A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Johnathan Gay: New generation of Kentucky entrepreneurs filling big shoes quite well


Where Col. Harland Sanders and (Photo from Craftforce.com)

Where Col. Harland Sanders and ‘Papa John’ Schnatter changed the food industry, entrepreneur Dustin Grutza and Craftforce are changing the way people share/locate job information. (Photo from Craftforce.com)


A new generation of entrepreneurs is following in the footsteps of well-known Kentuckians such as Col. Harland Sanders and “Papa John” Schnatter. Where those Kentucky icons changed the food industry forever, however, innovative thinkers like Maysville’s Dustin Grutza are changing the way we share and locate job information. In Grutza’s case, he’s providing a direct link between potential employers and employees in an affordable, easy-to-use manner.

While existing web-based platforms such as Monster.com and LinkedIn focus on professional workers and service-based workers in special niches, Grutza is addressing the need to fill positions within a broader, more inclusive market.

Dustin Grutza

Dustin Grutza

He has started a new web-based platform designed to connect workers with opportunities entering the marketplace. It’s called CraftForce and it caters to a new market, beyond the traditional web-market of white and gray collared workers: skilled, blue collar workers – the people who construct, build, hard-wire and main the industrial backbone of America.

CraftForce was launched in 2014 by Grutza, a former quarterback for the University of Cincinnati. The goal of CraftForce is simple: to be an “innovative job search engine where skilled U.S. craftspeople/talent are able to connect with industry-leading employers/opportunities from around the United States.”

The problems that CraftForce are solving are quite simple:

On the one hand, industrial craftsmen – electricians, equipment-mechanics, boilermakers, steel workers, welders and more – often have difficulty maintaining a single job for a prolonged period of time. Large scale building projects require large numbers of these workers, but once the job is done the workers often find themselves unemployed, waiting for the next job.

On the other hand, contractors who live and die on the work generated by skilled craftsmen can’t afford to pay those folks when they’re not under contract. They have to let workers go until the next contract. At such time as the next gig comes along, employers often struggle to reassemble the same team. This creates a challenge for them to find new team members for new projects.

CraftForce solves both problems by matching employees with employers. Their model is simple: free to talent, paid subscription to employers who want to post special jobs and drill down into the data CraftForce is assembling to identify potential employees.

In a state like Kentucky, heavy on blue-collar workers but lighter on blue-collar opportunities, a platform such as CraftForce may be extremely useful, particularly in Eastern Kentucky, where a coal bust has left miners out of work.

In the 20th century, workers looking for jobs searched classified ads and relied on family and friends to find openings. In the 21st century, increasingly, workers and business leaders alike are turning to web based platforms to find the best available match. With the innovative job search engine CraftForce, blue-collar workers now know they won’t be left behind.

To learn more or to sign up click here.

CraftForce is a client of the Kentucky Innovation Network, an initiative of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Office of Entrepreneurship. The goals of the Office of Entrepreneurship are to develop an entrepreneurial climate in Kentucky, provide guidance and support to startups and assist existing small businesses with growth opportunities. To learn how the Kentucky Innovation Network is helping create and grow Kentucky’s small businesses, visit www.kyinnovation.com.

1 jonathan gay

Johnathan Gay is an attorney and the director of the Kentucky Innovation Network office at Morehead State University. To learn more about the Kentucky Innovation Network or to get involved in entrepreneurial projects, click here.
To read more of Johnathan Gay, click here.

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