By LIAM NIEMEYER • MAR 8, 2021
Published by WKMS and Ohio Valley Resource
Link to the original article.
As Barkley Hughes and I rumbled around in his red utility vehicle last month, memories slowly unwound about his western Kentucky hometown.
Tolu, a historic Ohio River-bound community of less than a hundred, only makes up a few blocks before opening up into rolling farmland. Hughes openly admits it’s not near anywhere, but that’s part of the reason he came back.
He points to the Methodist church across the street he attended growing up. There’s the community center that would put together a “haunted house” around Halloween. There’s what used to be the general store in town, which he figures closed more than a decade ago because it’s hard to get deliveries out in a place so remote.
“It's one of those communities that your mom can step out on the back stoop and scream your name and you know to come home,” said Hughes, who’s raising his 10-year-old son, Miles. “I just wanted him to experience that.”
But there was a significant cost to moving back home. Hughes works as a software developer and needs fast, reliable internet speeds that an isolated community like Tolu didn’t immediately offer. The options here are few. Beaming it from satellites can be expensive and frustratingly slow with latency issues. Satellite internet and cellular hotspot users suffer from stringent data caps that can throttle a connection to aggravatingly slow speeds after a certain usage limit each month.
He’s tried countless ways to improve connection for himself and his community. At one point, Hughes even bought a 190-foot communications tower of the kind traditionally used by towboat companies. He tried to have someone across the river beam an internet signal to him; the small telephone company in southern Illinois declined the “out-of-the-box” idea.
Eventually, we arrived at what he ended up settling for: a few AT&T distribution boxes near the baseball field. Hughes said the company installed fiber optic cable — often seen as the premier form of internet connection — here in 2006.
“It's aggravating because you know what's in here, and you know internet to every home in this community could come right through this box, but nothing happens. It’s frustrating,” Hughes said.
After what he says was years of persistent contact with lawmakers about the issue, Hughes said he and a neighbor now collectively pay AT&T $604 a month for business-level fiber access that the rest of his community doesn’t have. He said he receives a download and upload speed of 50 megabits per second, or mbps, while many residents of large cities can receive multitudes of that speed for a tenth of that cost.
Faster options, including cable, exist just a 20-minute drive away at the Crittenden County seat. But Hughes isn’t sure when AT&T or another internet service provider will build the last mile of internet connection to a place like Tolu. It’s emblematic of countless rural Ohio Valley communities that find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide and found it harder to adapt to remote work and schooling when the pandemic forced people to isolate last year.
But help could be on the way. Moved by wrenching stories of kids struggling to learn virtually at home and businesses grappling with how to operate remotely, Ohio Valley lawmakers are pushing for hundreds of millions of dollars to invest directly into underserved communities, and the Biden administration has called for billions of dollars for rural broadband across the country as a part of his infrastructure plan.
Broadband advocates are enthused but wary. They’re calling for firm accountability with this funding, concerned that the influx of spending could be wasted as they say has happened before. But there is no doubting the need in rural communities.
A data analysis last year from the internet research site BroadbandNow found that for many states with large rural areas, broadband access is far lower than federal data indicates. For example, the group estimated that only 69% of West Virginians have broadband access, far lower than the 85% government data show. And a Pew Research Center survey found 1 in 5 parents across the country with children in schools closed down to the pandemic believed they wouldn’t be able to complete schoolwork because of poor internet connection.
Hughes and many others in isolated communities are tired of waiting.
“It should be treated as no different than electricity. We were able to wire the entire country in a short order,” Hughes said, referencing the rural electrification projects of the early 20th century. Now he wants his home town to join 21st century technology. “We've already went through the information age. We're well into it. It's about time that we catch up.”
Lost In The Last Mile
Crittenden County Judge-Executive Perry Newcom has been preaching his message of the last mile since he got in office about a decade ago, but to no avail.
“Basically no change whatsoever,” Newcom said, his colleague chuckling next to him in the county courthouse. “Everyone that you speak with will tell you they understand the problem. They understand the frustration. They understand the need. But no one has a solution at this point.”
The “last mile” of broadband — the final, physical or wireless connection directly to homes and businesses — is a two-fold problem for towns like Tolu: there isn’t the money for it, and there isn’t an internet provider with the capability, expertise or willingness to do it. It’s not like Newcom’s county of about 9,000 people has the funding to build their own internet service, he said.
