Paducah, Kentucky has a rich cultural history, and has served as an important historic point for major industries, including trade and manufacturing in the 19th century and the birth of the “Atomic City” with the opening of a gaseous diffusion plant in the 1950s. Throughout its history the Paducah arts and culinary scene have remained vibrant, but recently the power of its major industries began to wane. As the gaseous diffusion plant began to cease operations and younger residents began moving out of West Kentucky to continue their careers. During this time Paducah took took the opportunity to further invest into higher education and strengthen its medical systems. The Paducah-McCracken County Riverport was busier than ever, and Downtown Paducah was coming back to life with new commercial business, residences, and even a hotel.
While Paducah possessed so many great assets, the loss of a major industrial employer hit the community hard. Paducah was poised to reassess its approach towards economic development. Paducah Economic Development engaged Avalanche Consulting to create a vision and strategy for the future of Paducah, called Forward Paducah, that brought the entire community together to strengthen Paducah’s existing assets and build a diverse base of assets.
We were tasked with creating a holistic economic development strategy that gathered input from all members of the community. We began the process by gathering as much stakeholder input as possible – we toured Paducah, conducted Steering Committee workshops, focus groups, interviews, and public forums. We conducted research on economic and workforce trends in Paducah, which led us to recommending target industries that would be most beneficial to the Paducah economy. We profiled each target industry, including information such as wage trends, location criteria, and selling points for Paducah to use while attracting businesses in that industry. We included best practices that could be adopted by Paducah, and a Vision & Strategy report that covered education and workforce development, marketing and communications, and community improvements. We offered recommendations that strengthened Paducah’s existing assets, and recommendations that encouraged Paducah to expand into new areas of business and holistic economic development. We also gave Paducah Economic Development implementation guidelines to ensure that they stayed on track throughout the entire strategic plan.
Our report culminated in a vision statement for Paducah: “Greater Paducah is the creative heart of Kentucky – building on a foundation of education, arts, and healthy living to inspire businesses and families to prosper.” Our strategy concluded in April of last year, and we’re seeing Paducah well on its way to achieving its economic development goals. Paducah has maintained its status as a top destination for a unique small town culinary experience, and the Paducah public school system was recently awarded $3.8 million for an innovation hub project. Paducah’s clear vision of the future enabled the entire community take active steps towards bettering the entire Greater Paducah region.
Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth has a long and prosperous history of being at the forefront of business and industry. It’s history as Cowtown, epicenter of meat-packing, part of the Oil Boom, and strategic location have kept the Fort Worth heritage and economy thriving for over 100 years. Today the Fort Worth economy is powered by the industry clusters aviation and aerospace, corporate and professional, life sciences, logistics, manufacturing, and natural gas.
Fort Worth has many competitive assets: nearby higher education creates a skilled workforce, high quality of life with a low cost of living, easy access to major employers in both Fort Worth and Dallas, and an economic development program helmed by the Fort Worth Chamber. Due to Fort Worth’s recent economic development efforts, the City is home to 17 company headquarters, recent expansions from companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Wal-Mart, and easy access to four major interstate highways and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Fort Worth has strategically utilized all of these assets to create a prosperous economy and vibrant community.
Fort Worth economic development initiatives go beyond just creating jobs and investment. Holistic initiatives like Vision Fort Worth and the Blue Zones Project aim to improve the well-being of the community.
Vision Fort Worth is a community of young business professionals that aim to make Fort Worth a better place to live, work, and play. Members of Vision Fort Worth participate in service projects, business networking, mentoring events, and social activities. Vision Fort Worth connects young professionals to the greater Fort Worth business community, and ensure that promising young professionals begin building a future in Fort Worth. The Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being initiative that is designed to help making healthy choices in Fort Worth easier.
The Blue Zones project is funded by major Fort Worth employers, Texas Health Resources, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, with support from The City of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Chamber. The initiative has been embraced by companies, schools, restaurants and grocery stores across Fort Worth. These organizations participate by offering healthier options in cafeterias and vending machines, encouraging movement throughout the workday, and awarding Blue Zone Project Approved Restaurant Status to healthy restauarants.
Both Vision Fort Worth and the Blue Zones Project seek to improve the well-being of Fort Worth residents, and activities in each iniative stimulate and strengthen the Fort Worth economy.
Fort Worth’s successes have recently been in the national spotlight. The City was awarded major federal funding for two infrastructure projects. The Trinity River Vision Project, which aims to reroute the Trinity River the alleviate flooding and create an entertainment district, and TEX Rail, a commuter rail system that will travel from downtown Fort Worth to DFW airport, both received $500 million each in federal funding. Fort Worth also has an estimated 1,800 additional jobs being created in the next 5 years due to a new deal between Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon.