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Photo: Kentucky Cabinet For Economic Development

U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Governor Matt Bevin today announced a $2.55 million Abandoned Mine Lands Pilot Grant to restore and enhance the Portal 31 Exhibition Mine and create a scenic overlook and parking area at Black Mountain.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands awarded the grant to Harlan County Fiscal Court as part of the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot Program to revitalize the coalfields in Kentucky’s Appalachian region.

The project will involve refurbishing the electronics and controls of animated figures, upgrading audiovisual systems, lighting, and control functions of the Exhibition Mine Tour, and fixing drainage in the exhibition mine tunnels and making structural repairs to tunnel roof structures.  In addition, adjacent mine areas will be cleaned to accommodate a new walking tour and an additional mantrip vehicle will be purchased.

The Black Mountain portion of the project will create a new parking area with a scenic overlook, which will lead to a new walking trail that will take visitors to the overlook at the summit of Black Mountain – the highest natural point in Kentucky.  A proposed 40-foot –high observation tower will provide a scenic view of Kentucky and Virginia.

The Lynch Bathhouse/administrative building adjacent to Portal 31, will be renovated to increase office space. The renovation also will provide space for a planned dulcimer factory and other crafts, a planned coffee roasting company, and enlarge an existing mushroom growing operation.

Congressman Rogers and Governor Bevin announced the grant Thursday at Benham Schoolhouse Inn, Benham, KY.

“We need to tell our story and celebrate our history in Eastern Kentucky on a larger scale, and this grant will highlight the rich heritage of coal production and the beauty of our mountains in Harlan County,” said Congressman Rogers, who has championed $80 million in federal funding for Kentucky through the AML Pilot Program since 2016, alongside U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“We need to cultivate our tourism economy on a broader spectrum by improving and marketing the qualities that make our region so unique, like Portal 31 and the highest point in Kentucky on Black Mountain. Thanks to the hard-working and resilient people of Harlan County, the future for our rural economy looks brighter every day.”

In addition to the AML Pilot Grant, the project has received $650,000 local/in-kind funds. When completed, it is expected to create 20 new permanent jobs and increase visitors to Lynch, KY and the surrounding area by 40 percent.

“When it was built more than 100 years ago, Lynch was the largest coal camp in the world, and the newly-announced resources will help restore and preserve this unique part of Kentucky’s history,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a key negotiator in securing the funding for this program.

“In addition to its benefits for the local tourism industry, the Portal 31 Exhibition Mine displays both the historical significance and natural beauty of Appalachian coal country. I proudly join Congressman Rogers in strong support of the AML Pilot grants to encourage economic revitalization and new jobs to Eastern Kentucky, and I look forward to the success of this project.”

“This significant AML investment will enhance tourism and economic development opportunities in Southeast Kentucky,” said Gov. Bevin. “These grant funds will enable Harlan County to showcase to visitors the region’s rich mining history as well as the scenic natural beauty of Black Mountain — the highest point within the Commonwealth.”

Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely said restoration of the mine tour is worthwhile because, not only does it draw upon Kentucky’s rich mining culture, it shows how the region is transforming itself.

“I am pleased that this Cabinet is able to be a significant part of the region’s recovery through this grant,” Secretary Snavely said.

The AML Pilot Program, funded through the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), is a joint effort by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the Department for Local Government, the SOAR Initiative in Eastern Kentucky, the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and the Energy and Environment Cabinet, Division of Abandoned Mine Lands.

Photo: Kentucky Cabinet For Economic Development

Kentucky received a 2017 Gold Shovel award from Area Development magazine, recognizing the commonwealth’s success last year attracting corporate investments that create jobs and grow the economy, Gov. Matt Bevin and the publication’s editors announced earlier this week.

The honor, a first for Kentucky, follows the recent announcement that, in only five months of 2017, the state shattered its all-time, full-year record for corporate investment.

“This Gold Shovel award brings additional national attention to the fact Kentucky is a serious economic development contender, both in our recent achievements and for what we have in the pipeline,” Gov. Bevin said. “We’re making changes to improve Kentucky’s business climate by cutting red tape, revolutionizing our workforce development and building our reputation internationally as a top choice for engineering and manufacturing projects, tech investment and service-related businesses. We’re honored to receive this award and are moving forward with focus and urgency to bring investment and new jobs to communities across Kentucky.”

The annual Shovel Awards by Area Development, a leading trade publication, recognize state economic development agencies that drive significant job creation through innovative policies, infrastructure improvements, processes and promotions that attract new employers and investments in new and expanded facilities.

Area Development invited each of the 50 states to submit information about its top-10 job creation and investment projects initiated in 2016. Based on the number of high-value-added jobs per capita, amount of investment, number of new facilities and industry diversity of the 10 submitted projects, Kentucky qualified for the Gold Shovel award among states with populations between 3 million and 5 million. The top-10 projects and associated job creation figures are listed here and a full report of 2016 corporate investment is available here.

“The states and communities receiving 2017 Shovel Awards have compiled impressive lists of new and expanded facilities,” said Geraldine Gambale, editor of Area Development. “They have found the right recipe for success and deserve to be recognized for winning high-impact economic development projects.”

Commenting on Kentucky’s award, she noted “the state’s economic growth is broad-based, as evidenced by new projects under way in a diverse range of sectors, including automotive, distribution, biotech and food processing.”

Terry Gill, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development secretary, said he expects the performance to continue throughout this year.

“This Gold Shovel award not only highlights policy achievements at the state level, but also recognizes the dedicated work of our Cabinet staff and our partners,” Sec. Gill said. “Without enthusiastic participation from regional, county and city economic development organizations, the state’s business community, utilities, non-profits and educational institutions, the recent successes that drew this award and those that are propelling our current record-breaking performance wouldn’t be possible.”

Kentucky previously received Silver Shovel awards in 2007 and 2011–2016.

A full review of this year’s Gold and Silver Shovel award winners will be published in the Q2/2017 issue of Area Development and posted online at www.areadevelopment.com in early June.

This year’s corporate investments in Kentucky – at nearly $5.8 billion – already topped the 2015 record of $5.1 billion.

Those investments also put Kentucky on pace this year to create the most new jobs in a decade. To date in 2017, more than 9,500 new jobs have been announced. And the numbers for both jobs and investment are increasing daily.

Kentucky’s low costs of housing, innovative workforce-training and pipeline programs, and its ideal location within 600 miles of 60 percent of the U.S. population all make it a top choice for new business locations and expansions.

Nineteen interstates and highways, major rail networks, barge traffic on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, five commercial airports and dozens of regional airports all serve Kentucky businesses. As well, electricity costs for industrial use are nearly 20 percent lower than the national average.

Kentucky holds a leading position in air cargo capability, offering the UPS Worldport and Centennial ground hub in Louisville, DHL Americas hub and Amazon Prime Air in Northern Kentucky and several large FedEx facilities throughout the state. This strong distribution logistics presence allows products to move anywhere in the world virtually overnight.

The commonwealth’s geographic advantage as a gateway between the Midwest and South, make it an ideal location for engineering and manufacturing operations including steel and aluminum-related operations. A strong automotive, appliance and aerospace presence – including factory systems designers and integrators – provide new and expanding businesses with ready sources of raw materials, finished components, expertise and customers.

Other core and high-growth sectors include food and beverage production – which encompasses the bourbon and spirits industry – technology, healthcare research and development and chemicals and rubber production.

Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at ThinkKentucky.com. Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion on Facebook or follow on Twitter. Watch the Cabinet’s “This is My Kentucky” video on YouTube.

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