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Boone boom: Times are good for county, with new and growing companies adding jobs, tax base

County has added jobs for 22 consecutive quarters
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Posted at 9:00 AM, Oct 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-18 09:00:05-04

BURLINGTON, Ky. -- Boone County continues to grow, but the most impressive numbers are not for residents or new homes, they’re for jobs.

The county has had 22 quarters of continued job growth, with this year’s growth at 6.2 percent year over year. While other Northern Kentucky counties, and Greater Cincinnati in general, are doing well, Boone continues to attract big corporations. This year’s big job announcements include Amazon Prime Air and DHL.

But those numbers, 2,700 and 900 respectively, aren’t even included in job growth numbers until the jobs are real, said Jeff Earlywine, Boone County administrator. 

“Job growth has been dynamic,” said Gary Moore, Boone County judge-executive. “Residential growth has always been strong, but never as much as job creation.”

Amazon Prime Air announced a new hub at CVG earlier this year, expected to bring more than 2,000 new jobs. (Photo by Vickie Ashwill)

Dan Tobergte, president and CEO of economic-development group Tri-ED, said employment in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties averages 16 percent growth, nearly double the national rate of 9 percent. Boone alone is at 22 percent; the Cincinnati MSA is at 9 percent. 

Boone County keeps track through its occupational taxes, which account for half the general fund, said Earlywine. Those numbers have bumped up from $19.4 million in fiscal year 2012 to $24.1 million in 2016 and $25.8 million in 2017. The fiscal year closes at the end of June. 

The growth means two things, said Earlywine. “Employment is trending up, and wages are as well.” 

The good news for Boone County residents: Real estate, personal property and motor vehicle taxes all were reduced in August effective with this year’s collection, said Moore.

Those tax reductions also send a signal to businesses thinking about relocating here, he said. 

The property tax rate dropped from 10.5 cents per $100 of assessed value to 10.4 cents, while the rate for personal property fell from 12.6 cents per $100 of assessed value to 12.5 cents. Meanwhile, the motor vehicle tax rate will be lowered from 15.2 cents per $100 of assessed value to 14.2 cents, according to county officials. Property taxes have decreased in the last 20 years from a high of 12.4 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Other factors played into the tax reduction, such as using the county’s reserve funds for its new 911 system, said Earlywine.

“We would not have been able to do that without a continuing strong performance of our payroll taxes,” he said.

Most growth in Boone County comes from companies expanding and reinvesting, Earlywine said.

“A lot of our companies are on their second and third expansions,” he said.

Among those are Wayfair, Balluf, Perfetti van Melle and Bosch. 

Across the three Northern Kentucky counties, more jobs have been announced in the last year. Among them: 100 at Maxim Crane Works’ new headquarters in Campbell; 70 at candymaker Perfetti van Melle in Erlanger; 100 at a new Kroger warehouse in Boone; 100 at global clinical trials firm CTI in Covington; 80 at Safran Landing Systems in Walton; 30 at Hahn Automotive in Hebron; and 24 at Balluf Inc. in Florence.

“Trickle down” jobs also add impact. Brian Miller, executive vice president of the Building Association of Northern Kentucky, said the financial impact of support services that come with growth can be estimated by multiplying the number of jobs by two or two-and-a-half.

All the growth brings challenges, as well, said Miller. Housing could be an issue near employment areas. Boone County is already looking at a new roads plan, which is important. 

“We’ve got to have a way to get Amazon trucks to I-75” that is more direct, he said, as every plane that lands results in eight to nine truckloads of items on the road. 

Land could be a limiting factor, although CVG has opened up 900 acres around the airport. But land in southwest Kenton County and the Walton area needs to be developed with roads, water and sewer to be ready for more businesses, Miller said. 

Officials showed up for a Safran Landing Systems ribbon-cutting last fall. The company was expected to add 80 jobs in the Walton area. (Photo provided)

The reason companies come and stay? Both Moore and Tobergte cited location, low costs and available skilled labor.  

Tobergte said Northern Kentucky already has the second-largest conglomeration of Amazon employees outside of Washington. Local officials expect Amazon Prime Air to eventually hire more than the projected 2,000 to 2,700 employees. 

Northern Kentucky also benefits from the mix of types of companies interested in the area, which helps especially during challenging times.

“We’ve been blessed that we have not had a single industry dominate our area," Tobergte said.