A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Craig McAnelly: A catalyst who makes things happen, he’s the perfect example of the real power of local


By Judy Clabes
KyForward editor

He’s a soft-spoken, patient guy, loves “handshake” deals and working with good people, hates being the center of attention – and has under his belt at least eight industrial parks, millions of dollars in new businesses and no telling how many good-paying jobs for central Kentucky workers.

To him, it’s just “public service” – the kind that “makes a difference in people’s lives.”

He is the perfect example of the power of local.

“I take my work seriously – and take it to heart,” he says.

D. Craig McAnelly is associate executive director and director, Industrial & Business Development for Bluegrass Area Development District. He also fulfills the role as Woodford Economic Development Association’s Authority Executive Director under a professional service contact with BGADD.

Craig McAnelly and Kate aboard the Dinner Train (Photo Provided)

A native of Casey County, the son of lawyer David F. and Renee McAnelly of Liberty, McAnelly has more than 28 years experience in regional planning and industrial development.

It all started with a love of geography, which he studied at the University of Kentucky, under the mentorship of Wil Bladen – “If you are from Liberty, geography is the world,” McAnelly says. He got his bachelors in planning and political science.

His first job out of college was with the Kentucky Association of Counties where he worked on a bond issue to help create the insurance program used today by many of Kentucky’s county governments. At 22, he was also a licensed insurance agent in property and casualty and used those skills to perform risk management for KACo. He was intrigued by demographics – how far are people willing to travel for goods and services, why does a business work here but not there?

He was also captivated by a young education major, Kate Shadoan of Wickliffe. They were soon married and made their home in Lexington, raising two children, Elizabeth Anne and David Lewis. Kate worked for several years as the Principal of Beaumont Middle School before recently accepting a position with the Fayette County School Board.

Elizabeth, a recent Western Kentucky University graduate, followed in her mother’s footsteps and now teaches in Bowling Green. David graduated from Henry Clay High School in May 2016, and is now enrolled in Transylvania University on an academic scholarship and plays baseball. The McAnellys are members of Centenary Methodist Church and active with various civic and community organizations. He volunteers with Boy Scouts of America and coached Little League baseball for several years.

Craig joined the Bluegrass ADD in 1989. A Certified Community Development Block Grant Administrator, he has written and administered numerous federal or state development grants for local governments. He has coordinated several bond issues, and he has been instrumental in the planning, funding and development of eight industrial parks in central Kentucky.

“Craig McAnelly is the catalyst to make things happen,” says David Duttlinger, executive director of the BGADD. “He puts the power into local governance.”

In the beginning for the ADD, he worked under contract for Bourbon County, giving “mouth-to-mouth” resuscitation to its economic development efforts, creating cooperative relationships, and helping new industry find its way there. Taking stock of inventory, accessing availability and best use, balancing aesthetics, history, horses, jobs, and politics, McAnelly looked at possibilities.

Craig McAnelly with son David (Photo Provided)

There McAnelly built one industrial park, filled it with industrial clients and built a second expansion which is being marketed today. Over 1,000 jobs were created in that park at its capacity.

In 2004 Texas Instruments (TI) decided to close operations – and eliminate 500 jobs – in Versailles, so McAnelly found himself in Woodford County working on long-range planning with a short-range objective.

KCTCS ultimately moved its headquarters into the TI space, and McAnelly started planting the seeds that would turn an anti-growth mentality into a geographic advantage for economic development. Later Nisshin Automotive Tubing was located to another smaller manufacturing building, creating some 60 new jobs.

McAnelly will say: “Economic development is always paid in arrears. You reap what you sow.”

One of McAnelly’s favorite quotes is one from Thomas Edison, who said: “Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. – Seeming to do is not doing.”

It is his mantra for staying focused and productive.

Since McAnelly took the reins as Executive Director at Woodford EDA, notable projects include:

• More than a Bakery, a $57 million investment – an effort that was 18 months in the making.

• Howa Kentucky, 54 jobs and an investment of more than $13.1 million in a new 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for interior products for Toyota’s Camry in Midway.

• Lakeshore Logistics, a $44 million investment, 262 jobs and a $8.8 million annual payroll.

• BF Warehouses, 1M barrels a year, returning $2.30 per barrel to local government; 70 percent to schools.

• Frontier Nursing, locating in the old Methodist Home in Versailles.

• Quad Graphics, two expansions.

• Kroger, $32 million and 428 jobs – 253 new ones; the state’s largest Kroger.

• Woodford Reserve expansion.

There are more, these are but examples – a dedication to local, local, local, put to work for the betterment of a region. Add real estate sold and commissions made. Add new schools and revenues. Add groceries purchased and dollars turned over.

“A giver not a taker,” McAnelly loves his quiet – but effective – role, the work behind the scenes, making things happen.

Whether it’s creating livable communities, on-the-job training programs, or something like The Inventor’s Council, another of his inventions, McAnelly could be adding things up and making a good accounting for himself.

But he’ll take a pass. He’s too busy, and he’s focused. The penultimate team player, he keeps skillfully moving all the pieces into place.

The power of local, well played.


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