Local 6 investigated what could be holding Paducah and McCracken County back from explosive economic growth. Briana Conner talked to local business owners and confronted county and city leaders with their concerns.
Business at The Burrito Shack is good. There are plenty of customers and employees making this location successful like the first one in Murray. "Thought we'd try it in Paducah. Seems to have worked out so far," said Owner Matt Gingles.
Gingles runs both restaurants, but says there's one main difference that doesn't have anything to do with the food. "Murray, they were a lot more welcoming. I feel like they tried to help out more so than in Paducah," he said. It's a message city and county leaders said they've heard more than once. "It's an ongoing process to make sure the people employing our citizens feel like they're able to be profitable, continue to employ our citizens, and be treated fairly," said McCracken County Judge Executive.
He and Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler said they're working together to fix broken parts of the process. "We are very receptive to people and their concerns, and we really try to work things out. We are working right now on this," said Mayor Kaler.
Responding to business owner's complaints about strict state code enforcement, Kaler said some things can't be changed. "If you look into those ordinances, there's a logical reason for those being that way. Many of them are for safety issues. They aren't just because we are being arbitrary," she said.
As for communication, that's an issue The Chamber of Commerce, Murray State University, and Paducah Economic Development are all tackling together. "We're on their side. We are here to help," said Chamber President Sandra Wilson. They're collaborating to bring a part-time employee on board, specifically, to focus on small businesses, which make up about 80 percent of the chamber's membership. "They will be available to meet with small businesses, help them, find out about their needs, and ways we can help deliver those needs," said Wilson.
They're making things friendlier and easier, though Mayor Kaler said they may not get faster. "Government moves at a slower pace. You can't get things done as quickly as you can with private business, and I think that's were people get frustrated." They are offering a few answers and some solutions to chip away at problems and give current and future business owners more confidence. "I think I'll look back and be glad that I did it," said Gingles.
The chamber is also planning an event for the first half of this year to outline ideas that could take the area to the next level economically and socially. Wilson said the visioning session is a tool they can also use to open up the lines of communication between different groups.
Inspections has merged with the fire department within the past couple of years to create what Mayor Kaler called a culture change. She also said the city has cleaned up its ordinances that were formerly attached to those codes making them now a little less complicated.
Current Paducah Economic Development CEO Scott Darnell said he didn't want to participate in this story.