He and other western Kentucky leadership also claim that in many cases a large telecom, such as AT&T, does have fiber optic cable already built throughout several counties. In some cases, they say, cables are running through their yards. But Newcom said the fiber-optic cable isn’t serving those homes, and he isn’t even sure if the fiber is energized at all.
Amanda Davenport, executive director of the economic development organization Lake Barkley Partnership, said the ongoing situation is a crippling detriment to western Kentucky.
“Our businesses are trying to grow. We need a service. We have a customer base that wants to pay for the service,” she said. “We don't have someone that's willing to come in and provide that service, and then they're not willing to provide the service and they're holding competition from someone else coming in to provide the service.”
Davenport’s comments echo a frustration that Barkley Hughes voiced in Tolu. Hughes alleges AT&T “killed” a federal grant opportunity in the 2010s that would have provided internet service to the local community center, volunteer fire station, and surrounding rural areas.
Tolu won more than $500,000 from USDA Rural Development to install a fixed wireless signal from a tower, using a radio transmission to bring internet to homes in the line of sight of the tower with no data caps. Emails received by the Ohio Valley ReSource show an AT&T representative denying fiber access to Q-Wireless, the Indiana-based company in charge of the project at the time. The fiber would have acted as an internet “backbone” for the tower signal.
Phil Lambert led Q-Wireless at the time. He told the ReSource that when AT&T denied access for the project, that made it more challenging to execute, but not impossible. He also said his small company had trouble navigating multiple projects at the time, with not enough resources to dedicate to Tolu. The project didn’t move forward. No one interviewed for this story could say for sure why fiber access was denied, but Davenport believes it’s an example of anti-competitive behavior.
“It just leaves the community stuck. What are you supposed to do? How does someone move forward if this telecom says, ‘I'm not providing service, you're not worth investing in,’ at the same time saying it's unfair competitively if you allow someone else to come in and provide service to this area.”
AT&T declined an interview for this story. In an email, an AT&T spokesperson said the company provides quality and reliable internet to customers in Crittenden County, and that suggestions that the company is anti-competitive are wrong. The spokesperson said AT&T decided to not provide services to Q-Wireless that would be then repackaged by Q-Wireless. AT&T said it had invested $2.5 billion in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia to expand and enhance wired and wireless services from 2017 to 2019.
“We understand how important it is that every American has affordable access to the internet. We’re aggressively expanding and upgrading our networks to provide fast and reliable internet access to more people,” the spokesperson said.
A 2020 report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group promoting community broadband projects, found that more than 83 million Americans have only one option for an internet provider. According to the FCC, Tolu has three satellite internet providers to choose from, with only some able to receive a data-capped fixed wireless signal from AT&T, that Hughes said was only recently made available. Other Tolu residents interviewed by the ReSource said the fixed wireless signal was middling at best, with families unable to use multiple devices without a slowdown. Fixed wireless internet traditionally suffers from access issues, as landscape and geography can block a signal from reaching some locations.
And the potential cost for western Kentucky counties to build the last mile internet connection themselves is daunting. Davenport spearheaded a recent feasibility study that found building out fiber and fixed wireless to the four western Kentucky counties of Caldwell, Crittenden, Lyon, and Livingston — making up a little less than 40,000 people — would cost about $135 million. Davenport said by banding the counties together, the project could become more economically attractive for grant opportunities.
An influx of state and federal funding is potentially on the way, but one Ohio Valley county isn’t waiting around for that windfall to come.
“Don’t Get Discouraged”
Peggy Bailey is used to frustrating internet service in her part of southeastern Ohio. Her home in rural Washington County doesn’t have service, and she’s had to use an excruciatingly slow connection from her work-provided iPad hotspot. When the pandemic hit, Bailey and her neighbor realized something needed to be done.
The nonprofit Southeastern Ohio Broadband Cooperative was born.
“We wanted to do something that was member owned. So everybody was involved. Everybody has a say,” Bailey said. “It breaks your heart knowing that kids are forced to do virtual at home, and then they have no access, that they've got to go to a local McDonald's to do their homework.”
Bailey and two other volunteers, along with one paid engineer, had put tens of thousands of dollars of their own money into putting a fixed wireless transmitter on a local tower, eventually receiving $50,000 in startup funds from the county. In recent weeks, the small group has been working at a frantic pace to sign up those excited about the new service, with more than 300 people so far expressing an interest.
