Area leaders still hopeful in aftermath of ACS job loss

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2003

ASHLAND, Ky.- Ashland area leaders are hopeful that new opportunities are out there, they just need to go looking for them.

The loss of more than 400 jobs last month when Applied Card Systems closed its Russell, Ky., facility had a negative impact on the economy, but Ashland Alliance President Jim Purgeson said area leaders are continuing their efforts to attract new business to the area.

Purgeson said local leaders are in contact with an entity that would provide office-type jobs to approximately 250 people.

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"It doesn't reach the level of Applied Cards," Purgeson said. "But every job counts. This is a very competitive thing."

Purgeson declined to name the entity, but said its executives are looking at sites in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Illinois.

"We should know if we make the short list within 30 days or so," Purgeson said.

That entity

is looking at several sites, including the three floors that ACS occupied in the Addington Corporate Center in Russell, or it may consider building a new facility at EastPark Industrial Park between Coalton and Grayson.

Purgeson said private consultant Ed Morrison of Ed Morrison and Associates has been hired to study the area's strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for future growth.

Morrison, who has offices in Cleveland and Shreveport, La., was instrumental in creating a similar focus piece on the area's economy and prospects in 1998, after Marathon-Ashland Petroleum announced its intention to move its corporate headquarters to Covington, Ky. Morrison's executive summary should be completed by mid-May.

"It's going to be succinct," Purgeson said. "It's going to be maybe 10 or 15 pages. It's not going to be this inch-thick thing that people put on a shelf and not read."

The executive summary may address such issues as business and industry support for education, national economic trends and how to encourage local small business endeavors.

"We have to just keep plugging along," Purgeson said. "We've definitely got our challenges, but we've got a lot of opportunities here as well. What makes this area so great is the people. I know it sounds corny, but it's true.

"We have a good work force, and a good work ethic. We're in a strategic location. I think when the national economy starts picking up, things will get better."