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When Rancho Poultry announced it would be opening a chicken processing plant in Marion County last year, Marion County Economic Development Director Tom Lund hailed it as an example of diversification in the local economy.
"I've been saying for 15 years, if anything happened to the auto industry our economy in Lebanon will suffer," Lund said in an interview last month.
There's no question that something is happening in the auto industry, and it hasn't been good news, at least not recently.
As of Monday, Autonews.com was reporting that 4.1 million fewer vehicles will be manufactured in North America in the first half of 2009 than were manufactured during the first half of 2008.
The effects aren't limited to the auto industry, however.
Rancho Poultry's opening has been delayed in part because the company rebid its plant construction, according to Lund. Gas prices were close to $4 per gallon when the company originally sought bids. The high gas prices drove up the price on other materials as well.
With the decline in gas prices, the company decided to rebid, Lund said.
Nationwide, approximately 651,000 lost their jobs in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Local and state figures are not yet available.)
In December, Kentucky's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.6 percent. The state's unadjusted rate was 6.9 percent. According to Workforce Kentucky, Marion County's unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in December (seasonally adjusted figures were not available). This is up from 5.7 percent in January of 2008.
The number of people unemployed in Marion County rose from 593 in January of 2008 to 820 in December. The number of people employed declined from 9,739 in January of 2008 to 9,631 in December.
According to Kim Brannock of the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, the most recent figures as of press time were from December of 2008. State figures for January may be available later this week, Brannock said. Local figures may be available next week.
In the meantime, unemployment offices are seeing more and more people walk through their doors.
Don Noblin, the assistant manager at the Lincoln Trail Career Center in Bardstown, said the economy now is about as bad as he's ever seen.
"About every 10 years there seems to be a downturn," he said. "The '70s is about the only time I can remember comparable to now."
That said, many people have already applied for unemployment benefits online at oet.ky.gov or at local Workforce Development Offices.
Lund said his experience has been that many industries use downturns in the economy to prepare for what they will do when the economy bounces back.
He added that he feels Marion County is fortunate that it is more closely tied to Toyota than it is to the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler).
And Lund is staying optimistic that things will improve.
"[The Industrial Foundation's] main goal is to work with local industries to not only help them survive, but to be well-prepared for future endeavors," he said.
Individuals interested in applying for unemployment benefits, can do so online at oet.ky.gov or in person at any local Workforce Development Office.
In Marion County, that office is located at 145 Cemetery Road in Lebanon. It's open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to noon on Friday.
For more information, call (270) 692-6870 and or 1 (800) 503-9186.
The Office of Employment and Training also has information about available jobs, as well as education, experience and skills needed for those positions.