Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, will go down as a day that validates the commitment of the Harlan County Fiscal Court as it relates to investment in economic development and continuing to identify ways to diversify our economy. The Harlan County Fiscal Court unanimously voted to enter into an agreement to partner with Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) to open a Teleworks USA Harlan County Hub. Our commitment supplies a match to an Appalachian Region Commission (ARC) grant which will equip the Hub. The Harlan County Fiscal Court has agreed to pay for leasing a facility and paying utility costs associated with the operations of the Hub.
The hub will offer training and re-training opportunities to individuals who are looking to go to work. The four week training sessions will be free to participants. Class sizes will be limited to 12 to 14 people per class but will offer a new class repeatedly. Those who complete the program will be matched with companies who have jobs available presently, and the participant will be able to work from home. Those working from Teleworks USA Hubs in Jackson County and Hazard are making gross salaries of $19,000 to $48,000 per year with benefits, and some having the opportunity for commissions, bonuses, and the possibility of advancement within the companies.
Since opening the doors 13 months ago at a vacant facility in Annville that I recently toured, the Jackson County Hub has put more than 140 people to work and injected nearly $2.5 million in new wages into that county’s economy. The fiscal court and I strongly believe the Teleworks USA Harlan County Hub can have the same results here. We know there are many people looking for work. We understand how dedicated these people are to providing for their families. We feel the sky is the limit and that an unlimited amount of jobs can be created from this venture. Teleworks USA has contact with 700 companies looking for trained, competent, job-seekers. People right here in Harlan County will have the opportunity to work from home for successful companies like DirecTV, U-Haul, and Sony just to name a few.
Unlike a typical call center, this hub will be much different. The goal with this hub is to produce as many trained and certified people as possible from the Hub who can work from home. The Hub will essentially train 14 people, place them with companies to be interviewed, train 14 more, and continue the process. If a company that a person is working for cuts back or closes and the person were to lose employment, that person will have the opportunity to transition to another employment opportunity with another company Teleworks USA has contact with. This is much different than a call center that generally when a contract is yanked, everyone at the center heads to the unemployment line.
This investment will also help prepare us for the blitz into a digital economy and to be better prepared to take full advantage in a couple of years of the Kentucky Wired dark fiber initiative, a product of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR). I strongly believe this Hub will train people who will find themselves with unique opportunities to work for elite companies and compete for even higher wages once the dark fiber comes into our area. As it stands, there are one million tech jobs available in the United States. Harlan County can be a major player in this digital economy and it starts with this Teleworks USA Hub.
Our partner in this venture, EKCEP, toured several facilities within Harlan County in search of the right location for the Hub. They announced at our fiscal court meeting that the facility that best suited the needs for a Hub is the former Data Futures and former Healthcare Plus location on Skidmore Drive in Harlan next to Dairy Hut. EKCEP officials are hoping to have the Hub up and running by March 1.
Details on how to apply for a seat in a Teleworks USA Harlan County Hub class will be coming in the near future. If you already have technology related experience or are a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) holder, you may not have to complete the full four week training session, before you are lined up to interview with a company.
I want to reiterate one thing. Anyone can do this work if you are committed to learning. You don’t have to have an accomplished educational background. You don’t have to have years of experience. You don’t even have to know how to turn on a computer. If you are committed to learning, this Hub will be committed to training you. Work is something you do, not necessarily somewhere you go.
2016 will be a year of job creation in our county. There are other economic development efforts on the horizon that I firmly believe will provide other employment opportunities this year and beyond as well. This investment is a very good start. If you need or want to contact me, you can call my office at 573-2600. You can email me at [email protected] or write to me P.O. Box 956 Harlan, Ky. 40831. As always, I would love to hear from you. Also, feel free to drop in and see me any time I can be of assistance. My office is located on the top floor of the old courthouse. Thank you!