Region celebrates Manufacturing Day

MFG DAY logoBusinesses, educators, economic development professionals and others throughout our region are taking time to celebrate National Manufacturing Day, which is Friday, Oct. 3.

There’s no doubt manufacturing is one of our most critical industry sectors. Last year, manufacturing supported one in six private-sector jobs and contributed $2.08 trillion to the national economy. That’s 12.5 percent of GDP.

It’s exciting to see our region’s existing manufacturers expand and new companies locate here, bringing more opportunities to workers and families. And these are not just any opportunities.

Advanced manufacturing is creating more and more technology-driven, high-paying jobs in fields such as robotics, information technology, physics, chemistry and more. Today’s workforce and the workforce of the future must be aware of these career prospects and the training that will prepare them for success. As manufacturing grows, so does its demand for employees with technical and analytical skills. In fact, according to the Manufacturing Institute, more than 82 percent of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage in skilled production workers.

Across our region, people are working together to address this challenge and help students and job seekers take full advantage of these career opportunities. And as Manufacturing Day approaches, some are paying special recognition to this innovative, promising sector.

Among those recognizing Manufacturing Day are Grayson County Schools, the Grayson County Chamber of Commerce and local manufacturers, who recently wrapped up their Manufacturing Week. A long list of activities included bringing 300-plus eighth-graders into manufacturing facilities to learn more about a variety of careers, from production to engineering to business administration.

Also, Hardin County Schools’ Early College and Career Center is set to host Manufacturing, Business and Industry Day on Oct. 2. Students will be able to interact with the district’s business and industry partners and learn more about the vibrant career paths of the manufacturing sector.

Elsewhere, One Southern Indiana’s Metro Manufacturing Alliance members, along with regional partners, will come together on Oct. 3 to educate the public about the numerous opportunities available in our diverse manufacturing industry. The day begins with area manufacturers exhibiting for area students at 8:30 a.m. A press conference is set for 9 a.m. at the Perkins Technology Center at the Ivy Tech Jeffersonville Campus. A tour of the center and its mobile STEM training laboratory will follow the press conference.

Additionally, as part of the Southern Indiana regional activities, students, parents, educators and the public are invited to take advantage of tours and open houses hosted by a number of area manufacturers including Owings Patterns in Sellersburg, Amatrol, Key Electronics, Flow Aero, BriovaRx and Transformation Network in Jeffersonville, S&J Precision and ERL, Inc., in New Albany, Diverse Woodworking in Corydon and Knight School of Welding in Louisville.

Our hats are off not only to the businesses and talented employees of this vital industry sector, but also to the community partners who agree the great things happening in manufacturing are worth celebrating and sharing.

New Regional Sports Park Hosts a National Youth Baseball Tournament

KIX team member Conrad Curry finds a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon in our region: at a venue that is attracting visitors from all over the country. Read more about Conrad’s outing to a great regional asset – the Elizabethtown Sports Park.

New Regional Sports Park Hosts a National Youth Baseball Tournament
by Conrad Curry

Elizabethtown Sports Park

One of the things I most look forward to is taking my grandsons out to lunch and a movie on Saturdays. This week was no different, but with an early lunch and “World War Z” not starting until 2 pm, it looked as if we’d have some time on our hands. Then I remembered that the Athletics Baseball Youth Nationals were underway at the Elizabethtown Sports Park. Why not take in a game, I thought?

There are 88 teams in the tournament ranging from under-9 to under-14 in six divisions. Some teams, along with thousands of fans and parents, had traveled from as far away as Hawaii to get here. And since we’re just a few miles from the park, it made perfect sense for us to take advantage. The boys agreed.

When we arrived at noon the parking lots were crowded with vehicles bearing

license plates from many states and games already being played on every field. The grandstands were filled with cheering fans, and the atmosphere very similar to that of a major league ballgame. Visitors to the facility, many wearing their team’s colors, were lined up at the concession stands, walking on the paths that separate the fields, or sitting at one of the many convenient benches or picnic tables eating hotdogs, popcorn, and other traditional ballpark treats. Everyone looked like they were

having a good time. I know we were.

