The long-anticipated Friday Night Live for downtown Madisonville and the thousands that will descend upon the city is finally here -- and what better opportunity to showoff the city's assets to potential new residents than the renowned summer concert series.
That's exactly why officials from the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corp. and West Kentucky Workforce Board have teamed with Friday Night Live to give active duty soldiers as well as local veterans a chance to see what makes Madisonville a great place to call home.
Today, active duty soldiers from Fort Campbell and their families are traveling to Madisonville for several events to showcase what the city has to offer for life after the military in what officials are calling Madisonville Military Day.
Soldiers and their families will be taking a tour of the Kentucky Innovation Station, will get an opportunity to network with local entrepreneurs, experience The Ledge VR virtual reality arcade, take part in a happy hour with local vets at the City Park Clubhouse and get special seats for the Friday Night Live dinner and concert.
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"We just want to show them what our community is all about," Melanie Tapp, the MHCEDC business relationship director said. "So, we have planned a day of different activities that will showcase some of the highlights of Madisonville.
"Whether it's activities, restaurants and then at the networking lunch, we're going to have some local industries that will be there that will be able to talk to the soldiers about jobs that are available in our community. That way, upon exit, they know a little bit more about if they want to stay in the area."
The events for the military families begin at 11:30 a.m. and will conclude after the concert later tonight.
Tapp said the focus of the event is to not only honor the military, but show what Madisonville has to offer to soldiers as the city is now putting a new focus on bringing in veterans to potentially fill in the gaps of the local workforce.
Tapp continued to explain that she and others at the MHCEDC and the workforce board have spent a lot of time in Fort Campbell asking soldiers what they want to know most about somewhere they are considering moving to.
"The first thing they want to know is what they can do with their family," Tapp said. "This just seemed like a perfect opportunity to do it in conjunction with Friday Night Live."
Molly Deahl, the business liaison for the workforce board, explained that there are a lot of open positions in the community and local industry. With that in mind, the workforce board was trying to brainstorm ideas to create a pipeline from the Fort Campbell Army base to Madisonville for soldiers leaving active duty.
"I feel like veterans are universally an untapped population when it comes to employment," Deahl said. "So, it was really a matter of us trying to figure out how to entice them to come to our community and get them involved in the local industry and different jobs that are available."
From that idea, they came up with the Military Day celebration in conjunction with Friday Night Live to show them some of the fun things in the area, but to also give them an opportunity to chat with industry members and possible employment options.
Deahl continued to explain that another reason they have been targeting vets is that the workforce board has found that vets have a high rate of becoming entrepreneurs following their service.
"(Vets) have a very high rate of becoming entrepreneurs, which is something that is really booming in Madisonville now," Deahl said. "So, we want to be able to provide them with opportunities and show them how supportive our community is of entrepreneurs and the workforce."
The workforce board and MHCEDC have been working on making that idea come to fruition since the end of last year. Although this will be the first event, Tapp said they plan on doing a series of events like this one in order to build on this opportunity.
In future events, MHCEDC and the workforce board may also showcase Madisonville's housing opportunities to military families as well, but this time around they wanted to focus largely on the fun activities that are available. Especially during times like Friday Night Live.
"This event just gave us a great opportunity to show how much Madisonville itself appreciates and honors veterans," Deahl said.
"We went to Fort Campbell on Monday and spoke to the soldiers, the spouses and some of the kids were there at the event, and they're really excited that it's Father's Day weekend and it's going to be a fun activity to do as a group."