The FCC defines a place as “underserved” with broadband if it’s receiving a download speed of less than 25 mbps, and 3mbps upload speed.
The speeds coming from the fixed wireless tower?
“We've got clients that are five miles out. They're getting 100 megs of download, and 20 megs of upload,” said David Brown, a co-founder of the cooperative. “I’ll just say they’re very happy about it.”
Both Bailey and Brown told the ReSource they wanted the group to be a nonprofit cooperative in part after seeing other companies come into the region promising service, only to underdeliver or not follow through at all. Like their local electric cooperative, a community-owned group can be responsive to the community.
Some small independent companies and local telephone and electric cooperatives in the Ohio Valley have built out broadband with much success in their service areas, in some cases building fiber to the home. A bill moving through the Kentucky legislature would allow some electric cooperatives in the state, including the Kenergy Corporation in western Kentucky, to bypass state law prohibiting them from expanding into broadband service.
Community-led broadband initiatives have also popped up elsewhere in Appalachia. The Biden administration has put an emphasis on encouraging municipalities in creating their own internet networks. (Republicans in Congress have different ideas, and at least one Ohio Congressman wants to ban municipal networks.)
While their plan is to serve Washington County first, the cooperative purposefully has “Southeastern Ohio” in its name with an eye toward potential expansion.
“People who are in a similar situation, don't get discouraged. There's a way to get it done,” Brown said. “And don't wait forever for somebody to solve your problems. Take it on yourself.”
State lawmakers in the Ohio Valley are all pushing legislation calling for more funding for broadband, and accountability over that funding. Kentucky could see $250 million in broadband grants. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is calling for $290 million in the state’s next budget for broadband expansion. In West Virginia, a bill being advanced aims to bolster accountability, with some legislative committees given the authority to request information and attendance from companies that take public broadband funds.
At the federal level, much of the available funding has flowed through the FCC’s past Connect America Fund and the current Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Entities both public and private bid on projects for underserved regions.
In phase one of the recent RDOF auction, $9.2 billion went to build out broadband in 49 states over the next decade. The FCC reported Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia cumulatively received more than $681 million of that total. The Southeastern Ohio Broadband Cooperative did not get a share, Brown said. However, funding to expand in parts of Washington County went instead to Charter Communications, one of the largest cable and telephone providers in the country.
“I hope [Charter Communications] live up to expectations and the agreement that they made with the RDOF. However, we are skeptical based on the history of the Connect America Fund and those obligations not being met,” David Brown said.
Brown is not alone in his skepticism. Critics say the FCC invested hundreds of millions of dollars across the Ohio Valley in large telecom companies, such as the bankrupt Frontier company in West Virginia and AT&T in Kentucky, while large swaths of the region are still underserved.
“We need total transparency from the funding recipients. If you take this public money, you need to explain to us how it's being spent. You need to show us the schedules of your deployments,” Tom Reid said, an industry consultant working with local governments in southeastern Ohio on broadband. “We need true information. You can't get any of that from these FCC programs. They consider it all proprietary.”
Reid said companies involved in RDOF need “good, strong specifications” to follow and a shorter timeline for deploying that broadband. One of the biggest winners in the RDOF auction was a new space-based initiative called Starlink, from the private spacecraft company SpaceX owned by Elon Musk. Reid thinks such an initiative is an interesting concept, but believes what the Ohio Valley truly needs is a replacement of the aging copper telephone lines throughout the region with something like fiber to homes.
“We've spent enough money to do it. Let's not keep throwing new money down the same process. It has been such a complete failure,” Reid said.
In a statement, an FCC spokesperson said the FCC is carefully reviewing winner bidders in the RDOF to make sure they have the capabilities to deliver on their commitments, along with improving mapping technology to understand where broadband is lacking.
“The FCC is working on multiple fronts to close the homework gap, make broadband more affordable for low-income families, and increase access to broadband service,” the FCC said.
Inaccurate FCC maps of broadband coverage have been a common complaint by broadband advocates in the past, something that Reid and another consultant in the Ohio Valley are actively working to combat. For example, if an internet service provider offers service to just one household in a census block, then the FCC marks the entire block as covered by a provider.
In Kentucky, the state Education and Workforce Development has put out a call to action across the state to submit existing internet speeds, from no service and high speed, to get a better idea of true broadband access. Minnesota-based consultant Glenn Fishbine, is helping the state run the speed test, and said it’s the most remarkable speed test data collection he’s seen, with upwards of 80,000 tests.
