Eleven projects business and industries announced Wednesday as part of a Graves County Economic Development event will produce more than 160 new, full-time jobs now, but the potential is for far more.
"The potential job count could be hundreds or thousands," Graves County Economic Development President Ryan Drane said, noting that two of the announcements are for speculative buildings to be marketed to manufacturing and industrial development prospects.
The announced projects represent more than $115 million in new investments. GCED and its business and industry partners announced them in an event at Graves County High School's Independence Bank Performing Arts Center.
Drane said he was grateful the businesses were willing to join together and "make a statement about the future of Graves County."
State Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, said the announcements were impressive, especially when he saw the final figures. He also thinks it bodes well for the future.
"It just looks like it brings the focus back to Graves County for other industries that are looking," he said.
Hemp manufacturer GenCanna announced that instead of a roughly $39 million investment, its project on U.S. 45 near Hickory has grown as plans have become more refined and developed.
"We are pleased to announce this morning that GenCanna will actually invest over $60 million in what will be the first tangible commercialization of the hemp industry in the United States," GenCanna chief operating officer Richard Drennen said.
The building project remains on track for the first phase to open in time for the fall harvest, he said, but it was not without cost. The company spent $1 million on soil stabilization measures after a particularly wet February and March. Displaying a picture of company representatives gathered with shovels at a ground-breaking ceremony, Drennen said, "We broke ground in mid-February on a facility on Highway 45, and if you think that in this photograph that those people are sane, you'd be wrong. We are building in eight months a project that should take about 18."
Last week, the company began erecting tilt-up concrete panels that are 50 feet tall. The panels are poured on-site and lifted into place with a crane to create the building's walls.
"By the end of the month, the whole building shell will be up," Drennen said. "It's pretty remarkable."
The company now has more than 20 family farming partners growing hemp and hopes to contract with even more farmers.
"That represents about 4,000 acres, and we're just getting started," he said.
Drennen showed renderings and discussed how the building will accommodate eight farming partners at a time dropping off their freshly harvested hemp, which the company turns into CBD oil. GenCanna markets CBD oil for non-prescription pharmaceutical uses, producing oils, creams and powders geared toward immune support, sleep support and muscle and joint support.
"Hemp will be stored here," Drennen said. "It will be dried. It will be ground. It will be separated, and then it will be processed for distribution temporarily back to our other plant back in Winchester, but when the second and third phases are completed, we'll do all that under roof."
The building is the first hemp building in Kentucky approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and is believed to be the second approved nationwide, Drennen said. He promised strict adherence to industry regulations, including manufacturing products that are kosher, vegan and comply with international standards.
"We now have 220 employees," Drennen said. "We're spending a lot of effort in food safety and that sort of thing to make sure, so we're leading the industry in compliance."
Commissioner Sandy Dunahoo of the Kentucky Department for Local Government held a special presentation announcing Graves County is the recipient of a new $1 million community development block grant to aid GenCanna in its growth. GenCanna will use the funds to lease equipment. When the lease is repaid, Graves County can utilize those funds for future economic development projects, Drane said.
GRACE COMMERCIAL PARK
Grace Commercial Park plans complete cleanup of concrete rubble and what developer Brad Youngblood called dilapidated buildings at the former General Tire plant on U.S. 45. The park is planned to offer mixed-use development of between 5,000 and 500,000 square feet and perhaps even larger, he said. It will also include a new 30,000 square foot speculative industrial building, which will be marketed to potential tenants. The building is expandable up to 60,000 square feet and is located within an area the federal government has designated as an opportunity zone, which allows additional incentives for investors.
In addition, Youngblood said the park is currently negotiating and planning an additional 100,000 square foot facility at the park with hopes of construction late this summer.
"Our hope was to replace this nearly 2,000-job loss when General Tire left," Youngblood said. "We want to replace those. We knew this would be a challenging but worthy project."
The company has already assisted in locating D & D Shoe Company, ACE Compressors, LSK Incorporated, Tindal Truck Sales and Sellars Automotive Service, he said, creating roughly 160 new jobs and more than $10 million in new investments.
"We have only scratched the surface of this potential for this site," Youngblood said.
Additionally, Ron Parks of First Choice Kubota announced Wednesday he is opening a Kubota dealership on eight acres in the commercial park this fall, on the north end of the property, where the former General Tire parking lot once was. The development represents a more than $2 million investment between real estate, infrastructure and equipment, he said.
First Choice, which has its headquarters in Union City, Tennessee, has four locations currently and bought the Horizon Lawn & Tractor Kubota dealership in Hickory in September. It has already doubled the staff, but the space is not big enough, he said, and the company plans to be one of the first new tenants in Grace Commercial Park and to double its workforce again once located in the park.
"We will be maintaining that Kubota line and adding to that line of products, focusing heavy on agriculture, construction equipment as well as the consumer products you're all familiar with," Parks said.
Youngblood said to expect to see a lot of work quickly at the site.
"We have made astounding progress in a short amount of time," he said, referencing the creation of a tax increment financing district that he said will help expedite the cleanup and development of the site. He said the business has also applied for grants that, if awarded, will increase the scope of work. Grace Commercial Park has also completed much of the required engineering for the utilities, site development infrastructure and more.
"This partnership means you will see immediate progress and cleanup and redevelopment of this property," Youngblood said.
He talked about building partnerships with city, county and economic development leaders that he said will lead to lifting the community up. He also said he believes that later this summer, driving north on U.S. 45 from Mayfield, community members will see more growth than they have ever seen in Graves County.
