Thoughts And Goals From Community Leaders
(Editor’s note: This is a weekly series interviewing community leaders to share their thoughts and goals for the community.)
Mike Willand, executive director of Harrodsburg-Mercer County Industrial Development Authority, has been working in Mercer County since 2003 and took over as executive director after Dick Webb retired in April 2018.
Originally from a diverse amount of places such as Hawaii and the South Pacific, Willand moved to Kentucky in 1997 and has found a deep passion for Mercer County.
“Mercer County has something no one else does. It has history that cannot be duplicated,” said Willand. “I like to say, Harrodsburg was first in Kentucky and we would like to be first for business consideration.”
Willand was adamant his position was only one cog in the machine that is Mercer County.
“It is a team effort, the city and county governments, the chamber, tourism and much more. We all work together for the betterment of the county,” said Willand. “We have a good team here. There are real opportunities for growth here and it is continuing to grow.”
For goals Willand focused on changing the perceptions of manufacturing as viable career options for students. “It’s safe, well compensated and has excellent growth potential and that hasn’t always been the view,” said Willand.
“As a society we are experiencing a shortage of skilled labor,” said Willand. “Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC), Campbellsville University and Trailblazer Academy are helping to train our youth to fill that need.”
Willand said he would like to see the commercial development of the bypass, mirroring other leaders sentiments on that with growth comes preparation. He is concerned for the infrastructure the bypass land lacks and said he would like to see sewer and other infrastructure added to the land so it would be ready for industry.
He also agreed with the concept of measured growth that preserves Mercer County’s history and uniqueness. Willand said appreciation of the manufacturing business that are in the area is important because they provide excellent jobs and benefits.
“We are at the cusp of a lot of good things happening in our region,” said Willand. “With the Advanced Manufacturing Center being built at BCTC in Danville, Campbellsville University expanding and entrepreneurship rising. Our region is doing well, and we have a foundation to do even better.”
Willand is referring to the several small businesses that have filled downtown Harrodsburg.
“Kentucky Crossroads is our region, it is comprised of seven counties and collaboratively markets the region as a business destination for new and expanding industries. The partnership has resulted in more than 4,500 new jobs and $1.7 billion in new investments over the past five years,” said Willand. “In October 2018, I met with over a hundred consultants and other members of Kentucky Crossroads and gave a presentation on Mercer County explaining these opportunities.”
Willand said regionalism enables Mercer County’s name to be in front of those who represent companies in their site selection process.
“Combining our resources helps us to get in front of consultants and other investors. It’s an important part of our outreach,” said Willand. “We have had tremendous growth potential with our existing manufacturing base as most new jobs come from existing business, and we now have Trailblazers, BCTC’s advanced manufacturing center and Campbellsville University. We have a great foundation and opportunity.”
Willand said he has a love of Mercer County and an immense desire to see the county succeed.
“I have no control over the economy, or what a company does,” said Willand. “What I can impact is advocate for preparing skilled workers ready to step into future roles industry will need to compete globally. Willand said all the organizations in Mercer County share a common desire to see the county succeed and grow.
“We have a great team full of people with a passion for the area,” said Willand. “They may not always agree on methods but they all want the same ultimate goal.”
For more information on the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Industrial Development Authority, visit their website at www.hmcida.com.
To learn more, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.