The farthest county in the state - Fulton is closer to Nashville than Frankfort.
Why would Fulton County Kentucky pass a right to work ordinance that legal experts say is illegal?
A desperate need for jobs and attention.
Fulton County Kentucky is as far from the state capital as it can be and still be in Kentucky. The county is in the farthest southwestern end of the Commonwealth. The drive to Frankfort is approximately 284 miles and over four hours on the road.
Going to a morning meeting in Frankfort from Fulton? Leave in the middle of the night or the day before. The county is in the central time zone, so driving east means "losing" an hour.
Folks down here are keenly aware of the distance. Fulton County officials admit they look south rather than east for leadership and support. Fulton County is closer to Tennessee's capital. It takes 2 ½ hours to drive the approximately 175 miles to Nashville.
Fulton and South Fulton are two mirror towns divided by State Line Road. Fulton and South Fulton share similar problems and populations. Tennessee counties bordering Fulton, Obion and Lake, are also suffering from high unemployment.
Fulton's county seat, Hickman, is a river town perched above the Mississippi River. Hickman has a small port and hosts a ferry that, in clement weather, the ferry's shortcut to Missouri, cuts travel significantly between the states. The closest bridge to Missouri is in Ballard County, fifty miles of two lane road to the north.
Fulton has a railroad station and is one of two places in Kentucky one can board a passenger train going anywhere. That's the good news. The bad news is that the passenger train comes through Fulton in the very early morning hours. When railway officials visited this past summer, they heard pleas to increase traffic. No assurances were given. Officials were told a study is under way.
Fulton County has had its share of bad news in the past several years. The closing of the Goodyear Plant in Union City left many county residents jobless. Fulton County is the second slowest growing county in the state, losing 12.8% of its population. The population stands at 6800. Only Breathitt County in eastern Kentucky lost a higher percentage. Breathitt has more than double the population of Fulton with almost 14,000 residents.
Most recently, Parkway Regional Hospital announced it is closing in March. The 70 bed hospital also operates the local ambulance service which is now in danger of closing. Two clinics, one in Hickman and one in Clinton, associated with the hospital are also scheduled to close.
Fulton County has received state attention. Governor Beshear came to open a candle factory in 2014. The county also recently announced location of an Asian carp processing facility.
Will right to work bring in jobs? Local officials hope so. They are keeping mum about any potential employers that may be attracted to the county by the right to work ordinance.
They are also mum on how the county will pay to defend a legal challenge.
For Fulton County, the message of being open for business may outweigh the costs of defending a lawsuit.
Only time will tell.