"In the early '60s, with the announcement of General Tire, this same property was the site of one of the largest industrial projects around, and it will be again," he said. The work will include demolition of out-of-date utilities and construction of commercial and industrial build-ready lots including all new utilities and roadways, Youngblood said.
MANUFACTURING SPEC BUILDING
Graves County Economic Development President Ryan Drane announced construction will begin this month on a 100,000 square foot manufacturing spec building to be constructed in the Hickory Industrial Park.
"This will be marketed to manufacturing companies across the United States and internationally," Drane said.
It will be the largest spec building west of Interstate 65 in Kentucky, he said, with walls 33 feet high at the eaves so it can accommodate many different types of manufacturing facilities. The building will be expandable to 200,000 square feet or more and have 10 truck docks. Economic developers are partnering with the Tennessee Valley Authority on the facility.
MCP PACKAGING TECHNOLOGIES
Mayfield Consumer Products is investing an additional $2 million in Mayfield for the construction of what MCP chief executive officer Troy Propes called a sister company, MCP Packaging Technologies, Propes announced in a video played at the event.
"This is an environmentally-friendly company that uses waste newspaper and waste cardboard to create packaging from pulp," he said. "While the largest demand is going to be from our candle company, we will be diversifying and selling those products to other companies around the region."
The construction is in addition to $14 million in expansions within Graves County that MCP announced within the past year.
Propes congratulated the other businesses making announcements Wednesday and said he hopes they will continue to work together to meet common challenges.
"I think we must all work together and collaborate on how to handle things like the labor challenges that not only our community faces but the rest of our country faces, and as we start to attract great talent to our community, how do we retain them in Mayfield, Kentucky, instead of those people residing outside of our city? I look forward to working with not only you but our community leaders in that task."
Progress Rail is planning $1.7 million in facility upgrades, including a locomotive paint booth and an extension of track at the facility.
The company prepared a written statement, which Drane read at Wednesday's event.
"Mayfield is an integral part of the strategic network of more than 200 Progress Rail locations around the world, Drane read from the statement. "Engines rebuilt at the Mayfield facility are in service on every continent, and many of today's top railroads are modernizing their fleets through work completed in Mayfield, Kentucky."
The company said that after witnessing growth in its locomotive remanufacturing efforts, Progress Rail identified opportunities to upgrade its Mayfield facility.
"Today, we are pleased to share those upgrades are becoming a reality," Drane read. "The company will include a state-of-the-art locomotive paint booth in Mayfield and place additional track around the facility to support its latest locomotive work for an investment of approximately $1.7 million."
• Ingram's Water & Air Equipment is adding a 28,000-square-foot facility onto its existing 78,000-square-foot facility, a $1 million investment. It includes a state-of-the art production studio along with warehouse space and more than 20 new full-time jobs, general manager Dan Lazarevic said.
He added that Ingram's is already looking toward the future, as well.
"In four years, we're looking to possibly have our own manufacturing facility in Graves County as well, and we're looking to be around 200 to 250 employees on top of what we have right now," he said. "That's our long-term goal."
• Jackson Purchase Medical Center and Trifecta Real Estate will open a medical clinic, Jackson Purchase Primary Care Clinic at Hickory Pointe, at the entrance of the Hickory Industrial Park, hospital CEO Dave Anderson and Trifecta Real Estate partner Tom Waldrop said. It will provide medical care to the companies and employees in the park as well as northern Graves County.
Jackson Purchase Medical Center began looking at opening rural health clinics after the closing of Parkway Regional Hospital in Fulton in 2015, Anderson said. It opened a clinic in Hickman in 2015, one in Fulton in 2017, and Tuesday it held a ribbon-cutting for a new clinic in Clinton, Anderson said. He said he hoped the Hickory facility is a great big presence on U.S. 45 and reminds people Jackson Purchase Medical Center is committed to the Graves County community.
•Pearson Safety Services, which specializes in professional services and corporate training, plans to consolidate its western Kentucky operations by locating an office in Mayfield, company representative Justin Jackson said.
• Dianne Owen of The Four Rivers Foundation announced the development of new mobile Individual Learning Plan software to help students connect with education, internship and career opportunities. The software will be available to Mayfield and Graves County students beginning in middle school to help them to determine their best education and career paths.
• The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is moving toward completion of Ky. 80 from Cuba Road to Interstate 69, creating a four-lane southern bypass around Mayfield. A pre-construction meeting on that project, budgeted to cost roughly $14 million, was held Tuesday, said Kyle Poat, chief district engineer for the transportation cabinet's district 1 office, covering the westernmost counties in Kentucky. Construction is expected to begin this summer and conclude in 2020, he said.
Chris Kuntz, KYTC's branch manager over project development, said when the project is complete U.S. 45 and the west end of the new segment of Ky. 80 will intersect at a normal, four-way traffic signal, eliminating traffic problems that currently exist when attempting to navigate between U.S. 45 and I-69. Kuntz nicknamed that current intersection "malfunction junction."
Additionally, the I-69 Wingo interchange is in the design phase and should be ready for construction in about two years, Poat said. That will take I-69 to the Tennessee line.
"We have a bi-state agreement with Tennessee to take care of the interchange that would be at the Tennessee line," Poat said. "We've got another project, too, that we're currently in the design process, to fill in the gap from mile marker one there on the parkway back up to Mayfield."
The state previously spent $65 million upgrading interchanges in Mayfield and in the Calvert City area so that the former Purchase Parkway could be federally designated as part of I-69.