BCEA to fund next BC Skills cohort

Justin Browning, project manager for BC Skills, standing, discusses the training program during Friday's regular meeting of the Barren County Economic Authority. Seated from left are Cave City Mayor Dwayne Hatcher, Park City Mayor Larry Poteet and Barren County District 5 Magistrate Mark Bowman. Melinda J. Overstreet / Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW – The Barren County Economic Authority unanimously agreed Friday to fund the second cohort of BC Skills – a program that teaches high schoolers and adults the skills they need to do program applications for computers and phones that was adapted from the InterApt Skills model.

The decision came after Justin Browning, the project manager, provided a detailed report on the success of the first cohort that started August 2018 and continued until May and then previewed the plan for the next round of classes. Cohort 1 had 36 participants – 13 unemployed or underemployed adults /23 high school students – with a 97 percent graduation rate. Some of the graduates got state or federal software development apprenticeships, 17 are continuing their education, and several are employed full time with salaries ranging from $29,120 to more than $60,000, and 14 projects were completed. The privately funded cost was $400,000.

He provided an income data chart showing the net gain in earnings for the 12 graduates working full time from the time they started the program – some unemployed, others making $9 to $12 per hour – to now, and the total increase for the group was nearly $300,000.

The next cohort is set to begin this month.

“Right now I have 14 adults and 16 students [enrolled] and I am turning people away from doing this particular thing,” Browning said, and that was without any type of announcement, per se. By the time the first cohort ended in May, he already had a list of at least 30 adults waiting, he said.

Browning said the anticipated cost for Cohort 2 is $150,000.

“That's quite the change in a year,” he said, “and I told you we'd been working on a new model, and that's a result of industry collaboration and working on that new model.”

He had said the model was modified to make it better suited for the student/adult hybrid as opposed to workforce only.

After Browning's presentation, a few of the authority members asked questions and lauded the success of the program.

“In my opinion, I think it's hard for us not to support an initiative like this, when we see the fruits that's come forth from these actions or from this program. We know the potential of this program,” said Scott Young, vice chair. “I'm 100 percent in favor of this.”

He named the conditions – diversifying the work force, creating jobs, developing and fostering the work force – the authority typically uses to determine whether it will lend financial support to a project, and he said hey are all met.

BCEA to fund next BC Skills cohort

Larry D. Glass, who chairs the search committee helping to find the Barren County Economic Authority's next executive director, provides an update on the search process to BCEA members at their meeting Friday. Melinda J. Overstreet / Glasgow Daily Times

Young made the motion to provide the funding, and Jim Lee seconded.

The actual vote came several minutes later after discussion to clarify who the current members were in light of a newly adopted amendments to the interlocal agreement that established the authority and other related actions.

The members as of that meeting, per the authority's attorney, Rich Alexander, were Owen Lambert, chair, Young, Gary Hartell, David Peterson, Jim Lee, and Magistrates Carl Dickerson and Mark Bowman.

Former executive director Dan Iacconi retired at the end of June. During the interim period while the search was happening, the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, with the leadership of Ron Bunch, president and CEO, has been enlisted at the last regular meeting to provide economic development services to the authority for continuity purposes. He had brought along Zach Cook, an existing-business project manager for BGACC, which also handles the economic development work for Warren County.

Because the previous two discussions had run long, Bunch said, he would have to leave before the meeting's conclusion as he had another meeting scheduled, but he provided a brief update on their activities to date.

BCEA to fund next BC Skills cohort

Ron Bunch, president and CEO of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, speaks at Friday's regular meeting of the Barren County Economic Authority, which has contracted with the BGACC to provide economic development services at least until a new BCEA executive director is in place. Melinda J. Overstreet / Glasgow Daily Times

The needs assessment for the community is underway, and he anticipated having it completed by the end of this month.

“It'll contain recommendations on several levels,” Bunch said.

Part of that report will focus on existing businesses, ensuring a complete listing of them is available, determining any problems or opportunities that exist, and he said the Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce, particularly its executive vice president and chief operating officer, Ernie Myers, has been very helpful with their process of making contacts at those locations.

“We know of at least one expansion project from before we came on that we are in contact with,” he said, and two other possible “near-term opportunities” have been identified from among those contacted so far. He said there is one project pending that he would characterize as attraction or startup, and he's hopeful it will be ready to be considered for incentives around the September time frame.

Bunch said the report would also have a recommended action plan with goals for at least the next year.

Members of the search committee enlisted to assist with finding the next executive director were also present at the meeting. Larry D. Glass, chair of that group, mentioned a previous public meeting with The Pace Group, a self-described headhunter firm that has been employed to bring good candidates for the job, and he said “a number of people” have reached out to that company, including three people from this region.

“They're very excited about the interest that they are seeing,” Glass said. “They are also reaching out to their contacts all across the country where they have placed people, and they've been there for quite some time, that may be looking to move to another location. They're getting some interest in that area. They've already got interviews scheduled, and, as of today, unless something changes, they're planning on being back in Glasgow the 25th, 26th and 27th of August to give the search committee an update on where they're at, and they'll actually be doing some interviews when they're here.”