Area job recruiter predicts ‘substantial’ recovery following coronavirus

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PULASKI COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – The head of one of Southeastern Kentucky’s most active economic development agencies expects “substantial” recovery once the coronavirus epidemic passes.

Meanwhile, Pulaski County now has 30 total COVID-19 cases with 13 of those fully recovered, 14 still self-qurantined and two in the hospital, county Judge Executive Steve Kelley said Friday in his every-other-day update to the community.

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And many other state and county leaders, Kelley encouraged county residents to do an”even better job” of practicing health and safety guidelines designed to slow the spread of the illness.

“We are doing a good job for the most part but there are some issues,” Kelley said during his online update.

“I realize many of you are going stir crazy at home,” but he said people must discourage each other from going out.

“If you must go, go alone,” he advised.

Kelley’s guest Friday was Chris Girdler, the executive director of the 18-month-old Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Agency.

Out of crises can come a lot of good. I am extremely optimistic,” Girdler said of the prospects not only for recovery but growth in the months ahead.

The SPEDA has been working with large and small businesses and industries through this “painful” time with everything from health and safety advice to financial and economic guidance, if needed.

Companies have done a good job of “tackling the problems head on,” said Girdler, a former manufacturing exec with a family-owned business.

The idea is to work with them to prepare for opportunities in the future, he said, calling the current conditions a “speed bump” in the nation’s history, even if it is a big one.

“There is no clear path right now about how and where we are going, but we are starting to have those conversations,” he continued.

He and Kelley agreed one tourism may be one of the early beneficiaries of the recovery, especially with Pulaski County sitting on the edge of popular Lake Cumberland, which attracts visitors from throughout a six-state area.

That may be even more so once travel bans are lifted, Kelley suggested.

“People are going to be a little reluctant to go to a lot of the traditional vacation areas and stay a little closer to home,” he said, repeating what many national tourism experts are beginning to theorize.

Money and other factors also could play a part in that trend.

“I think Lake Cumberland could see record-beating numbers,” Girdler added.

Time will begin to tell in May.

“The next three months are going to be more important than the last two,” Girdler noted.

The agency started last fall a mini-grant program to help businesses and industries and had planned on awarding the first ones later this year but is moving those up. The first ones will be announced next week.

“The idea is to get a little of that money into the economy,” he explained.

“The current time is a health care crises with an economic crises strapped to its back,” Girdler said of the current conditions.

“We are working with the community to bounce back…and we think there will be a substantial bounce back,” Girdler said.