Old fashioned ‘Priming the Pump’ is key to Knox growth

From the Publisher Jay Nolan
From the Publisher
Jay Nolan

How many of you have ever primed a pump?

Do you remember in the days of hand-dug wells? Sometimes you had to prime the pump before you could get water.

Well, if Knox County is going to attract more jobs and growth into our area, we are going to have to prime our economic pump. We must invest wisely to develop our economy.

Investing in a full time professional focused only on economic development could be just the “priming” our Knox County “pump” needs.

Laurel County did this, and over time landed Aisin Automotive, ABC Automotive, the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, and many other companies. Today, Laurel County households earn, on average, about $15,000 more than Knox County households.

Even one major development success in Knox County could generate hundreds of jobs.

But where can a poor county like ours find the “priming” money? There are probably multiple ways, but here’s one suggestion that could happen this legislative session. Let’s get our new jail built!

Knox’s jail can legally hold only 35 inmates. However, in the last two years, the jail was tasked to incarcerate up to 191 individuals in a single month. Our average monthly prisoner head count is now 155. So, obviously we have to send most Knox prisoners to other area jails.

Other counties all charge more to house Knox inmates than it actually costs. As a result, reports show our county was forced to spend $697,871 tax dollars just to house inmates in 2015. Our jail also pays for three vans and one car that transport prisoners to other jails. Gas, mileage, labor costs, plus the high cost of providing out-of-county medical treatment to inmates all add thousands more to our county’s monthly bills. Could $20,000 per month be saved if we had our own modern Knox jail? Even if the actual savings is only 25% of that, we could still fund a professional, full time economic development office.

Years ago Frankfort agreed to let us have a new jail. But they didn’t put any real money in the budget to cover our pre-construction cost like they promised. So, we are left hanging.

I think we should all ask our state legislators to help us get our jail, then use the savings to “prime our economic pump.” Does that make sense?

What do you think?