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EDITORIAL: Let's grab our share if Harley shows up

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By The Staff

Opportunity is likely to knock fairly soon on Anderson County’s door. It will be interesting to see if we, as a community, are willing to let it in.

By now most of you know that Harley-Davidson is considering moving its manufacturing operations from York, Pa., to Shelbyville. That move would create a reported 2,000 jobs there and give Shelbyville one heck of a shot in the arm.

What’s that mean to Anderson County? Plenty. For each of those 2,000, it is expected that and additional three jobs will be created in spin-off businesses designed to supply Harley-Davidson or service the workforce it creates.

That’s 6,000 — count ’em 6,000 — additional jobs.

Obviously some or even the majority of those spin-offs will be in Shelby County, but that doesn’t mean Anderson County can’t be in position to get its fair share.

The question is are we ready, willing and able to step forward and grab that share, or are we going to lay back and hope our share just shows up?

The answer to that question lies squarely in the laps of the fiscal court, city council and economic development authority. Those three need to come together to present a united front and do whatever is necessary to make sure Anderson County isn’t left out in the cold.

A good start would be to hold as soon as possible a joint public meeting to discuss, among other things, Anderson County’s readiness.

There will be land requirements, incentives and other issues that need to be hammered out, and the sooner we begin the better.

No, specific tracts of land and negotiations can’t and shouldn’t be discussed in public. That only serves to frustrate those negotiations and drive up the cost of the land.

But that doesn’t mean land in general shouldn’t be discussed, nor does it mean the public shouldn’t hear what incentives, tax and otherwise, reside in the city/county/EDA’s arsenal.

Should the above public bodies choose to believe it or not, there are plenty of intelligent people in Anderson County who just might be able to offer helpful ideas and suggestions. Not everything needs to be done behind closed doors or with a wink and a nod.

Such a meeting would accomplish plenty, not the least of which would be to show prospective businesses that we are united in our desire to bring them on board, and for once not lagging behind the rest of the Bluegrass.

It would also boost public confidence that each entity is serious in its efforts to bring jobs and industry into a county that has seen nothing but layoffs and business closings for years. (Yes, we know Wild Turkey is expanding, which is good. But that is a jobless expansion, and Anderson County needs jobs just as badly as the fiscal court needs an expanded inventory tax base.)

For any of the above to happen, each agency will have to first be willing to cooperate and swallow its “what’s in it for us” attitude.

For the city, that means accepting that a business might locate outside of city limits and not pay city property taxes.

For the fiscal court — the judge-executive in particular — that means not threatening to sock employees with a payroll tax as he did when the city/county/EDA entered its joint industrial park effort with Mercer County.

And we wonder why businesses aren’t busting down Anderson County’s door.

Will such a meeting happen? Probably not. This, like so many other pro-economic development editorials and columns in this paper, will be sneered at and written off as yet another round of incessant quacking by the fool at the newspaper who just doesn’t get it.

That’s fine, but it says here had those who can make jobs and industry happen here been proactive (or even cared) when Toyota showed up in Georgetown, Anderson wouldn’t be the only county in the Bluegrass without at least one spin-off business.

That, not the editorial writer, “doesn’t get it.”

Let’s hope this opportunity is squandered the way that one was.

E-mail comments to news@theandersonnews.com.