While many associate the Labor Day holiday weekend as a time marking the closing of summer, lazy days celebrated with cookouts and additional time with friends and family, the first ‘September Monday’ of 2020 will be undoubtedly memorable due to the current COVID-19 Pandemic every American and Maysvillian is experiencing.
The current pandemic has literally affected every aspect of our lives and the holiday celebrating the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country has not been immune. While this pandemic has been a once in a lifetime event, as citizens, we should each explore our gratitude for the successes our community has witnessed this year.
In spite of the pandemic, the City of Maysville and Mason County has certainly held its own, a fact we can all be proud of. As the crisis materialized and some of our ‘new normal’ became obvious, city and county leadership quickly acted. In those first few weeks, we immediately asked our business community what their needs actually were. The county’s ‘one shopper per family’ ordinance was requested by all of our large big-box retailers to ensure their workers and the shopping public remained safe. Additionally, the Maysville Small Business Assistance Fund, targeting our small businesses, successfully assisted in keeping many of our small businesses open. In fact, the Maysville Small Business Assistance Fund quickly became a statewide ‘best practice’ as cities from Covington to Paducah and many more quickly released similar programs.
I have consistently stated that Maysville’s economy historically weathers national economic trauma better than most similarly sized communities and I am convinced that the last six months underscores that fact. While initially I’ll admit I was nervous, Maysville’s economy has performed well during this pandemic. In addition to the Small Business Assistance Fund, many of us, including our local banking and lending institutions worked very hard to ensure a high percentage of our workplaces qualified for the federal Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administrations’ EIDL programs. Several local heroes such as Victor McKay and his team at the Maysville Unemployment Office worked night and day, answering calls from those laid off and furloughed during the crisis. Several of us worked extremely hard to ensure accurate and timely information on programs, procedures and assistance was quickly disseminated to those affected.
As we go about our daily lives living here in “the Center of Everything,” it’s important at times to take a step back and assess where we are. Our manufacturing sector continues to grow, if not flourish with stalwarts such Mitsubishi, Green Tokai and Stober holding their own and hiring in some cases. Additionally, as a community, we are lucky to continue to see progress within longer-term projects such as EKPC’s Spurlock Station and their upgrades. Without the fortitude of these economic drivers, our city coffers would not be where they are.
Over the last year we have continued to see the projected growth of newcomers such as Precision Pulley and Idler and Enviroflight. Many have failed to realize that Darling Ingredients not only purchased 100 percent of Enviroflight and are continuing to invest millions in our area, they have also opened their Darling Tub Plant here in Maysville. Progress continues with PatienTech, despite slowdowns from the pandemic, with their larger manufacturing equipment beginning to arrive in Maysville from all parts of the globe. These projects and others are or will soon be providing the self-sustaining quality jobs our region depends on. Maysville’s historic manufacturers such as Walds, LLC continue their steady production while tech-based entities such as Carlson Software, are leaders in their field.
While the above facts highlight how well Maysville’s economy has done in light of COVID, no where is Maysville’s grit and tenacity witnessed more than in her entrepreneurs. Entities such as M’s Eatery, Sprinkles of Hope, The Maysville Brewery, and others continue to battle day in and day out, highlighting the growing entrepreneurial base our area has nourished. TNT Body shop in Old Washington, an early entrepreneurial client, has quietly grown to one of our region’s larger autobody shops. Statewide entrepreneurial focused programs such as INVEST606 and others are certainly noticing Maysville’s entrepreneurial grit and determination.
Our retail sector and demographics continue to grow and shine, even in spite of the current pandemic. Our area was stricken with the loss of JC Penney and Gordman’s/Goody’s however these closures were indicative of internal corporate strife and certainly no reflection on Maysville’s retail sector. In fact, the announcement of Hobby Lobby and the opening of Harbor Freight Tools highlights Maysville’s re-ascension to the retail hub of our 14-county area. Big Sandy Furniture’s announcement and plans to build a new superstore on the vacant lot last utilized 20 years ago by Ken’s New Market, highlights the growing optimism from investors and big-box retailers alike.
Possibly the perfect analogy for Maysville’s determination during this pandemic is represented in the hard work, dedication and tenacity of the Hardymon Lumber Company. Not dissimilar to the current pandemic’s effect on America, a devastating fire destroyed the historic downtown retailer’s showroom several months ago. Witnessing progress on the new showroom has led to a growing optimism in Maysville. After demolishing the remnants of the old building, Terry, Nic and all of the Hardymon crew have provided Maysville a front-row seat as their new showroom rises from the ashes.
In fact, the Hardymon Lumber project is just one of several projects currently underway. From the previously mentioned retail and manufacturing projects to several professional housing developments underway, one is hard-pressed to travel anywhere in Mason County and not see positive movement. From the East End’s Comprehend addition and Emergency Disaster Services Buildings to Eastern Mason County’s “Project Winchester,” located on the AA Highway and Watertower Road, these new developments underscore the optimism that is growing in Maysville and Mason County. Watson Developments project in Old Washington, Hedgcock Development’s “Project Overlook” in downtown Maysville and several others are providing the housing stock of the future for Maysville. Ultimately, one can attribute this growth and optimism to our area’s workers and workforce, which we celebrate on Labor Day.
Even a national pandemic cannot overshadow the determination, hard work and tenacity of Maysville citizens. That is what I’ll be celebrating this Labor Day holiday weekend.
Owen McNeill is the Executive Director of the Maysville Mason County Industrial Development Authority.