fter a record-breaking year of economic momentum, the demand for state-of-the-art sites in Kentucky is building rapidly. Historic investments from companies including SK Innovation and Ford Motor Co. highlight the state’s ideal North American location and its famously pro-business climate — but also the need for infrastructure investments in available sites across the state.
“This has been an incredible year for economic growth in Kentucky, but we are just getting started. Demand for the commonwealth’s sites and buildings has never been greater, and we need to provide companies with quality locations to make sure we stand out against the competition,” Gov. Beshear said.
The state is taking proactive measures and is investing in sites across the state through several key programs to ensure Kentucky communities are ready for new business.
Build-Ready Sites Save Time and Money
Kentucky added or expanded three Build-Ready Sites to its roster in 2021 in Richmond, Morgantown and Beaver Dam, bringing the total number of sites to 18. Achieving Build-Ready certification means a site includes a pad ready to accommodate a building of 100,000 square feet or more — and utilities extending to the site’s edge. It also means the applicant — usually a city, county or economic development group — has filed the necessary permits, including water, environmental and geotechnical, as well as preliminary building plans, cost estimates and schedule projections.
The program has a proven record with six former Build-Ready-certified sites in Graves, Laurel, Warren and Washington counties having already been selected by companies for new location projects. The program has proven effective at getting companies online in a quick, cost-efficient manner.
“For companies looking to build, outfit and start up a new facility, time is the critical element. Team Kentucky’s Build-Ready program emphasizes that imperative and shows companies how the state, counties and local communities have already partnered to help ensure their immediate and long-term success,” said Jeff Taylor, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development commissioner of Business Development.
Site Improvements Through PDI
In 2019, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Kentucky Association for Economic Development established the Product Development Initiative (PDI). The investment program was created to help supplement improvement projects for site or building upgrades to create jobs and spur corporate investment in communities across the state. It also encourages collaboration among Kentucky economic developers and stakeholders to help new and expanding businesses find sites that check all the necessary boxes quickly.
In 2021, several sites across the commonwealth received PDI funding, including industrial locations in Marshall, Logan and Lyon counties. Matt Tackett, president and CEO of KAED, said PDI helps companies capitalize on global investments quickly.
“As economic momentum is surging in the commonwealth, communities must be ready to capitalize on unprecedented opportunity. PDI is a key tool to assist in this effort, as it provides strategic investments to enhance our ability to provide global enterprise with quick, risk-free site selection experiences,” Tackett said when upgrades at Logan County’s West Industrial Park were announced in November.
Early in 2021, the University of Kentucky (UK) and its partners broke ground on a new $15 million, high-tech building at UK’s Coldstream Research Campus. The new facility, called “The CoRE – Collaboration. Research. Entrepreneurship.” will be an entry-level resource for companies looking to locate on the campus. The building will include wet lab space and working space with nearby interstate access for convenient access to the larger region’s research resources. The project is supported by a $500,000 matching grant through PDI, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
“When we think about strengthening our economy — particularly following the challenges we’ve faced over the past year — we believe that partnership with the city and the business community is the best way to move forward,” said Eric Monday, UK executive vice president for finance and administration, in a press release announcing the investment. “This space will create new opportunities for businesses to establish themselves here in Kentucky, create jobs and contribute to economic growth. We look forward to continuing in our role as the University of, for and with Kentucky.”
The facility will be a home base for startups incubated at UK, as well as other companies relocating to the commonwealth. Kentucky Technology Inc. (KTI), a subsidiary of the UK Research Foundation, will also lease approximately half of the building with plans to sublease to qualifying high-tech companies.
“KTI’s experience as a master lessor, and support from our board provided a strong anchor tenant, which enabled this project to move forward,” said George Ward, president of KTI. “The CoRE will provide an opportunity for more early-stage high-tech companies to flourish in Lexington as they grow well-paying jobs and create new products that improve people’s lives.”
Health Care Priority
Launched in October, the Kentucky Rural Hospital Loan Program provides $20 million in low-interest loans available to assist rural hospitals across the state. The funds, administered by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, provide up to $1 million loans at 1% interest and will help to maintain or upgrade hospital facilities, retain and increase staff, and provide health care services that are not currently available to the area.
The first health care facility to be approved for support through the program was announced in December. Pineville Community Health Center (PCHC) will use the funding to acquire medical equipment, supplies and staffing to improve health care in Bell County and the surrounding area.
“Hospitals are a cornerstone of rural communities and a key contributor to economic development,” said Gov. Beshear. “Our goal is to create a better Kentucky for all of our residents, and that starts by investing in one of the most vital pieces of infrastructure: our rural hospitals. This innovative loan program is the latest advancement in our work to ensure every Kentuckian across all 120 counties has access to the high-quality health care services they need, close to home. I look forward to seeing this program’s impact for generations to come.”
Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.