Fishbine said the goal of these speed tests is to be able to contest inaccurate FCC maps with records of actual speeds, in particular when applying for various grant opportunities to provide service.
He added that grant funding and other ways of cost-sharing is key for building out the last mile of broadband, as the financial risk can be significant for an internet service provider if not enough people in a given area sign up for expanded fixed wireless or fiber service.
He said it comes down to economics. The buildout of fiber to homes can vary wildly depending on the geography that’s being navigated. He said he knows of a company in New England building fiber for $3,000 a mile; in Kentucky, he estimates costs could reach $60,000 a mile.
As for the explanation of why fiber access was denied in Tolu, Fishbine said it’s common for telecoms to avoid extending existing fiber to homes because, again, the expense: about $1,500 to $3,000 to connect a house, with a longer time-frame on investment return. It’s about the money.
“The telcos are horribly spoiled. They’re spoiled, rotten kids. They don't need to do a lot of good public service,” he said.
Finding A Connection
One of the last stops Barkley Hughes makes in Tolu is at the volunteer fire station, where a tiny black antenna is barely visible sticking off the side of the roof.
Crittenden County Schools set up hotspots at fire stations across the county, including a mobile one attached to a school bus, as a way to provide students with poor or no internet connection a way to download their class assignments during remote learning. The school bus with the hotspot would go to different parts of the county each day to deliver meals and provide students an opportunity to connect.
Hughes and I pull out our phones to test the connection: almost 18mbps download, but less than 1mbps upload. Good enough to download homework, but enough to log onto a group virtual class.
“I want to emphasize the fact that this school system’s not mega wealthy. But they're trying because, well, no one else is,” Hughes said.
Crittenden County Schools Superintendent Vince Clark admits that the service offered isn’t perfect, but said the small district met a crisis with some solutions, using CARES Act funding. Clark also said he recently learned the county was selected to receive a grant from AT&T to provide hundreds of hotspots for families to use while learning virtually, as a part of a $10 million effort by AT&T to help vulnerable and at risk students amid the pandemic.
With state and federal funding on the horizon, the Ohio Valley could be realizing a watershed moment for rural internet following the brutal reality exposed by the pandemic. Kentucky’s “middle mile” broadband network, KentuckyWired, is about 98% complete according to network executive director Jamie Link, with construction of parts in western Kentucky wrapping up by this summer. Once completed, the open access fiber network could serve as a backbone for those who want to build out the last mile of fiber and fixed wireless, including in Crittenden County.
Clark is proud of the grant and what it could mean for his district. But is it ultimately an adequate replacement for building the last mile of broadband? He’s not sure.
“There's dozens of other counties like Crittenden County,” Clark said. “My question is, what are those folks doing? You know, to make sure that their kids and their families that have chosen to do virtual and remote learning … to be connected?”
Published in the Paducah Sun, December 17, 2020
By Paul Schaumburg
Link to original article.
EDDYVILLE — Digital technology has transformed the world in recent years, bringing people closer quickly, even halfway around the globe. In many ways the internet and similar factors have made the world more easily accessible. Nevertheless, geography and population continue to factor into the degree to which a region — especially a rural region — shares in that connection. Addressing those needs was the topic Amanda Davenport brought in her report last week to the Lyon County Fiscal Court.
The mission of the Lake Barkley Partnership is to invest resources in ways to create a strong, resilient and diverse economic region in Lyon, Caldwell, Crittenden and Livingston counties. Headquartered in Marion in the Crittenden County Economic Development Center, the organization also maintains office space in Lyon and Caldwell counties’ courthouses.
Davenport, the partnership’s executive director since 2018, has managed and coordinated economic development there. Her education and experience are centered in rural economic development, county government and small business management. A Murray State graduate, she holds a master of business administration degree from Texas Woman’s University. She’s a certified coordinator through the professional association known as Business Retention and Expansion International. Davenport is on the Board of Directors for the Kentucky Association of Economic Development and is pursuing her economic development certification through the International Economic Development Council.
“Rural broadband has been a major issue in our four-county region we cover,” she told the Herald Ledger, after speaking at the fiscal court’s December meeting. “Even before the pandemic, internet service has been a major issue for everybody — for the schools, homes, businesses, residents and attracting new residents.”
The very nature of obtaining quality, widely available internet service was the essence of her report.