The Sports Park itself is pristine, with 12 ball diamonds groomed to big league perfection. It’s difficult to imagine that only a few years ago this same area had been a mostly wooded floodplain. But what started as a dream for a few local visionaries has become a world class athletic facility, and one that is dr

awing the attention of an entire nation. The Youth Nationals are living proof of that.

We found seats at a “12 and under” game that was just starting, featuring a Louisville team going up against a squad from Texas. Soon we were cheering, swapping stories, and enjoying the game with a group of folks who had just driven two days from Austin to get here. All of them were totally in awe of the Sports Park and of the well organized, professionally executed event they were taking part in. And since they would be in town for two weeks, each was looking forward to seeing more of our region. Many had already made plans to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum and to catch some races at Churchill Downs. I proudly suggested a few

other local attractions they might enjoy, recommended some favorite restaurants, and provided directions.

One of the things that make baseball such a popular pastime is the shared experience. Fans have a common love for a terrific sport, and watching talented kids playing good old-fashioned baseball is the game at its purest. How lucky I am, I thought, to have the Sports Park right here in my own backyard and an opportunity to share it with my grandsons; not to mention some new friends from the Lone Star State.

Elizabethtown Sports Park

The Elizabethtown Sports Park is an easy drive from anywhere in the region, and it doesn’t cost a dime to get in. The Youth Nationals tournament won’t be ending until July 4, so if you’ve got t

he time, I highly recommend a visit to see this, or one of the many other events scheduled at the park. Find out more here. It’s a trip you’ll truly enjoy.



Building a Better Workforce Pipeline

We don’t have a jobs crisis in the world, we have a skills crisis. In fact, a recent study by McKinsey & Company found that 45% of U.S. employers say that lack of skills is the “main reason” for their high numbers of entry-level vacancies.

We knew that in 2007, when our 26-county region began work on the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development initiative (Wired65). Our primary goal back then was to help develop a more effective workforce pipeline, one where the needs of employers were more in sync with what the education and training providers taught. Sounds easy, right? Easier said than done!

Early College and Career CenterMore recently, some folks in Hardin County decided to do something about this problem, and on January 24, in what Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson called a one-of-a-kind partnership, Hardin County Schools (HCS), Western Kentucky University (WKU), Central Kentucky Community Foundation (CKCF), and Elizabethtown Community & Technical College (ECTC) announced that, working together, they were going to build an Early College and Career Center for Hardin County Students.

To be constructed on 20 acres adjacent to ECTC and WKU’s Elizabethtown Campus, the center will be convenient for high school students in Hardin County Schools to take courses in several career pathways. The pathways include, but are not limited to, health science, engineering (the Project Lead the Way curriculum), manufacturing, automotive technology, media arts & communication, and culinary arts & hospitality services—the current needs of local business and industry.

“We have heard loud and clear from our business partners that they are longing for workers with the ‘soft skills’ and work ethic skills to be successful in our community,” said Nanette Johnston, Hardin County Schools Superintendent. “Our vision is to continue to work collaboratively with our community and business partners and our post-secondary partners to create classroom experiences that parallel the real world.”

The partnership’s “aggressive goal” is to have the new facility open and operating by August 2014. That’s going to be a tough deadline to meet, but with the way this energized group is collaborating and working together to overcome obstacles, we won’t be surprised at all if they meet it.

“This is a wonderful example of a community coming together,” said CKCF President & CEO Al Rider. “We’re meeting the mandate to provide career-ready workers to local business and industry, while building compelling new strategies and partnerships.”

And the “winners” will be the students in Hardin County and a region that will continue to grow and prosper, all thanks to cooperation, innovation, and forward thinking!

