By Wayne Gates
Brown County elected officials, educators and business leaders got together with Congressman Brad Wenstrup on August 21 to talk about jobs.
Wenstrup visited the Stanley Black and Decker plant in Georgetown as part of the Legislative Connections program from the Brown County Chamber of Commerce.
Plant Manager Nick Iknayan kicked off the meeting, telling the group, “We have about 130 people that work here and probably push about $8.5 million into the local economy in terms of wages. Stanley Black and Decker is very proud to be an American manufacturer. Everything you see going out the door here is American made.”
He added that business is good right now.
“We expect to continue to grow and provide employment opportunities for area residents,” Iknayan said.
He went on to call attention to the close relationship that his company has had over the past year with Southern Hills Career and Technical Center and Superintendent Kevin Kratzer.
“He’s got very good kids coming out of that school and we have very good opportunities. We are very proud to be able to work with the school to continue to grow those opportunities.”
There are currently about 25 SHCTC graduates working at the plant, which is about twenty percent of the work force.
Following a tour of the plant, the group regathered to hear from Wenstrup and Brown County Chamber of Commerce President Darrin Schneider.
“I appreciate the fact that our elected officials take time out of their busy schedule to come and speak to the business community,” Schneider said.
“This is an opportunity for us to come in here and see what happens. We need more employers like this and we thank you for being a part of our community for so long.”
Schneider also thanked Warren Walker of Duke Energy for his help in getting Duke to sponsor the Legislative Connections program.
Wenstrup then took the podium to talk about the business environment in Washington, D.C.
“We see that rural areas are still struggling with unemployment, but they are doing better than they have historically. We also see that wages and revenues to the government are both up,” Wenstrup said.
“One of the things that is driving revenue is repatriation. Dollars that had been staying overseas are now coming back to America, That has gone up tenfold over the past year.”
He also talked about the historically low unemployment rate for many areas and demographic groups.
“We had been saying ‘Where are the jobs?’, but now we’re saying ‘Where are the workers?’ We are taking measures to help prepare the workforce to meet the demands of the economy that we have right now.”
Wenstrup talked about new legislation as an example.
“President Trump recently signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. It gives choices to families and students to help meet the needs of employers. We need to work with technical schools and community colleges and do whatever it takes,” Wenstrup said.
Wenstrup also addressed the partnership between industry and education in Brown County.
“I look at education as workforce development. I think that’s what education should be. The question for us as elected officials both in Washington D.C. and here at home is what can we do to create those employment possibilities for our fellow citizens.”
Following the gathering, Kratzer said he was pleased to hear the comments of Wenstrup.
“It’s refreshing and encouraging to hear from our leaders in Washington that we are on the same page about how important workforce development really is. We at Southern Hills are proud to be helping to fill what we see is a critical vacuum in the workforce.”