“We started this internet feasibility study and received funding for it through a cooperative network,” she explained. “That network includes some of the fiscal courts, industrial development authorities, county extension agencies that have some agriculture development funds, and the state agricultural development fund in the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy.”
Altogether, those entities contributed about $24,000 for a study to assess which internet providers are available in the area, types of services they provide, and what the Federal Communications Commission broadband maps say is available here. Those maps determine how federal funding is allocated for internet service development projects.
“Basically, the FCC maps are important because any entity that provides internet service must provide the FCC with maps of the service provided to that area,” Davenport said. “All of those are self-reported, without FCC verification. So, in some areas, the providers claim better service than they actually offer. A map says what should be there, as far as the FCC has been told.”
That, in turn, dictates how federal dollars are spent to develop internet connection in specific areas. Multiple federal agencies use those maps to direct funding to install, develop or deploy high-speed, rural internet all across the country.
“One of the points in the feasibility study compares what the maps actually say, so we can dispute what’s actually happening there,” she noted.
The study also includes every known fiber line in the region and internet service speeds in various areas. Having those speed tests helps dispute the claims of the map. For example, if a company claims to offer 25 megabytes and all that actually is available is five megabytes, determined through conducting a number of speed tests, then, those figures don’t match. Essentially, the tests either verify or dispute what the companies say.
When a clear and accurate assessment emerges, progress begins.
“The big question is, ‘How much would it cost?’ ” Davenport explained. “Next is how to attract a provider to fit that piece of the puzzle. Internet need is one thing, but if there isn’t financial modeling to show the project is feasible with a good, strong payback period within a reasonable amount of time, it’s hard to make the case.”
The feasibility study included a cost analysis and payback period with accurate assumptions. “We now have financial modeling to help us understand this project,” she said.
Factors include the number of people getting service, installation costs, and fiber vs. wireless modes of providing service.
“When we talk about economic development and business attraction, that’s basically what we’re doing,” Davenport concluded. “The business we are trying to attract is an internet service provider and it will take infrastructure, as with any other business project. The question is, ‘What do we need to do to land this project?’ ”
Murray State University partners with area organizations to present Women in Economic Development Conference Series
Series, established in part by Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, kicks off Oct 15. with presentation by Regent Virginia Gray
MURRAY, Ky. — The Murray State University Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, alongside the Lake Barkley Partnership, Greater Paducah Economic Development and Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation, present the inaugural Women in Economic Development Conference Series this October and November.
The virtual series is designed to facilitate networking, professional development and collaboration among women in Kentucky’s economic development world. Each event will connect participants with their peers and provide information about available resources through presentations and group discussions.
Murray State University Regent Virginia Gray will kick off the series Oct. 15 at 9 a.m. Series topics will include working with elected officials to navigate challenging projects, economic development resources, changing trends in the industry and how to prepare for them, different strategies of economic development, resources for economic development and future plans and events for the group.
“This event will draw together women from across the region and the state and in doing so will provide an opportunity to establish contacts and relationships for support and growth,” said Chris Wooldridge, Director of the Murray State Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Development housed in the Bauernfeind College of Business. “We are so very excited to be a partner in supporting economic development in the region and more so in supporting professional women advancing this field.”
"There are so many women in the field of economic development; we just need a space to connect and share our energy and enthusiasm for our profession,” said Lake Barkley Partnership Executive Director Amanda Davenport. “I am very excited for this conference to bring together such a great group of professionals to share our perspectives, ideas and strategies on economic development in our communities.”
A full schedule is below. Each event is free and open to the public; learn more and register today at bit.ly/EconDevSeries.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that Porter Road Butcher Meat Co. LLC, a meat processor based in Princeton, plans to relocate and expand within Caldwell County with a more than $1.5 million investment expected to create 83 full-time jobs.
“I want to congratulate and thank Porter Road for this commitment to Kentucky and our strong workforce,” Beshear said. “As we look to reestablish and strengthen our economy, existing businesses like Porter Road will play a critical role in our success. I anticipate plenty more to come for the commonwealth in the months and years ahead.”
Facing heightened demand, Porter Road is expected to relocate to two buildings encompassing 35,000 s.f. of space on Masonic Drive in Princeton to increase capacity. The move would be a substantial increase from its current 7,000-s.f. facility. The project would provide Porter Road with a larger cutting room and expanded packaging and shipping capabilities. The company plans to complete the move to the new location by the end of 2020.
