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Posted on 2/2/14

MADISONVILLE, KY—Over the last 2-3 years, and especially within the past few months, Madisonville has not only seen several new and diverse businesses open, but has also seen expansion and reinvestment from some of our community’s more established employers.

With the latter group in mind, iSurf News was curious to find out how they have been able to expand in the face of a seemingly “rough” economy.

In comparison to their 7 other locations in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Illinois, Florida, and Tennessee, the Royal Brass & Hose/Anchor Hydraulics location in Madisonville is the largest branch of the corporation and has been a part of the community since the 1960’s.

With a specialization in the mining, agricultural, and construction industries, Royal Brass & Hose Inc. provides services to all other hydraulic hose and fitting markets as well. As a result of the Madisonville branch’s economic relation to one of our area’s largest industries—coal mining—the Madisonville location expanded and set-up shop in a new, larger building off of Anton Road in July, 2008. 

iSurf News spoke with the Madisonville location’s Branch Manager, Kevin Clayton, who explained that, “We had an 18% increase here in Madisonville last year, and that was mainly due to the mining industry expanding. We cover Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky from here with the hose shop and the hydraulic shop, and we’ve even went as far as around St. Louis, so we have to go get business sometimes, but, around here, Alliance Coal, Oxford Mining, and Armstrong Coal are all solid, and a lot of last year’s increase and expansion came from our interaction with those companies. The industrial segment dropped drastically last year, though, and it was just Madisonville and our Little Rock branch that was increasing, but as a whole, we still had a profitable year as a company. This year, the industrial segment in Florida, Atlanta, and Knoxville has been coming back strong, so we’re seeing the economy and construction getting better. Of course, it’s not as strong as it was in 2007 and 2008, but it’s definitely making a comeback.”

iSurf News also met with Gerald Cook, the President of the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and found that he had some similar sentiments in regards to the effects of our region’s coal mining industries on our local economy as well.

Overall, Cook explained that the mining industry in our region brings in approximately $1.5 billion dollars a year, which is then circulated back into our community both through business and individual transactions alike. In addition, while manufacturing industries are down overall, the mining industry has remained stable and has shown increases in growth throughout our region, said Cook. From providing employment and other investment opportunities, Cook said that the mining industries are a helpful driving force behind the expansion of other local commerce.

“As far as the outlook around here,” said Cook, “I think the economy will be getting better.”

Cook also added that our area’s current unemployment rate is 8.7%, which is lower than the statewide unemployment rate of 9.9% in July, 2010. Overall, our nation’s unemployment rate for August, 2010, was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to be at 9.6%.

Another local business owner, Larry Short, told iSurf News that his company, Cole’s Office Outfitters, Inc., had moved into a new location after several years of serious planning.

“Once the expansion was planned, it was more a matter of time rather than something that was based on whether the economy was bad or good. It was something that had been planned for a long time,” said Short. “If it had been something based on the economy, we probably wouldn’t have done it, but I don’t think the economy will be bad for long. It never is.”

“Cole’s has been in business since the mid 1940’s,” added Short, “so we have established accounts that we’ve serviced for 50 or 60 years. A lot of our business is out of town, too. We do business in Marion, Morganfield, Sturgis, Sebree, Central City, Greenville, Hartford, Beaver Dam, and other outlying areas in Kentucky.”

Cole’s Office Outfitters, Inc., is locally owned and operated, and offers quality office furniture, design/layout plans for an office, fax machines, copiers, general office supplies, and more, said Short.

As mentioned before, new businesses, plans for future commerce, and renovations have seemingly become more commonplace in our community as well.

In addition to the refurbished or completely new Ideal convenience store locations, the expansion of Shelby Tire, 2 new Dollar General Store locations, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new strip-mall-styled Northview Plaza, Madisonville’s Goldenrod Dairy location expansions, the opening of Oasis Southwest Bar & Grill, the recent introduction of #9 Steakhouse, the new Shoots & Ladders apparel and novelty shop, as well as several other new forms of commerce, our local Wal-Mart Supercenter held their Grand Re-opening today, September 10th, after nearly 3 months of expensive renovations and remodeling.

Madisonville’s Mayor Will Cox, explained in a recent statement that, “Wal-Mart is an outstanding community member. The investment in the remodeling of our Madisonville store also shows Wal-Mart’s belief in and commitment to our growth.”

While we have lost several community businesses over the last few years, some of which were major industries and employers, the mindset of many local business owners and economists iSurf spoke with is one of optimism for the future of our region. 

Luke Short

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