Early Childhood Learning Gets a Boost in the Region

Did you know that the capacity of a child’s brain to absorb new learning actually peaks at age 3? In fact, it is during this time that the human brain has its highest potential for new learning. And by age 4, that child will begin knowing their first and last name, following rules, recognizing colors, eating by themselves, dressing themselves, and more.

And it’s been proven that high-quality preschools and pre-kindergartens give children a jumpstart to learning, and will have prepared them for kindergarten.

So why is it that most education systems don’t start our children’s schooling until the age of 5?

Get Ready Early Childhood LearningThat’s something the Central Kentucky Community Foundation (CKCF) was addressing in 2012, when they helped launch the Get Ready early childhood education program with some financial assistance from PNC Bank. Many community partners helped implement the program, which was designed with targeted outcomes, including:

  • To provide a unique learning opportunity for children birth – 5
  • To help parents discover how they can facilitate their child’s learning
  • To support teachers and enhance their skills in childcare settings
  • To increase community awareness of early learning and build support for the program

Not only did the program meet these outcomes, it exceeded them. 328 children and 220 adults participated in the Get Ready! Camp. And, Get Ready! Childcare included 28 childcare teachers and more than 1000 participating children. The “return on investment” in enthusiastic learning and community response was tremendous.

On January 11, CKCF announced that PNC has once again stepped up to invest in the future of the region, demonstrating their belief in Get Ready and the importance of the program for our children. Get Ready! 2013 will begin in June, soon after the 2012 school year ends.

“It is wonderful to see what began as just a spirited conversation a couple of years ago, turn into such an important program for the community,” said Davette Swiney, Vice President, CKCF.

Also in January, Education Week, a national publication dedicated to education issues, ranked both Kentucky and Indiana in the top twenty on its annual Quality Counts report, which measures education policy and achievement indicators. Kentucky received a B-minus grade, beating out last year’s C-plus grade. The state’s highest mark was an A in a category called “Transitions and Alignment,” which measures how a state connects K-12 schools with early learning, higher education and the world of work.

It’s programs like Get Ready that help our region better prepare today’s children for success in K-12 schooling, college and beyond, and lead to honors such as this. Congratulations to CKCF and PNC Bank for keeping a great program up and running, and to Kentucky for a job well done!

Honoring our Nation’s Veterans

Veterans Memorial All of us owe a debt to those who risked all to serve their country, and when an entire region decides to honor America’s veterans, the enormity of that debt becomes even more apparent. And that’s just what happened Sunday when several hundred folks came together at the Elizabethtown Nature Park to attend the opening ceremonies for the Hardin County Veterans Tribute.

Of course there were veterans there, from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and more recent conflicts. And plenty of active duty military were in attendance. But also there were local citizens, proud to be part of something special, and honored to be in the presence of those who have served. For veterans, the Tribute was an ideal place to hold a Sunday’s activities, as well as a place with the potential to heal some old wounds while showing appreciation for all veterans.

Several speakers talked about how the tribute had come to fruition and what veterans mean to them, an Army band from Fort Knox played inspirational music, and a men’s chorus sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” But the most meaningful part of the afternoon’s festivities was when the statues honoring the men and women who served, including a Soldier, a Marine, a Sailor, an Airman, a Coast Guard Seaman and a Civil Servant, were unveiled — And lastly, a pair of empty bronze boots, to honor those who didn’t come home. Surrounding the statues is a sidewalk with inlaid bricks and pavers, each purchased by local businesses and individuals that helped to pay for the memorial. Many of these bricks hold the names of those who served, paid for by their friends and families.

Veterans MemorialIf you’ve got some time, and want to see something new, beautiful and special, then make visiting the Hardin County Veterans Tribute a planned destination. You’ll be glad you did. And by the way, there’s room for more of those bricks and pavers if you’re interested in honoring veterans in general, or a few in particular! Contact Gary Broadway at (270) 319-1051. Bricks are $250 and pavers are $500.

