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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Glasgow's Economy -- We have an Idea or Two

Even though I now sport a head full of thinning gray hair, I still am not old enough to know all of the story behind why the large industries, that once were the economic backbone of our community, originally came to Glasgow. But a large part of the story likely involved the fact that, back in the 60's and 70's, labor and land were cheap here compared to the large cities. Those advantages, coupled with the robust and underutilized infrastructure, and a highly dedicated pool of workers, that already existed in places like Glasgow, lead facilities like R.R. Donnelley, Tyson Bearing, Eaton Axle, and Mallory Capacitor to come here, and provide employment and prosperity here, for many years. Unfortunately, those same advantages are now available to companies in places far from Glasgow, and, as we all know, some of our key industries, the former lynch-pins of our prosperity, are leaving Glasgow to drink from those new reserves of cheap land and labor.

What should we do to reinvent ourselves and create new reasons for companies to come here and offer jobs and prosperity to our community? Perhaps everyone has an idea or two about how to answer that, but we are working on one of our own that you might want to know more about. Our idea is another angle on the principles which underlie our Sustainable Glasgow initiative. In other words, we thinking about new ways to improve our local economy by drawing upon assets that we already possess. Sustainable Glasgow presently focuses on factories that we own that are not about to leave - our land and our ability to grow food on that land. The new idea that Glasgow EPB and Glasgow Barren County IDEA are working together on also focuses on the assets that are unique to Glasgow which cannot be easily copied by another community.

Glasgow already possesses robust utility infrastructure. We have redundant water plants. Our water supply at Barren River Reservoir is virtually limitless. Our electric system is about to have redundant feeds to the community. We have our own hospital and that hospital serves as the nucleus for a large network of health care professionals. Perhaps most unique, we own our own fiber-rich broadband network which is already connected to a large number of internet-based electric meters and connected to every one of the other assets listed above.

It just so happens that, in 2010, the planets are lining up for the whole world to be interested in learning how to deliver electric power and health care in a more efficient manner, using a robust broadband network. Many, many manufacturers of the technology which will be necessary to deliver electric power via a “smart grid” will be looking for a place to conduct pilot projects and tests of their technology. Similarly, folks who write software and invent new medical devices that need broadband connections to complete the improvements they claim for health care will be looking for a place to test their inventions. In our mind, that puts Glasgow in a perfect position to offer itself up to these companies as a laboratory for them to conduct the research. Looking over the horizon, if we can successfully sell ourselves as a laboratory, perhaps some of the technology tested here will become very successful and the inventors will then need a place to manufacture those devices. If that comes to pass, maybe our old buildings that formerly produced parts for the automotive industry will be reborn as places where new appliances and high tech devices are made. Perhaps this will be the rebirth of our economy. Isn’t it worth trying?

So, that is the vision we are presently pursuing in the hope of breathing new life into our economy. Already we have accepted a couple of small demonstration projects for heat pump water heaters and ductless heat pumps through TVA and EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute). We just completed a proposal to Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence for a two year long project to evaluate new energy saving appliances created by General Electric (read more about that here), in partnership with the Gatton Academy of Math and Science at WKU, University of Kentucky, and muNet, Inc. Soon we will be applying for another smart grid demonstration project through TVA. We are even trying to convince the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to pilot the planned Kentucky Health Information Exchange (more information about this here) network here in Glasgow.

Will any of these proposals be accepted? We don’t know. Will the use of Glasgow as a laboratory for new technology ideas immediately bring in a lot of new jobs? While not likely as an immediate result, we definitely believe this may be the ultimate result.
The most important thing about this story is that we have ideas – new ones, that might possibly turn into very big ideas for our little community. These ideas are not the kind that totally depend upon the whims of a small group of board members in a distant city or country. These ideas can be enriched and supported by the people who live here and show their willingness to be a part of these experiments. This kind of economic development is like planting a garden and growing our own food. No one can take this away from us so long as we continue to work and pull together as a strong, united community.

We will keep you posted when something is ripe and ready for the picking!

2 comments:

Lunarwarrior said...

would be a good idea. advertise county as broadband science community. Setup some research places. Then if they want to do developmental research have plenty of empty manufactureing building that should be rent out for pennies before they fall down and are turned into pennies. haha.
How about expanding the water company into generating "Water From the Barrens" Drinking and distilled waters? Get EPB to provide the power of course. Expand water works more. Hire people into water bottle plant. Recycle. Offer glass bottles? Plastic? Return and reuse. More shipping and transport. Off plastic/glass bottle to expanded milk plant. More hiries. Get the rich banks to invest money. Like their giving me 1% and then want to charge me 12% to get a used car loan. haha. just cashed in the stupid cd's and paid cash. Get City to buy up good properties. The rich trying to stay rich. City just wanting to stay afloat. They could offer cheaper deals to companies wanting to expand into this area. Where get their money be from the taxes of the employed and new business and expansions beyond them.

rawr_grr said...

Greetings from Glasgow. Scotland (UK)