The Blueprint for Appalachia is SOAR’s 10-year plan to combat population loss and generate prosperity — using solutions created and implemented within Eastern Kentucky.
As a core pillar of the Blueprint, 21st-Century Workforce focuses on becoming competitive in the digital economy and other emerging industries. This objective couldn’t be more critical to Eastern Kentucky’s economic health. Fulfilling it will require civic leaders to continue their important work by seeking out and forming productive, reciprocal industry partnerships.
We’re excited to highlight one such partnership that symbolizes one of our region’s most impactful industrial recruitment success stories. By examining the Rajant success story, a local industrial wireless networking creator and manufacturer, we hope local leaders will gain insights into the attributes to look for in an industrial partner.
Rajant Corporation may keep a relatively low profile, but its economic impact ripples far and wide across the region.
Rajant is a private business headquartered in Malvern, PA, with operations in Morehead, KY, and Phoenix, AZ. Their primary focus is commercial industrial wireless networking product development and manufacturing for federal defense contracts and commercial clients worldwide.
Among their proprietary products is a patented mesh wireless technology, Kinetic Mesh®, that enables simple, instantaneous broadband connectivity.
What brought Rajant to Morehead
As of the end of the 2022 calendar year, Rajant employed approximately 200 people across all 3 of their facility locations. 37 of their full-time employees work from the Morehead location. The employee count in Kentucky is projected to grow to 50 employees by 2026. When the property build-out is complete in a few years, Rajant will have around 100 employees in Morehead.
A Morehead facility expansion is taking place in 2023 to fit out an additional 15,000 square feet. Recently announced new products, like Rajant’s Cardinal and Sparrow radio nodes, will be manufactured exclusively in Morehead for global distribution.
When asked why Rajant elected to open up its Morehead location, Rajant CEO Robert Schena told us, “First and foremost, Rajant selected Morehead due to the Morehead State University Space and Science Center. When we found out that undergraduates were hand-building, designing, and testing small satellites that ended up in space, it was impressive. Once we got to meet and ultimately hire them, Rajant was hooked.”
As a part of its expansion plan in EKY, Rajant has expressed its commitment to hiring locally and contributing to the formation of a robust workforce pipeline.
In addition to MSU graduates, “The talent of the EKY population extends to all facets of the community,” says Alice DiSanto, Rajant’s VP of Global Marketing. “From local leadership to Congressman Hal Rogers, Rajant has been met by above-and-beyond people who are exceptionally capable and hardworking.”
Examining Rajant’s regional impact
By supporting expansion plans for MSU’s Space Engineering Program, Rajant’s investments are helping to create a robust local talent pipeline.
High-tech industry activity — in this case, aerospace — often leads to entrepreneurial clusters focused on solving adjacent problems for the sector. With a shared economic geography, startups aligned with local, influential industries can find themselves within a more supportive, enriched environment to support their success.
As a result, we might expect the presence of aerospace startups to increase in the region.
Such clusters of economic and entrepreneurial activity are good for population growth. High-paying jobs attract new residents, creating a circular economy that provides value to existing residents. Food shops have more customers, restaurants gain patrons, and the tax base may be able to better support long-needed town and county projects.
Taking it a step further, post-graduate retention may also improve, thanks to the continued presence of Rajant and adjacent businesses. When compelling career opportunities are available in EKY, this encourages more local graduates to stay nearby and build their lives here.
Together, these impacts contribute significantly towards combating the population loss that’s plagued our region for decades.
Charitable community partnerships
When seeking industrial partners, community involvement and patronage should be a weighty factor.
In turn, Rajant has demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting the expansion of broadband in Eastern Kentucky. Its unique Kinetic Mesh can be quickly and easily deployed to set up connections — it’s much faster than infrastructure-dependent, often costly multi-year broadband projects.
Amid the devastating flooding in 2022, Rajant seized an opportunity to lift up its own community. The business donated wireless WAN (Wide Area Network) and public access Wi-Fi to help Eastern Kentucky health departments improve coordination.
In addition, along with Eastern Telephone and Technology, they enabled last-mile connectivity to bring several rural downtowns onto the Accelecom middle-mile network.
According to Rajant Sales Director Justin Warren, “Like the pandemic, the floods further highlighted the urgent need to expand reliable high-speed internet access in Eastern Kentucky. So many of the services and activities that many of us take for granted, like virtual learning, telehealth, streaming services, or the ability to work remotely, are simply not possible in many of these communities.
The good news is that together, we can change that. When service providers, companies like Rajant, and government leaders work together with a common vision to make broadband access a reality for everyone, we can develop the solutions to make it a reality.”
When seeking a public-private partnership for your area’s broadband project, businesses like Rajant may be an ideal ally for the task.
What to look for when pursuing industrial partnerships for Eastern Kentucky
When local leaders consider the impact of Rajant’s presence, we must ask ourselves: how can we continue to recruit successful, reciprocal industry partners like Rajant in other industries?
For those involved in industry development and recruiting, it will be essential to consider attributes beyond potential tax revenues. By reframing the potential value adds, such as charitable contributions to public infrastructure, sustainable local hiring, and workforce pipeline development, our opportunities may expand.
We must seek partnerships with businesses willing to become invested in our long-haul mission to reset our current economic trajectory. As embodied by Rajant’s example, be on the lookout for how their hiring plans consider and celebrate local talent and whether they’re willing to get involved with talent pipeline efforts.
And especially keep an eye out for their willingness to contribute to community betterment projects, particularly those involving fiber installation.
Resources for local founders and small businesses
Reach out to SOAR to learn more about Rajant Corporation and its support for local economic development.
Interested in starting a business in Eastern Kentucky? Check out these helpful resources for local founders and small business owners:
- Register for the SOAR Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition hosted by MSU on June 15, 2023. Be sure to apply by May 12 for consideration to join.
- Consult the KY Apex Accelerator for educational inventor resources and connect with the local inventor community.
Download the Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship in Eastern Kentucky for a step-by-step guide to starting, operating, and improving your business.