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Industry plays big part in Hancock County’s economy

For over 50 years Southwire has shown continued growth. This is one of the many reels of coiling wire and cable that will be shipped in the U.S. and around the world.

It is a brand new year and looking back at what economic statistics reveal about Hancock County and Kentucky is just that – looking back, instead of looking forward. The focus should be on the future, and despite some negative data, the future does look bright for the county and for the state.

Median Household Income

The median household income in Hancock County is $53,953. To contrast with some surrounding counties, Breckinridge is $41,519; Ohio – $40,086; Muhlenberg – $40,189; Daviess – $49,179; McLean – $51,396; Jefferson – $64,075; Oldham – $76,988; Meade – $46,812; Spencer, IN – $54,253; and Perry County, IN – $44,250.

The county has a lower median household income than counties such as Oldham, Woodford and Boone, and also a higher poverty rate compared to such counties. Hancock County’s median household income is also lower than the state’s, which is $52,295.

Poverty Rate

The county’s poverty rate (15.6 percent) is higher than the state’s, which is 15.3 percent. The poverty rate in Kentucky is higher than the national average, and the median household income in the Commonwealth is lower than the national median household income.

The county does face some economic challenges. Thankfully, three of the big existing industries are thriving in Hancock County, and there is some growth in the second tier as well.

Recent Economic Report for HC

At the last Hancock County Fiscal Court meeting in December, Director of Economic Development for the HC Industrial Foundation Mike Baker reported that the average unemployment rate through October was 4.1 percent, and that number has been consistent over the last couple of years. The workforce in Hancock County, he said, has been consistent at around 3,700. In past years, Hancock County has been at 3,800-3,900 at times.

The Century plant does still remain idled, but Southwire, Commonwealth and Domtar continue to invest capital funds in the local plants. “That’s one indicator you can continue to watch and have a pretty good level of confidence in the health of these plants,” Baker said. “They continue to make that decision to invest that money in Hancock County. That says a lot about employees, management and the community, and the support that’s here.”

Commonwealth has revitalized their casting department, Southwire is continuing to grow, invest and construct, and Domtar just invested in new equipment and technology. The shadow industries, or tier 2 industries, are continuing to be healthy and grow, Baker said. Contour Fabrication & Mechanical, Inc., in Lewisport is thriving, for instance, and Columbia Specialty Metals was purchased and is continuing to thrive.

Tourism

Green River Distillery’s Lewisport location has a second rickhouse that is almost complete and the company has big plans for 2024. They have stated their plans for the site (which is much bigger than the Owensboro site) to eventually be a tourism attraction in Hancock County, and for it to be included on the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Jeffreys Cliffs made it into National Geographic Magazine in 2023 as well, so the tourism factor is building in Hancock County, which also complements the county’s industrial base.

Occupational Tax

The year to date total for occupational tax in Hancock County, as of December 2023, was $2,289,000. That was down about $300K from last year, and is a reflection of the Century shutdown. For the month of November, tax collections were $526,259.63 and business license collections totaled $2,200. The deposit with the treasurer for the period of 11-01 through 11-30 was $528,459.63.

Hancock County Manufacturers

The average manufacturing wages for production jobs in Hancock County at Commonwealth Rolled products, Southwire Rod & Cable, Domtar, Precision Roll Grinders, Crescent Paper Tube, Columbia Metals and W2 Pallet range between an estimated $15-$28 an hour, with skilled craft jobs in the $28-$30 estimated range. Each organization also has its own benefit package for employees.

Employee numbers change frequently due to attrition by retirement, market conditions and business status, so they do vary but as of 2024: Commonwealth employs 1,000; Southwire – 600; Domtar – 400; Precision Roll Grinders – 15; Crescent Paper Tube – 15; Columbia Metals – 15; and W2 Pallet – 10. This does not include, of course, the employment growth that could be seen over the next year and beyond such as with new facilities like Green River Distilling in Lewisport, whose spokesperson has vocalized plans for hiring locally as the rickhouses are being completed and the need for more employees arises.

Manufacturing in KY

Kentucky has a very skilled workforce and more than 250,000 residents are working in manufacturing. There are over 5K manufacturing facilities in the Commonwealth, and over 900 plant locations or expansion projects with a reported capital investment of over $28 billion, with approximately 39,000 additional jobs just in the last 5 years. $34.4 billion of KY made products were exported around the world in 2022.

Healthcare in KY

More than 100 new or expanded health care facilities have been announced since 2017 in KY, with investments totaling over $1 billion, and over 5,500 announced jobs. There are around 250 health care related businesses in KY and more than 38,000 residents work for health care related companies. These statistics don’t include private healthcare, hospitals or physician’s offices.

The number of health care related facilities is growing fast as a result of Kentucky’s reputation as a health care leader. This growth has emerged from the innovative research on breakthroughs like artificial hearts and limbs, as well as the development of medical advances in transplants, etc., and a trained medical research workforce. The advances that have been made have placed KY on the map as an ideal location for health care related businesses.

Agriculture in KY

The Kentucky agricultural statistics for 2023, compiled by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, show that there were 73,500 farms in 2022, and 12,900 acres of farm land. The number of farms in KY from 1993-2021 have gone from 95,000 to under 75,000. KY cash receipts from farm markets in 2022 were: $4,466,556 for livestock and products, and $3,839,258 for crops (wheat, corn, hay, tobacco, soybeans, etc.), for a total of $8,305,814.

 

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