The 83 projected jobs would include various wage levels and primarily consist of production staff, such as butchers and packaging and shipping positions. An increase in administrative and management, as well as maintenance roles is also expected. Currently, Porter Road employs 31 people in Caldwell County.
“Our business is built on strong relationships with our partners, customers and community,” said Chris Carter, co-founder of Porter Road. “It was relationships that brought us to Princeton six years ago, and relationships that have encouraged us to deepen our roots and expand. We count ourselves fortunate to be working with a proactive team of economic developers including Princeton’s elected officials and the Lake Barkley Partnership to meet our needs during this exciting time of growth. We are excited to bring more jobs to the community and continue the success of Porter Road and Princeton for years to come.”
Carter and James Peisker founded Porter Road in 2010. Having previously worked together as chefs, the pair opened a butcher shop in East Nashville, Tenn., to provide high-quality, locally sourced meat. In 2014, Porter Road Butcher Meat Co. was established as the company expanded to include the Princeton processing facility. The company went online in 2017, serving customers nationwide with all products processed and shipped from the Princeton facility.
Porter Road’s expansion contributes to Kentucky’s already strong food and beverage industry, as the state is home to more than 350 food and beverage facilities, which employ over 52,000 people.
Sen. Robby Mills, of Henderson, said the project comes at the perfect time for a rebounding economy.
“I am pleased that Porter Road Butcher Meat Co. will be expanding here in Caldwell County,” Mills said. “During these unprecedented times, when Kentucky businesses are struggling and unemployment is at record levels, our state craves good news like this. Jobs in the cutting room are more than doubling with this investment. That will go a long way in helping our economy rebound. I am also excited for an increased distribution of Kentucky Proud meat products. I thank Porter Road for its investment and trust in Kentucky and Caldwell County.”
Rep. Lynn Bechler, of Marion, said he was glad to see Porter Road continue its growing partnership with the community.
“I am excited to hear of the expansion of Porter Road Butcher Meat Co.,” Bechler said. “This company has been an amazing community partner and I know that will continue with this investment. In these trying times, the creation of new jobs and economic opportunity is welcome news for those suffering from the recent shutdowns. I am confident that this expansion will help revitalize our local economy.”
Princeton Mayor Dakota Young said Porter Road has been a great company to work with in the years since locating in the area.
“James and Chris and the rest of the crew at Porter Road have been incredible to work with. Their passion for our community is palpable,” Young said. “They have a broad and dynamic vision for the future of their company, and thankfully, Princeton figures prominently in those plans. This project will bring a significant number of good, well-paying job opportunities to our citizens, and demonstrates the resiliency and attractiveness of our local economy and Princeton’s small but important role in the resurgence of our regional, state and national economy from the depths of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Caldwell County Judge-Executive Larry Curling noted the job creation associated with the expansion will greatly benefit the local workforce.
“I Want to thank Porter Road for being a part of this county and putting their trust in this community,” Curling said. “Their partnership with Caldwell County is much appreciated and we look forward to a long alliance with this up and coming company. New jobs are the driving force behind economic growth. These new employment opportunities will lead to a healthier community.”
Amanda Davenport, executive director of the Lake Barkley Partnership, said the expansion signals continued growth for the region.
“I am very excited to announce the expansion of one of our local industry partners, Porter Road,” Davenport said. “This expansion will aid in Lake Barkley Partnership’s overall mission of bringing strong, resilient industry to the Lake Barkley Region. Development of local companies like Porter Road will continue to establish our region as a leader in agriculture and food production. We are proud to work with and support Porter Road as they grow and continue their commitment to our community and local prosperity.”
To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) on Thursday preliminarily approved a 10-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $750,000 in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $1.51 million and annual targets of:
In addition, Porter Road can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives.
For more information on Porter Road Butcher Meat Co., visit www.PorterRoad.com.
A detailed community profile for Caldwell County can be viewed here.
FROM WATERWAYS JOURNAL WEEKLY: JANUARY 17, 2020
By Shelley Byrne
With two new grants and the development of a master plan underway, the port of Eddyville (Ky.) is continuing to grow.
The port, created on the Cumberland River impoundment of Lake Barkley in the late 1970s, got a boost about five years ago with land purchases and contract renegotiations that resulted in adding three new tenants, said Jamie Wynn, port director of the Eddyville Riverport & Industrial Development Authority.
