A crucial element of Boyette’s workforce analysis, EKYWorks, of eastern Kentucky involved sitting down and listening to the stories and needs of hundreds of coal miners in the region. During that process, one of the coal miners poignantly expressed his struggles, saying, “We used to pray for a Saturday off. Now we just pray that we will get to work at all.”
Serving as the crux of eastern Kentucky’s economy, the coal industry allowed the region’s economy to thrive and assisted in the development of the industrial age and the overall economy of the United States. But when the community was hit hard by the loss of coal-related jobs, eastern Kentucky was forced to analyze its workforce in order to provide new job opportunities for the tenacious, hardworking people whose lifetimes were spent working in the coal industry.
Boyette’s workforce analysis explores the many challenges and assets of the workforce within a 27-county region in East Kentucky by using a customized process that relied on stakeholder engagement, rich data and secondary research, including a review of education and training programs, a skills assessment of the coal workforce, and identification of compatible occupations that utilize the skills the coal workforce already possesses.
Boyette analyzed key data points surrounding demographics, labor force, skills attainment, employment trends and many others in the region. A thorough analysis of this data, coupled with the invaluable stories told by coal workers in the area, revealed trends that will enable East Kentucky leaders to tackle current challenges and fuel the quality and quantity of regional workforce for the years to come.
To quote an EKY employer, workers in eastern Kentucky “are intuitive, energetic and care about their work. They are as good as any people you will deal with.” These hardworking, yet struggling, workers deserve good jobs. Fortunately for them, many of the strategic recommendations Boyette offered to enhance the East Kentucky workforce have resulted in several announcements of new job opportunities suited for the coal industry workforce.
Utilizing data from EKYWorks, the following are a few announcements of recent projects.
One East Kentucky is proud to announce that EnerBlu is making its new home in East Kentucky. They will be investing $412 million and creating 975 jobs in the region. They will be bringing jobs to Kentucky from California, Europe, China, and Korea. “Our greatest asset in East Kentucky is the 10,000 available skilled workers coming out of the mining industry and looking for good jobs. EnerBlu views this as a massive advantage for their new advanced manufacturing facility. They will not need to compete for workers here, but have a pool of labor from which to immediately select the absolute best for their company.”
Braidy Industries, an aluminum company, plans to establish a rolling mill in Greenup County that will hire 550 full-time workers, in addition to 1,000 construction jobs. The company is investing $1.3 billion in the project. The idled AK Steel plant in the Ashland area and unemployed coal miners were key factors in the location decision. “We’re going to put some of them back to work,” CEO Craig Bouchard said.
Thoroughbred Aviation Maintenance will open is a new 15-job operation at Big Sandy Regional Airport with an investment of $284,000 in Martin County. “We at Thoroughbred Aviation Maintenance are excited to bring the first aviation repair service to this region and to establish new employment opportunities for the Eastern Kentucky workforce,” said Todd Case, president of Thoroughbred Aviation Maintenance. “We realize this region has one of the most talented workforces in the country and will help our business grow.”
Agricultural startup AppHarvest plans to invest $50 million into a high-tech greenhouse in Pikeville, creating 140 jobs on a former surface coal mine. CEO Jonathan Webb cited several reasons for the company’s decision to locate in Pikesville, saying, "The spirit of the region is unmatched, and we want to work alongside those hardworking men and women. Appalachia, let’s grow veggies, let’s do work!"
Wright-Mix Solutions LLC will invest $8.5 million in a production facility at the river port in Wurtland, creating 10 full-time jobs.
Steel Ventures Inc. is building a 65-job galvanizing facility in Greenup County, investing $16 million in Wurtland, KY.
View more about the Eastern Kentucky workforce.