To all Jefferson County residents:

As Jefferson County business leaders, we are gravely concerned about the overall direction in which our community is heading and the seemingly endless debate about how to achieve sustained economic growth. We have a vested interest, like each of you, in seeing Jefferson County grow and prosper.

We represent eight of the county's top industrial companies. Together we pay more than $6 million in property tax and $400,000 in local income tax annually. We employ more than 3,000 people and with a combined payroll (including benefits) of over $200 million, our economic impact in the county and surrounding area is conservatively over $750 million. As our businesses' leaders, in many cases we decide where our companies will be located, where they'll expand and where we'll establish global headquarters.

Looking to the future, our eight companies will need to fill more than 550 jobs due to retirements in the next five to 10 years, in addition to new jobs created from our planned growth. These jobs are already here - and there are far more of them than the county is likely to recruit from new companies in that time. Unfortunately, we know from experience how difficult it is going to be to fill these jobs.

We've had dozens of production area jobs either go unfilled, or take way too long to fill due to a lack of qualified applicants including issues with drug and alcohol dependency as well as a basic skills gap.

Recruiting professionals is also difficult. As we tour candidates around the community, they see way too many burned out and condemnable buildings that give the city a run-down atmosphere that in the least, sends a mixed signal when contrasted against the beauty of most of our downtown and riverfront area.

So how are we going to fill these 550+ jobs in this challenging environment? You can just as easily ask how our community is going to attract new businesses in this challenging environment. In addressing the needs of the businesses that currently provide the economic foundation of Jefferson County, we'll also create an environment that is appealing to new companies.

This community has spent a lot of time and effort over the last year talking about recruiting more companies and restructuring our economic development program. We believe the time has come to move past further debate on the structure of an economic development organization and to focus instead on the all-important goal of developing a common vision for the future of Jefferson County.

We urge you as citizens to demand a stop to the debate and politics and turn our attention to working together to develop a shared vision that identifies what is important to the community as a whole. This vision will serve as the driver of economic development and other initiatives countywide, resulting in improvements to economic development and overall quality of life. We have a great deal to be proud of in this community, and a great deal to build on.

To start the dialogue on developing a framework for a vision for the future, we submit the following ideas that are important from our perspective. We realize there are numerous stakeholders in our community and input from their perspectives is crucial as well.

We envision Jefferson County as a community that is able to attract, create and keep a talented workforce; where the leadership is visionary and collaborative; and where we invest in ourselves to ensure an overall excellent quality of place and health.

Said another way, we believe any vision should concentrate on developing three key areas:

1. An educated and skilled workforce.

2. Visionary, collaborative government leadership.

3. Quality of place.

We believe it will take a professional to provide the leadership needed to bring together the entire community and gather the input of all stakeholders to develop a vision for the future and write a community action plan with realistic, measurable and prioritized objectives.

It is time to act. Let's stop debating, undercutting and criticizing each other. Let's come together as a community to share our dreams and goals for the future. Let's work together to make Jefferson County the place where our kids can and will want to live, work and raise their families.

Sincerely:

Dan Baughman, Vice President-Finance, Arvin Sango, Inc.

Gary Kennon, President and CEO, Vehicle Service Group

Cliff Carnes, Plant Manager, IKE

Kevin Turner, Assistant Vice President, Madison Precision Products

Dominic Grote, President and COO, Grote Industries

Kevin VanZandt, Vice President, Century Tube

David "Dick" Goodman, President, Madison Chemical Co.

Roger Williams, President and CEO, Royer Corporation