Although I was happy to see the Irvine City Council vote to pay the Estill Development Alliance $30,000 in arrears, I was really disappointed by some of the remarks made about the group.
Councilman Glenwood Tipton told the group of EDA board members who were present that he had been on the council for three terms– six years. He claims that in this time he’s never seen EDA do anything for the City of Irvine. He even went as far as to ask EDA Director Joe Crawford if he could list some of things the group did, because he wasn’t aware it had done anything to benefit Irvine.
I was surprised to hear this considering my professoinal experiences with EDA. To ask a group such as this to list the things they do to benefit Irvine, had to feel like a slap in the face to those on the board who work very hard.
We all know our community is struggling, there’s no hiding it and no denying that things have to be done to keep the county afloat. Businesses are leaving and new ones that open are having trouble staying that way. Many of the buildings in downtown Irvine sit empty. With Eastern Kentucky University being so near, our students are given opportunities to receive degrees, but they don’t return to Estill County.
With fewer businesses, many are forced to travel to other towns to work and patronize their businesses. In turn, we lose thousands of dollars in tax revenue each year.
I can’t sit here and say that the EDA has fixed all these problems or that its come up with solutions to these things. But I can say there are programs in place to try.
Verlon Prewitt was at the meeting to tell the council about the history of EDA and he had some wise words to share that stuck with me. He said, “I can’t guarantee success. But I can guarantee failure. You’re guaranteed to fail if you don’t try.”
EDA is trying to revitalize industry, entertainment and revenue in our community. Working closely with the local Chamber of Commerce, EDA has brought leadership programs to encourage educated leaders to stay in Estill County. Who can ignore the ICE Box, an incubator for small start-up businesses? There’s BINGO that gives citizens something to do on a Friday night and gives money back to civic, church and school groups. The Hall of Honor rewards Estill County’s finest and acknowledges their civic, professional and social accomplishments.
EDA brought the first Rock the River Town music festival this summer and its working to create commercials and other materials to promote our community.
I know all of this not because I sit on the board or because the board members even told me about it. They advertise these efforts heavily in the community. Mayor Ernest Farmer sits on the EDA board and himself said he didn’t see what they were doing to benefit the city.
In my opinion, the benefits of EDA are clear. The buildings may not be filling up as quickly as we would like, but there are measures in place to try.
I encourage anyone who doesn’t know what the EDA is doing for our community, including the council members who voted against funding it, to see the website at estillcountyky.net or call the office: 723-2450.