Special Report: Blue Collar Industry

"That's the main thing, is providing for my family." -Roberta Meador, Harman ATM Operator

Throughout the history of commonwealth of Kentucky, hard working people have driven the state. No matter the job, people in south central Kentucky get up and go to work everyday. Many wouldn't have jobs if it weren't for large factories that continue to come to the area. Just how important is manufacturing to south central Kentucky? We set out to find that answer.

The sound of machines fills the air for millions of Kentuckians during their daily work routines. Taking raw materials and turning it into something, is what people have been doing in the south central part of the state for generations. But why is manufacturing in the blood of the people?

"With what I'm doing now I get here around 4 O'clock every morning." said Sun Products ATM Operator, Sonja Moore.

One thing is for sure, it hasn't always been easy. Many jobs in the area rely on the automotive industry, and in 2008, their struggles reached this part of the country as well.

"It was hard to see other people lose their jobs and have to go to others places to work. We got through it and stuck together as a team and we made it through." said Harman Continuous Improvement Team Leader, Tammy Rippy.

That resiliency isn't just something that happens overnight. Well in a way it does. Often times, to join the manufacturing workforce you have to be open to working non-traditional hours, like the overnight shift.

"The entry to the environment, it's kind of where you get started. You're given a lot of opportunities once you are on nights." said Sun Products Reliability Manager, Ken Desmond.

The opportunity lies in the numbers. According to the National Work Safety Board, of the more than 2 million people employed in the Commonwealth, 10.8% work in the manufacturing field. In the Bowling Green Area, 13% of people work in manufacturing. According to the Franklin-Simpson Industrial Authority, more than 1/3 of the county's workers make a living in manufacturing; 36.4% to be exact.

"I think you adapt to it. I get up at 4 O'clock every morning. I have the same routine everyday. I got myself on a schedule so I'm kind of used to it. It doesn't bother me anymore." commented Harman Assistant Area Leader, Chikeeta Bell.

Waking up every morning is tough, but work is a part of life. Many people in south central Kentucky work in factories. It may not have been their dream job growing up, but providing for their family is what's important.

"That's the main thing, is providing for my family. We have good benefits here and having insurance for my children." said Harman ATM Operator, Roberta Meador.

Some are born to in the fast paced environment that is the factory floor.

"I just have that in me. To work and provide for my family." said Harman ATM Operator, Linda Hall.

Others find it later in life. Like Tammy Rippy, who left the field of retail for a new setting.

"Working in retail it was more flexible when my kids were growing up. After my youngest son got into high school, I decided to go somewhere where I could have the weekends off, holidays off. In retail, you don't get that."

Family isn't the only driving force, pride in a final product that's used by millions around the world, also drives the industry to keep pumping.

"I'll check myself when I'm at the store looking to see what products they have in their basket. When they've got the right products in the basket, I think I made that. I had a part in doing that." added Desmond.

"It's a great feeling. We had a BMW SUV vehicle come to the plant and it showcased our infotainment systems that we do here. We actually got to see it in a vehicle." said Hall.

Manufacturers bring the jobs in, but it doesn't make the worker. What makes industry so important to south central Kentucky ... is the people. Without moms, dads, brothers, and sisters willing to work overnight, or get up early everyday to provide food, shelter, and clothing, the manufacturers would have never come. It's the spirit of everyday people that drives industry.

That hard working attitude also shows in the unemployment column. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the jobless rate in the Bowling Green Area for August was 6.9%. 1.5 points lower than the rest of the state.


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