Pictured above: Rajant CEO Bob Schena (center) chats about Rajant’s plans to build a new office building in Morehead, KY with VP Bob Barton of Packs + Walker (right) and Rajant employee Jim Tom Trent (left). Photo by Stephanie Ockerman.
Eastern Kentucky was once lush in the prosperity of coal mining. Then in the 1980s, the state’s coal industry began to slump and by 2016 hit its lowest point in 118 years. A skilled and loyal workforce was left jobless at a time when the majority of the United States was experiencing low unemployment. Companies outside of Kentucky that needed a competent and abundant labor pool just needed to know where to look for talent. That’s when “SEED” was planted.
SEED stands for Supplier Education & Economic Development. It is a product of Southeast Kentucky Economic Development (SKED), a 33-year-old nonprofit serving the 45 counties in Kentucky where coal mining was pervasive. SEED’s goal is to help businesses develop the knowledge and confidence needed to win government and private contracts. Since 2017, SEED has worked with more than 50 small businesses to acquire certifications and training required to meet with major contractors from across the U.S.
One time each year, SEED companies are given the opportunity to meet with some of the nation’s largest primes, such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Toyota, and Northrop Grumman. The one-day interaction includes speeches by corporate and government leaders, who share the success factors and growth opportunities innate to Southeast Kentucky. This year’s 2019 keynote speaker was Rajant Corporation’s Chairman, CEO and Co-founder, Robert Schena.
SEED was coming up at the same time Rajant’s roots began to strengthen in Morehead, an Eastern Kentucky town and home to Morehead State University with its well-known space science program. It was in 2015 that Rajant signed a lease for our manufacturing facility in Morehead and began hiring students from Morehead State to fill local engineering positions.
Robert Schena’s SEED keynote on October 9th, 2019, gave an overview of his experience working with SKED. His speech furthermore included the announcement that Rajant has purchased an acre of land to build an expanded Morehead manufacturing facility. This news was met with resounding applause by the 150+ SEED attendees, which included Rajant’s 23 Morehead staffers. To meet the growing demands of Rajant’s global customer base, which currently represents 57 countries, a more robust staff will also be required to work in the facility. Local employment, which positively impacts the quality of life for area residents, will be part of Rajant’s local growth plan.
Many factors drove Rajant’s expansion decision to select Morehead over other areas of the country. However, the number one reason for further investing in a brand-new building is the people. Throughout the last four years, everyone Rajant has interacted with locally has been exemplary in keeping to their word, being candid, and, most importantly, getting the job done.
After concluding his speech, Robert Schena said, “It was a privilege to share Rajant’s excellent, four-year experience working with the Morehead business community with other organizations at SEED. Those curious about tapping into the economic development potential Eastern Kentucky has to offer should look first at the region’s workforce. Beyond know-how, 100% of Rajant’s Morehead staff has integrity, drive, and enthusiasm fueling their talent. For Rajant’s purposes, we are fortifying continued technology innovations with engineering graduates from Morehead State University and hiring other support personnel to increase the production of goods and services for our global customers. Our investment to build a facility here will not only serve our manufacturing growth, but it will keep Morehead residents at home with their families and neighbors.” 🖉