Place matters in economic success

May 15, 2015
Edna Berger

Edna Berger

When I moved to Elizabethtown in the 1970s, I immediately felt connected to this community. I saw right away that this was a place with so much to offer, all driven by people who truly cared.

I still recall when my child’s principal knew who I was and where I worked even though we had never met. I was blown away, but that’s just the sort of thing that turns a city into a quality community.

Our landscape has changed in the last 40 years, but that quality of place still holds true. In fact, it is part of the reason four of my five children chose to stay here to build careers and raise families.

Another testament to the importance of our quality of place is one of Central Kentucky’s newest companies, Atlas Development Group (ADG). This business grew not only from its founders’ passion for their work – engineering in the firearms industry – but also from a love of their home.

ADG CEO Brent Jarboe and others formed the company when their employer decided to leave Elizabethtown and consolidate operations elsewhere. They had the option of following their jobs to another state, but they couldn’t imagine packing up and moving.

“It was a good company,” Jarboe said of his former employer, Remington Arms. “Unfortunately, it just left the place we call home.”

Jarboe and the other founders combined more than a century of experience when they formed ADG, and their goal is to become a Kentucky-based consultant and manufacturer of firearms and ammunition components for military and recreational use worldwide.

While they have the know-how and experience to develop their products and services, they knew very little about launching a business.

“We’re engineers, we’re pretty smart guys. But from a business perspective, dealing with a lending institution, for example, is not something we did on a daily basis,” Jarboe said.

ADG reached out to Rick Games, President and COO of the Elizabethtown Hardin County Industrial Foundation. With extensive knowledge of business resources throughout the state, Games put the engineers in touch with professionals from the Cabinet for Economic Development and the Small Business Development Center in Elizabethtown.

The SBDC helped the team with business planning. The Cabinet for Economic Development offered support through the Kentucky Small Business Credit Initiative, leading to a loan from First Citizens Bank of Elizabethtown, which helped ADG move forward. ADG also received a low-interest-rate loan through the Lincoln Trail Area Development District based on the company creating new jobs in the area.

In addition, the industrial foundation provided office space for the company at its incubator.

“We want to help ADG become successful,” Games said. “Retaining that talent is the right thing for the industrial foundation, the other supporting organizations and our overall community.”

The company also is working with the Elizabethtown office of the Kentucky Innovation Network, which offers a number of other small business resources.

ADG has ordered manufacturing equipment and plans to move into its own facility by the end of the year. They also plan to hire 18 additional employees.

ADG’s story absolutely showcases what we’re doing right to attract entrepreneurship. At the local, regional and state level, I’m proud of the support offered to encourage innovation and investment.

Still, it’s more than business resources. I’m thrilled about ADG’s founders’ desire to stay in Kentucky. While mostly Kentucky natives, two ADG founders had followed Remington Arms from other states and they now call Elizabethtown home.

Central Kentucky offers such a high quality of life – from the low cost of living to our wonderful schools and churches to our excellent regional healthcare system. And our strong sense of community only makes our roots here stronger.

That sense of community came up at the recent ribbon cutting and expansion announcement at Hendrickson in Elizabethtown. Company leaders said they have always felt welcome here. And the high level of local involvement – from business resources to the crowd at the recent ribbon cutting – reinforces their decision to invest in our area.

That’s a result of the hard work of our economic development, business and education partners and our workforce. But I have no doubt that kind of praise also is a reflection of an entire community.

Edna Berger is Mayor of Elizabethtown and a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Investment Board.

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