West Kentucky Workforce Investment Board & Purchase Area Development District – Economic Strategy for the Purchase Region of Western Kentucky
ChallengeBordered by rivers on three sides and the Tennessee state line on the fourth, the Purchase Region stands apart. While its geography could tend to have an isolating effect, these very same features have long provided a mechanism for reaching out to the world. Historically, the region’s fortunes were closely tied to the flow of goods along the inland waterways. This remains true today. However, in addition to these physical pathways, businesses and residents of the Purchase Region have the means to connect with markets and ideas around the world. Uncovering these connections and using them as the basis for a regional economic strategy is at the heart of this work. To help position the region for the future, the West Kentucky Workforce Investment Board and the Purchase Area Development District commissioned the Purchase Future Project. TIP Strategies was engaged to identify those sectors of the region’s economy with the most promise for economic growth and to prepare an action plan for economic recovery.
ApproachTo accomplish this task, TIP compiled demographic and economic data for the region and for individual counties. In addition, we held opportunity workshops in each of the eight Purchase Region counties. Insights gained from the data analysis and opportunity workshops were supplemented by interviews with local employers, area institutions of higher education, state government officials, and others familiar with the region. Findings from these tasks were informed by our understanding of trends affecting economic development and workforce, as well as our experience conducting consulting projects across the US.
Outcome The Purchase Region has a number of assets that are currently underutilized. The plan provides a framework for a regional approach to economic growth. It points to niche markets within the region’s existing strengths in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture and healthcare and suggests strategies for taking advantage of emerging opportunities in energy, tourism, and entrepreneurship. Priority projects include creating a talent attraction strategy to help counteract the region’s lagging population growth, implementing a regional tourism strategy to leverage the region’s numerous and varied tourism assets, and continued marketing of the region’s state-of-the-art educational facilities, available land, low cost of living, and quality of life.