A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Frank Busicchia: Programs like the Investment tax credit do work, just ask my employees

Last week, a Lexington paper published a critical report on the Kentucky Rural Jobs Act (HB 203), and a similar federal economic development tool, the New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) program. Thankfully, as the CEO of Commercial Specialty Truck Holdings, which manufactures E-Z Pack garbage trucks in Cynthiana, I know a little bit about the importance of cleaning things up.

Let’s be clear: the Kentucky Rural Jobs Act encourages federally-certified investors to expand access to the capital rural businesses need to grow, hire, and compete, creating up to $150 million of new investment in our rural communities.

If you only read the story, you would have missed a key fact: these private-public partnership programs work. The E-Z Pack story is proof positive.

Back in 2014, things weren’t going well in Cynthiana. The previous owners were on the verge of closing up shop and sending 80 manufacturing jobs down to Alabama.

While 80 jobs may not matter in New Brunswick, New Jersey — where the Herald-Leader’s source, Professor Julia Sass Rubin, researches education and social justice policy — losing them would have gutted our community.

My partners and I began to search for financing that could save the business. When the small community banks turned us down, we partnered with an investor, which thanks to the New Markets Tax Credits program, could make the numbers work.

Our business skyrocketed, thanks in part to the original NMTC investment and other assistance from economic development initiatives. We were able to save the existing 80 jobs, but we didn’t stop here. We now employ around 250 people in Cynthiana, Kentucky. Better still, we are looking at creating 100 more jobs with a planned expansion.

While these topline figures are great, the business partners are most proud of the lives we have changed. These investments are doing more than just creating jobs—although we know rural Kentucky needs plenty of those. NMTC-supported operations like ours create opportunities for Kentuckians to build skills that make them great employees anywhere.

Take one of our welders, for instance. Before coming here, she’d been working at a local restaurant. Now she’s using the welding skills and certification she obtained through a high school vocational program to double her previous wages, making well above the local average. She has good benefits, access to a retirement savings program, and the opportunity to grow in her career.

While some academics may laugh at the idea of successful businesses stimulating additional growth, our experience on the ground begs to differ. As our business has grown, so have others around it. We see new restaurants, gas stations, and other services springing up that our employees support every day.

These programs work because they give businesses access to resources they could not get otherwise—unleashing economic growth, creating jobs, and strengthening communities. Cynthiana is one of many examples across Kentucky, but there could be even more if we double down with the Kentucky Rural Jobs Act.

Instead of listening to out of state professors, Kentucky policymakers should look at the verified successes of similar programs across the Commonwealth—like E-Z Pack—and ask themselves if they want to see more successful investments in our rural communities.

If yes, then pass the Kentucky Rural Jobs Act. Rural Kentuckians have already waited long enough.

Frank Busicchia is the CEO of Commercial Specialty Truck Holdings, which manufacturers E-Z Pack Garbage Trucks and Continental Mixers in Cynthiana. CSTH now employs a team of 250 at their Cynthiana manufacturing facility which was kept open, and then expanded, in part due to an investment made possible by the federal New Markets Tax Credits program.

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