Loss of Dana jobs fuels unemployment rate

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By Bryan Marshall

Of the eight counties in the northern Kentucky region, Grant County ranks fifth with the lowest unemployment rate.

Carroll County has the highest unemployment rate in the region with 12.8 percent while Boone County’s 9.7 percent unemployment rate is the lowest.

“A lot of that may be attributed to DANA, which had quite a big layoff,” said Wade Gutman, executive director Grant County Chamber of Commerce. “Of course, we’ve lost a lot of jobs in the commercial sector like the (Dry Ridge) Outlet Mall and those places. That’s a big factor in pushing unemployment up.”

The local unemployment numbers are somewhat skewed, Gutman said, because of the number of Grant County residents who have lost their jobs outside of the county.

Gutman fields inquiries from industry and other businesses who are looking at Grant County as a potential place to open.

He used to give at least one site visit a month to interested businesses, but that number has gone down drastically.

“It’s been real slow this year,” Gutman said. “We’ve had a few visits this year, but it hasn’t been nearly as we’ve been able to previously.”

The majority of the requests by interested companies are for existing buildings that can be utilized, which there are not many of in the county, he said.

Even though Dry Ridge recently joined Williamstown in allowing alcohol sales by the drink at restaurants, Gutman said the state of the economy has kept any new restaurants to the county.

“The economy definitely affected the restaurant business in that hardly any of the major chains are doing any expansion,” he said. “Overall, gross receipts are down for everybody in the restaurant business. I’d say when things the economy gets really good, you’ll probably see in Dry Ridge or Williamstown, one of the chain restaurants. It’s only a matter of time before there’s an Applebee’s or one of those restaurants. That will just open up more jobs.”

The news is not all bad in Grant County as several local businesses are in the process of expanding and hiring.

Heritage Bank will open a branch in Dry Ridge by the end of the year.

Wolf Steel USA, a Crittenden manufacturer of stoves, fireplaces, gas grills and accessories, is undergoing a $3.2 million expansion that will bring several new jobs to northern Grant County.

Slated to be completed by March 2010, the project will add 72,150 square feet to the company’s existing 39,000 square-foot facility to increase warehousing, manufacturing and distribution space.

The expansion will result in the initial creation of 15 new jobs, which will grow to 18.

Dry Ridge Toyota is building a new site that will feature a 36,000 square-foot building — more than four times the 8,000-square foot building at the current dealership.

The available lot size also will increase from two and a half to seven acres.

The dealership has 43 employees now, but the plan is for more than 60 when the new facility opens.

“The better jobs we can create, the better the community is going to be built,” Gutman said. “The more money people make, the more money they’re going to spend, the bigger houses they’re going to build, the more they’re going to eat out and all that. But, like everywhere else, it’s slow right now.”