La Center-The future of 120 jobs held by Ballard County residents at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) was the main topic at the recent Ballard Chamber of Commerce Breakfast in which Judge/Executive Vickie Viniard was the guest speaker.
Viniard provided valuable information to date as to what is happening at USEC and how it is affecting Ballard County. She began by giving some statistics about USEC and how many Ballard County employees are being affected.
She said that as of January 2011, Ballard residents were employed by USEC. She cited this as the last official number. After the May 31st announcement that USEC would be laying off its employees, the West Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (WKWIB) began researching the workforce to understand the demographics, potential plans after the layoffs, and what types of services these workers were going to need to transition for re-employment.
Viniard cited statistics provided by the WKWIB that indicated that 50% of Ballard County residents that work at USEC have been in their position for 10 years or less, 12.5 % have worked there 21 to 25 years, and one person has been at the plant for forty years.
Viniard cited the skills utilized by Ballard employees at USEC and gave statistics as to what these employees plan to do after the layoffs as specified by the WKWIB. According to the Board, 32 % will look for a job away, 25 % will go back to school, 11% will start their own business, and 7% will retire.
The WKWIB is working with both Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the U.S. Department of Labor to obtain funds to provide dislocated workers service to those affected by the closure of the PGDP. Viniard said a key component would be the creation of the Career Solution Community (CSC). She said the CSC would be located at the Emerging Technology Center on the campus of West Kentucky Community and Technical College. This will allow for dislocated workers to come to one central location to receive information about services available to them.
The CSC was to be open in time for the first round of layoffs with the first training held on August 1st at the Julian Carroll Convention Center. Viniard said approximately 160 employees were involved in the first rounds of layoffs. She said a job fair would be held in early September, which would also be held at the Julian Carroll Convention Center.
Viniard cited October as the tentative date for the second round of layoffs that would affect approximately 160 employees. The second Training and Education fair will be held at the Convention Center in November. According to Viniard, the first quarter of 2014 will see the largest round of layoffs.
With all of this information being said, Viniard wanted to give positive information regarding the situation. She said interested parties were putting together proposals for use of the PGDP site and that Governor Beshear has met with the DOE as did Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Congressman Whitfield, She expects more meetings in the future.
On the local level, Viniard said McCracken County officials had met with the DOE and that the Ballard County Industrial Board had gone to Washington D.C. last year in an effort to try to place the dislocated workers.
Viniard encouraged everyone to keep a positive attitude. “I do believe there will be some type of industry there, and it will create jobs,” said Viniard. “I choose to think positive about it, and I hope you do, too. We are all working together toward a positive solution.”