Local Employer Helping to Boost Math and Science Learning

HCS Press ConferenceAccording to numbers cited Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, students in our country aren’t getting dumber or smarter, but they ARE falling behind the rest of the world in some very important areas.

In fact, U.S. students placed below average in math and science. Where other countries have improved, we have remained stagnant. In math, U.S. high school scores were in the bottom quarter of the countries that participated, trailing countries including Finland, China, and Estonia. In science, the United States falls behind countries such as Canada, Japan, and the Czech Republic.

But thanks to a $23,000 grant from the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), students at a local middle school will be getting a boost in their science and math education. The money will help start a Project Lead the Way program, an engineering curriculum for middle and high school students. The grant will allow James T. Alton Middle School in Vine Grove to buy resources and enable it to start the program in the spring. A full rollout of the program is expected in the 2013-14 school year.

SAIC is a scientific, engineering, and technology applications company. In 2010 the company gave a $27,000 grant to North Hardin High School in Radcliff for the same program. “The Project Lead the Way curriculum provides such a fantastic opportunity for our students,” James T. Alton Middle School Principal Jama Bennett said. “It will give our students a leg-up in competitive environments. After they receive the fundamentals of the program here, and the crux of it at North Hardin, the sky will be the limit.”

Hardin County Schools Superintendent Nannette Johnston said it’s the district’s responsibility to give students an opportunity to be successful in the future, and Project Lead the Way assists in that mission. According to Jim Holt, SAIC vice president and manager of information and data systems, the foundation for being a competitive company starts at the local level. “This grant is an investment in the local community that we and our employees are a part of, and one that will provide dividends for years to come.”

It’s great to see a local employer taking the time and dollars to help our students improve their skill levels and become more competitive themselves. In an era of budget cutting, it’s this kind of civic-minded investment that can set our region apart. The Kix team salutes SAIC for a job well done.

The 4th Annual Via Coloria Festival is this weekend in Elizabethtown

via colori Elizabethtown The 4th annual Via Colori®, an Italian street painting festival, will be held once again this year in Elizabethtown, Kentucky on Saturday, September 8 from 9AM to 10PM.

Via Colori raises money for the Advocacy and Support Center (ASC), a 501c3 nonprofit organization funded by state and federal grants and community donations. Its mission is to help and advocate for those affected by abuse, and functions uniquely as a combined rape crisis center and children’s advocacy center covering the eight counties of the Lincoln Trail ADD.

Not your Average Festival
Located on the streets of downtown Elizabethtown, Via Colori is a celebration of creativity. During the festival, dozens of large-scale pastel drawings will be created by artists directly on the pavement of North Main and the 31W square.

In addition to the live art creation and displays, there will also be continuous live entertainment, gourmet food, a children’s area, craft and art vendors, a car show, and much more. There will also be special lighting of the artwork on Saturday night that will bathe the works of art in candlelight during the night concert.

This year, the ASC is expecting more than 60 large scale materpieces to be created by volunteer artists. Each drawing is sponsored by a business, corporation, or individual which will be identified near the drawing. Via Colori artists are free to create their own concepts, as the festival relies upon the creative strengths of Kentucky’s artistic community.

The ASC is the only organization to host the annual festival in Kentucky. The first Via Colori was held in Naples, Florida and has occurred annually in select cities across the United States since the early 1990s.

North Main and 31W will be literally transformed into a street of color! This is the perfect opportunity to bring the family, witness beautiful artwork created in front of your eyes, and support a great cause. We hope to see you there!

Bardstown, KY Named Most Beautiful Small Town in America

Bardstown, Kentucky named most beautiful small townWe’ve been watching the competition unfold over the last few months, voting and pulling for Bardstown to win the Rand McNally/USA TODAY Best of the Road contest. Our votes and yours have made that dream a reality for our region when the winners were announced yesterday in Seattle, Washington.

This nationwide contest originated with 650 towns nominated in the categories of: Most Beautiful, Friendliest, Most Fun, Most Patriotic, and the town that has the Best Food. (On a side note, Murray, Kentucky was voted Most Friendliest Small Town, so kudos to Murray on their victory! Danville, Kentucky was a finalist in the Most Beautiful category as well.)

