Six jobs-producing projects to share $14.2 million
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Six economic development projects in five Appalachian counties have been selected for $14.2 million in Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot Program grants.
The projects, in Floyd, Harlan, Laurel, Morgan and Perry counties, range from the construction of water treatment plants to robotic instruction and will revitalize the coalfields in Kentucky’s Appalachian region through job creation and economic development. Since 2016, 54 projects in 21 counties have been selected for funding through the AML Pilot Program.
“These projects are creating good jobs, more opportunity and a healthier future for Eastern Kentuckians,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday in making the announcement. “These projects mean drinkable water, training and re-employment for those who have been laid off. For many of our people, the projects will mean more peace of mind and a fresh start when so many need it as we emerge from this pandemic, from devastating storms and from the downturn in the coal economy.”
“While this funding was designed to help our coal mining communities recover from the downturn of the coal industry, it will also serve as an essential resource as our rural Appalachian region recovers from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congressman Hal Rogers who also took part in Monday’s press conference. “These grants will help meet important needs in our region, from improving access to clean, reliable water to opening new opportunities for jobs in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.
The projects include:
- $3.5 million to Perry County and the City of Hazard to improve the water systems of Perry County through the KY-15/KY-7 Interconnect and the development of a new Buckhorn Water Treatment Plant. The project will provide a reliable water source for 1,198 residential customers and 36 businesses in the Coal Fields Industrial Park that employ in excess of 370 people.
- $3.769 million to BPM Lumber of Laurel County for the purchase and installation of an optimized merchandising system that will allow BPM to produce value-added hardwood lumber products. This will sustain 123 current jobs and allow for the re-employment of 62 employees at the London and Whitesburg locations who were previously laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- $400,000 to Backroads of Appalachia, a non-profit entity that supports job training and economic development through tourism and motorsports. Backroads will partner with local government and non-profit organizations to repurpose an abandoned mine land property in Harlan County into a welcome center to increase regional motorsports tourism in Lynch. As a second chance employer, Backroads employs individuals in local addiction recovery programs and provides them with job training and paid employment.
- $3 million to fund the eKAMI Advanced Robotic Instruction Project in Morgan County. This project will build on eKAMI’s successful model of advanced CNC machining training by expanding instruction to include an advanced manufacturing robotics credential track for incarcerated individuals at the East Kentucky Correctional Complex in Morgan County.
- $2.05 million to the City of Wheelwright and Floyd County for the construction of a new water treatment plant in Wheelwright that will replace an aging conventional sand filtration plant built in the 1930s. The new facility will assist in the re-opening of the Southeast Kentucky Correctional Center that closed in 2012.
- $1.5 million to Harlan County Fiscal Court to bring natural gas infrastructure to the Harlan County Business Park project in Harlan County. This project will develop natural gas service for the Tri-Cities area of Harlan County and bring natural gas service to the Harlan County Business Park site on previously mined lands near Cumberland, Benham and Lynch. Harlan County Fiscal Court has worked to redevelop this site bringing new companies and up to 50 local jobs. The site has recently received certified Build-Ready status by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
Perry County Water Project
“Growing opportunities could not be possible without our visionary leaders. Even though projects in our mountainous region are more difficult and costly to complete, our people deserve reliable water service in Appalachia,” said Perry County Judge/Executive Scott Alexander. “I’m thankful to have leaders at the state and federal levels that we can partner with, like Congressman Rogers and Gov. Beshear.”
“The City of Hazard would like to thank Congressman Rogers, Gov. Beshear and Secretary Goodman for being champions for water projects in hard-hit pockets of our county,” said Hazard Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini. “These improvements are critical to provide vital access to our citizens, increase economic opportunity and improve infrastructure in Eastern Kentucky. We are forever grateful for the opportunity to continue to work together and fight for clean and reliable water systems for our region.”
Laurel County Projects
“On behalf of BPM’s employees, we want to thank Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers for making this award possible. This grant will bring the latest optimizing technology to Kentucky’s $13 billion hardwood industry,” said Richard Sturgill, chairman of BPM Lumber. “The coalfields are in desperate need of jobs and expanded industry. It is our hope that this investment will help fill that need.”
Lynch Motorsports Welcome Center Project
“I have always believed that you can take what you got and be successful with it, so we are using these funds to simply build on to a small building on an abandoned surface mine in Lynch to create a multi-purpose welcome center where we can kick off motorsports events,” said Erik Hubbard, director of Backroads of Appalachia. “Harlan County is one of the best places in the nation to explore the outdoors and this funding gives us the opportunity to bring the land back to life with tourists and local outdoor enthusiasts.”
“Thanks to this AML funding, eKAMI looks forward to Kentucky leading the way in criminal justice reform with the new workforce development project at Kentucky’s largest correctional facility, the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in Morgan County,” said Kathy Walker, founder and CEO of eKAMI. “eKAMI’s innovative, hi-tech teaching model prepares offenders for high-skilled jobs in 21st century advanced manufacturing, paving the way for successful reentry for those so deserving of a second chance.”
Floyd County Water Project
“The residents of the city of Wheelwright would like to thank Congressman Rogers and Gov. Beshear for their work in expanding access to clean, reliable water for our residents and businesses,” said Floyd County Judge/Executive Robbie Williams. “Wheelwright is a small community, so we really appreciate our leaders who look out for us and advocate for funding that will help us continue to recover from losses in the coal industry.”
Harlan County Gas Project
“This investment of AML Pilot funds will check the last box required to make our business park in Harlan County the most competitive it can be to recruit new industries to our county. I am grateful to Congressman Rogers and Gov. Beshear for supporting the work of the Harlan County Economic Development Authority, One Harlan County, and Harlan County Fiscal Court as we move forward together united in our vision to create better economic opportunities for the people we serve,” said Harlan County Judge/Executive Dan Mosley. “This important infrastructure investment of AML Pilot funds, which will be combined with RDAAP funds previously awarded, now makes this project a reality and will greatly assist us in our economic diversification efforts.”
Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) Secretary Rebecca Goodman selected the projects for initial vetting by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). More than 70 applications for funding in 2020 AML Pilot year were received by EEC’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands.
“These projects are being initiated and developed by people who live and work in these communities,” Secretary Goodman said. “They have a stake in making their communities better and that is why these projects succeed.”