“Even before the 2019 session of the General Assembly began, legislative leaders predicted that lawmakers would set a slow and deliberate pace. This did prove to be the case as fewer bills were passed than in other years, and many top-priority items were left on the table,” wrote Dave Addison, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, in Results for Business, the state Chamber’s report on the 2019 Kentucky General Assembly. “Priorities of the business community’s agenda addressed by the legislature included reinstating the state’s arbitration statute, passing tribunal reform, strengthening Kentucky’s DUI laws, passing net metering energy legislation, enacting tobacco-free schools and making small changes to the state’s legal liability climate and justice system.”
The Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce followed up with our local legislators on their assessments of the session, what they were happy to see happen or not happen, their biggest surprises, etc.
“I was very happy to see the passage of SB 1, the School Safety Bill,” said Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., representing Senate District 6, which includes Hopkins, in addition to Butler, Muhlenberg and Ohio counties. “We must make every effort to make our schools safe for our students, teachers and administrators.”
Sen. Embry was one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 1, which sought to boost safety, training and suicide prevention; promote assignments of school resource officers and hiring of counselors, and facilitate collaboration with law enforcement. Gov. Matt Bevin on March 11 signed SB 1 into state law.
Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, representing House District 15, which includes part of Hopkins County, in addition to Muhlenberg County, said of SB 1, “One of our greatest areas of accomplishment was the School Safety & Resiliency Act after almost a year of input from various stakeholders in the school system and communities following the Marshall County High School shooting. We didn't want to react in a knee-jerk fashion but wanted to carefully evaluate the situation and do what is prudent and right to protect our most precious resource, our children. The Act tries to find a balance between securing the facilities while trying to identify and provide counseling and supports for those students who might become a perpetrator.”
Rep. Prunty also commented on some of the more business-oriented developments from the session:
Recognizing that college isn't for everyone, in the area of workforce development moving forward, we will allow young people graduating from high school the ability to apply their KEES monies towards a qualifying apprenticeship or qualified workforce training program.
In the area of tax reform we corrected the misapplication of the taxing of non-profits on their admission and fundraising sales, once again making them tax exempt as well as fixed the unintended consequences from the 2018 tax reform package. Those changes include doing away with the bank franchise tax and putting in place the taxing of banks like any other business. They were being taxed double and large out-of-state banks were buying out community owned Kentucky banks, moving their assets out of state. This change will help our local independent banks remain alive and independent.
I was surprised and disappointed at the veto of HB 358, a bill that would have extended the ability of our regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies, such as our local health departments, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, to get a plan in place to decide if they want to remain in the state employee retirement system or develop a plan to leave while giving the employees the option to remain if they so choose. The veto is going to require a Special Session if we are going to prevent several of these agencies to avoid bankruptcy.
The Kentucky Chamber’s Results for Businesswrapup of the General Assembly is available for download (as are its Democraticand Republicanvoter's guides for the May 21 gubernatorial primary elections).
The state Chamber selected Rep. Jim Gooch Jr., representing House District 12, which includes part of Hopkins County, in addition to McLean and Webster counties and part of Daviess County, as one of its 13 legislator MVPs of the session: “Rep. Jim Gooch carried Senate Bill 100, legislation to update private net metering laws to ensure costs remain fair for all energy consumers, on the House floor and championed the issue for many years.”
As part of our commitment to leadership in governmental development, we always appreciate your input on any issues that are of consequence to you, your business, your employees or customers, our community, etc. Please reach out to us 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Central weekdays at (270) 821-3435 or 15 East Center Street in Madisonville—or any time at https://www.hopkinscochamber.com/contact.html.
There are about 30 million small businesses in the United States, and their impact on the economy is staggering: providing jobs for 55 percent of all Americans, generating 65 percent of all new U.S. jobs and returning $68 to their communities for every $100 in revenues, according to Timesquare Interactive.
In our region, strengthening our foundation of small businesses has become an area of sharp but widely shared focus.
The City of Madisonville Spring Fling Open House is coming up March 15 and 16. “Visit local boutiques from Madison Square Drive to Sugg Street to Lake Street and beyond to find the perfect new pieces to put a little spring back in your step and bring on that summer sunshine!” Businesses interested in participating can contact Skylar Phaup, the city’s director of customer service and public relations, at (270) 824-2100 or email@example.com or fill out a Google form to register.
The Hopkins County Young Professionals have been emphasizing customer service for several months. In August 2018, it hosted a seminar, The Chick-Fil-A Experience: A Lesson in Customer Service, for an afternoon of insights from the chain, which started from experimenting with recipes and integrating customer feedback at a single diner, the Dwarf Grill, in Hapeville, Georgia. Hopkins County Young Professionals has continued this focus by calling on its Facebook page for nominations of local businesses providing exemplary customer service.
The Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation has been systematically building out its support for our local entrepreneurs. The organization’s president, Ray Hagerman (who is also a member of the Chamber’s board of directors), detailed this effort in the Feb. 24 Messenger: “There is no shortage of recipes for fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem in a community. The formula that seems in my experience to work most dependably is a systematic buildout of culture, place, talent and capital—in that order.” You can visit Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development’s websiteto read more about its work to nurture entrepreneurism.
And as for the Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce, we continue to grow our new LOCAL initiative, a collaborative effort among our members to boost each other’s businesses by encouraging Hopkins County residents to shop, dine, play and live more of their lives locally.
“Seven out of ten people say they would support local businesses if they knew who they were. Well, it’s our job to make sure they know. LOCAL is a shared brand initiative for Chamber members to work together to increase sales and visibility.”
You can visit our website to fill out an online form to request LOCAL materials for your Chamber-member business. Window clings featuring the LOCAL logo are available for members, and we look forward to featuring your business in a video at our social-media channels. Just reach out to us at (270) 821-3435 or https://www.hopkinscochamber.com/contact.html or stop by our office at 15 E. Center St. between 8 and 4 Central weekdays to get your business scheduled.
We plan to continue to roll out more LOCAL resources before National Small Business Week, May 5-11. The U.S. Small Business Administration writes, “Many household names were previous National Small Business Week award winners, including Ben and Jerry’s, Callaway Golf, Chobani Yogurt, Dogfish Head Brewing Company and Tom’s of Maine.”
It’s inspiring to read the histories of some of those former small businesses gone big. For example, a $5 correspondence course on ice-cream making was crucial in the formation of Ben and Jerry’s. Dogfish Head started with three kegs and propane burners in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware. Tom’s of Maine came about when a couple went looking for natural personal-care products after they moved their family from Philadelphia to Kennebunk, Maine.
It’s even more inspiring to look around the Hopkins County region today and imagine the possible future stories of our own current and future small businesses, and it’s rewarding to be part of the fabric of support that has come together to help urge on their success.
Part II of the regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly is scheduled to convene Feb. 5. As part of our commitment to leadership in governmental development, the Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce has been dialoging with local legislators about the session, and here’s some of what they have been telling us:
In advance of the session, the Kentucky Chamber revisited its framework of “Four Pillars for Prosperity” for the state—healthy and skilled workforce, effective and efficient state government, 21st-century infrastructure and quality jobs—and built a 2019 Legislative Agenda detailing priorities for the General Assembly. The agenda is downloadable from the state Chamber.
On Jan. 10, Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce president Leslie Curneal attended the annual Kentucky Chamber Day Dinner in Lexington, where Gov. Matt Bevin, legislators and business leaders shared thoughts and visions. Jacqueline Pitts wrote at Bottom Line, “Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson (identified) infrastructure funding, legal liability reform, bail reform, sports wagering, fixing the state’s arbitration statute, tribunal reform, and tobacco-free schools as top priorities of the business community in 2019.”
Meanwhile, the Hopkins County Fiscal Court’s broadband initiative is among the issues for which the local Chamber has been advocating. Here’s part of a letter we provided in 2018 to support the fiscal court’s grant-writing around this effort:
The ability to provide critical infrastructure like broadband is necessary for attracting and retaining industries, educating our students and workforce, ensuring public safety, and encouraging tourism in rural communities.
Connection to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet continues to be a problem for areas outside of the Madisonville city limits and places limitations on our ability to grow our business and industry community. Additionally, it hinders access of information needed by our students, families, and workforce to achieve higher levels of education. Improving broadband service will also increase access for tourists visiting Hopkins County where currently internet speeds are slow or not available, limiting access to information on recreation, camping, boating/fishing and trails which are very popular in this area.
The effective use of the Internet and digital technologies can promote growth, competitiveness, innovation and high living standards for Hopkins County. The Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce will continue to be a strong supporter of expanding broadband services to the underserved areas of the community.
Also, we were gratified to learn that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation in December 2018 identified the Central Alternative as the preferred route for the proposed I-69 Ohio River Crossing. In September, the Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce board had approved a resolution supporting that Central Alternative.
As always, we would appreciate your thoughts on our work on these or any other governmental issues that are of consequence to you and your business. Please reach out to us 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Central weekdays at (270) 821-3435 or 15 East Center Street in Madisonville—or any time at https://www.hopkinscochamber.com/contact.html.