Dawn Ballard Przystal, vice president, tourism expansion and marketing of the Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist & Convention Commission, stated in a press release: “Being selected as Most Beautiful Small Town in America is a tremendous honor and the exposure we receive will be a wonderful boost to our marketing efforts. We really appreciate Nikki and Dusty, who did such a wonderful job portraying to the judges the beauty of Bardstown.”

In late June, Nikki and Dusty visited Bardstown and were welcomed with a parade and special gathering on Courthouse Square. They toured a number of Bardstown attractions, saw its beautiful architecture and downtown buildings, and visited two select distilleries. See the videos from their trip on our blog.

The Travel Channel will air a special program on Wednesday, July 25 at 8PM featuring the Best of the Road teams and the videos filmed during visits to each of the finalist towns.

Congratulations to Bardstown, Murray, and Danville for their recognition in this national competition!

Image courtesy of the City of Bardstown

Turning Saturday Nights into a Big Event

Etown's Second Saturday eventFor the city of Elizabethtown and Heritage Council Executive Director Heath Seymour, creating a greater downtown is an ongoing dream. But it’s definitely a dream in progress. In fact, Seymour, along with many area business owners and citizens, has been working hard to bring downtown Elizabethtown alive, and to transform it into a place where people want to be — day and night. That is why they began the Second Saturday event. Conducted every second Saturday of each month, Second Saturday has become a great way to showcase the downtown’s independent retailers and restaurants, as well as to provide an outlet for many outdoor vendors and sellers of home-grown products.

“Both business owners and area citizens have this same dream, and the Second Saturday event is one of many small tasks that we hope will help get us there,” said Seymour.

The dream for downtown Elizabethtown is to attract people, young and old, to the downtown area to have fun, spend time with neighbors and see what makes Elizabethtown great and unique. Having the spotlight on these small businesses and vendors keeps their dream of increasing business and making new customers alive. And the plan is to attract even more participants join them. “If successful, and with support from the community, there is a point where we’ll gain momentum, get things on track and give local residents a reason to stay right here in Elizabethtown, rather than spending their money and time in other towns,” said Seymour.

To keep the dream growing, Second Saturday organizers are looking for more outdoor vendors to show off their products, artwork, crafts and more. They would also welcome musical performers or those who serve food that is not already available downtown. The hope is that these vendors will continue bringing life to the downtown area, and that even more independent businesses will be born as a result.

The next Second Saturday will be held Saturday, July 14 from 5-8pm in the downtown area of Elizabethtown. It’s easy to find, and there’s plenty of free parking when you get there. So why not make Second Saturday a part of your plan for next weekend?

You can find out more information about Second Saturday here, or by contacting their office at (270) 982-2209.

Image courtesy of Elizabethtown Heritage Council

Nik and Dusty Explore Bardstown, KY

Rand McNally and USA Today’s Best of the Road teams are still searching for the best small town in America. Nikki and Dusty, a duo from the Best of the Road team, recently visited Bardstown and blogged about their journey.

During their three-day stay, Nikki and Dusty visited many of the town’s unique shops, family-owned restaurants, and of course, toured a couple distilleries. They were impressed by the friendly welcome they received and by the people in general, but the competition is still in full force!

Part of the judging process is based on how many people respond to the videos and the blogs, so this is where we need your help. Visit Nikki and Dusty’s blog here, read all about their adventures in Bardstown, and leave a comment if you’d like. Then, check out the two videos posted on YouTube and be sure to “like” them.

You still have plenty of time to vote for Bardstown. The contest ends on December 31, 2012.

Rand McNally’s video can be found here.
Nikki and Dusty’s video can be found here.

We’re pulling for Bardstown and can’t wait to see where they end up in the competition! Thanks for your support in crowning Bardstown the best small town in America!