that Muhlenberg County is not currently a work ready community and it needs to make some improvements.
Robinson's comments were very similar to those made by Muhlenberg County Superintendent Randy McCarty during his Capstone Presentation to the Muhlenberg County School Board in June.
The key elements in becoming a work ready community are high school graduation rates, National Career Readiness Certificates, community commitment, educational attainment, soft skills development and Internet availability.
According to Robinson's data, Muhlenberg has met its goal areas in high school graduation rates and broadband coverage but is lacking in all other areas. Meeting the demands are crucial to getting businesses to move into the area. Currently, 3,913 of Muhlenberg County citizens between the ages of 18 and 64 do not have a GED or high school diploma. This figure represents 20 percent of the county's population. The number would need to drop below 2,934 within a five-year period in order to meet GED/ high school attainment goal.
The same can be said by the county's adult educational attainment and National Career Readiness Certificate goals. Muhlenberg County needs 470 more of its citizens to acquire two-year or four-year degrees by 2016. In terms of National Career Readiness Certificates, the county needs 344 of its citizens to acquire certificates.
To do this, Robinson is touting a newly initiated Muhlenberg County "NUDGER" campaign. It focuses on encouraging youth and adult citizens to take advantage of the educational opportunities available in the community. Students, young or old, can receive monetary stipends for going to school. Most programs can be completed online with individualized help available for students who wish to take advantage of it. Help in enrolling in these programs can be obtained at (270) 757-9881.
The chamber meeting ended with a short presentation by Kathy Jacobi from the Felix E Martin Jr. Scholars program and Susan Wells of the Greater Muhlenberg County Chamber of Commerce. They lead the Muhlenberg County 20/20 Community Vision Project to develop a vision for the community and set goals to make it a better place to live, attract people and business.
SurfKy News Reporter
SurfKY News Photos/Charles Riley
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