The authority now owns roughly 250 acres at the riverport with another 120 acres at a nearby industrial park. Paducah Barge LLC has its drydock at the port. Other new tenants are Hu-B’s Offshore Marine Sales & Service and the Kentucky Fish Center, which receives and completes initial processing of Asian carp from commercial anglers.
“We’re uniquely positioned,” said Glen Kinder, treasurer of the authority’s board of directors, pointing out the nearby convergence of major north-south and east-west interstates I-69 and I-24 as well as the Cumberland River connection to Nashville, Tenn., one of the fastest growing cities in the Southeast. As the port is the only riverport in Kentucky on a lake, it also enjoys stable water levels, fluctuating by only about 5 feet depending on the season, he said.
A sport utility vehicle passes by on the Eddyville Riverport’s main access road. A nearly $50,000 grant will allow the road to be realigned to reduce traffic congestion. It will include removing the fence at left as well as the concrete pad remaining from a conveyor belt project as well as widening, leveling and resurfacing the road. Last spring, the port received a $107,250 Delta Regional Authority grant for a new conveyor to unload fertilizer, which created a need for widening an access road and removing a concrete pad left behind when tenant Agri-Chem LLC replaced its conveyor belt system. Recently, the riverport was awarded a $49,780 grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Riverport Improvement Program to improve traffic flow. A bid package on the road construction has been let, with bid openings expected later this month, Wynn said. The project will include removing a fence to allow widening and leveling the road and resurfacing it with blacktop.
“It opens up our access road to all the traffic past Agri-Chem,” Wynn said, noting that the project will decrease traffic congestion and improve safety.
A separate, $10,000 grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will allow the addition of overhead doors to one of the port’s grain pits, adding protection in adverse weather conditions.
Master PlanOne of the port’s biggest new undertakings is development of a master plan to determine future land use.
“It’s not just about what we want to do but also our partners and what they might like to do in the future,” Kinder said, adding, “We’re open to ideas and innovation, and we want to partner and grow the industries that can benefit in the area.”
It is important to think not just from the perspective of Eddyville or Lyon County but about the future of the region as a whole, he said.
The master plan’s development is part of a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wynn and Kinder said their goal is to have the plan completed by the end of the year.
Eddyville, Kentucky. (07/29/2019) – The Lake Barkley Partnership is excited to announce Resonate Foods in Lyon County, plans to expand their current facility with a $2.7 million-dollar investment. Resonate Foods is a craft hemp grower and producer in Lyon County producing artesian hemp for food and pharmaceutical grade products. The expansion will add 16 new jobs to the facility along with six greenhouses, industrial dryers and dehumidifiers. The expansion will also include a state-of-the-art processing lab to process the hemp into oil. At full capacity, the facility can process 1,000 pounds of hemp daily.
Resonate Foods along with Agri-Chem, Broadbent Hams, Gavilon Grain, Newsom’s Hams, P & H Farms, and the UK Research and Education Center are part of a thriving industrial agriculture industry in the Lake Barkley Region. The Partnership is excited to continue the development of our agriculture sector and looks to continually be a leader in both agriculture production and research in Western Kentucky.
Matthew Wilse, president and found of Resonate Foods stated, “Resonate is honored and proud to be part of the honest and hardworking hemp economy in West Kentucky. As a craft hemp company, we create differentiated artisanal hemp products founded on quality, consistency and dependability. We are happy and thankful to be home here in Lyon County, and look forward to continuing to invest in the local community and expand our network of trusted suppliers and customers here and in the region.”
Judge Executive Wade White said, “we are thankful Resonate Foods chose Lyon County and look forward to their continued growth and success” in regards to the expansion.
Amanda Davenport, Executive Director for the Lake Barkley Partnership said, “We are very excited for the expansion of Resonate Foods. This expansion is indicative of our strong agriculture and manufacturing industries in the Lake Barkley Region. We are thrilled with the growth Resonate Foods has experienced and look forward to see the innovation that comes from the expansion of this processing facility.”
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved tax incentives up to $375,000 for this project. Resonate Foods is also eligible for programs through the Kentucky Skills Network.
For more information on Resonate Foods, visit www.ResonateFoods.com
For more information on the Lake Barkley Partnership, visit www.ThinkRural.com
To see comments from state officials for this expansion, see https://kentucky.gov/Pages/Activity-stream.aspx?n=KentuckyGovernor&prId=999