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Industrial park board faces 'mega' challenge

BY DAVID ZOELLERdzoeller@paducahsun.com

MAYFIELD - Well over 10 years after it was formed, and five years since it was designated a "megasite," the Purchase Regional Industrial Park in Graves County sits empty.

And, as they have since its inception, officials connected to the project continue to grapple with how to achieve the project's goal of bringing jobs to the region.

The park was formed in 2001. Through additional land acquisition over the next few years it grew to 2,200 acres. In 2009, the park was designated as a megasite, which was seen as a necessary step to attract a prospect such as an auto plant or other large industry.

Megasites typically target businesses that would require 1,000 or more acres and $500 million in investments and generate between 500 and 2,000 jobs.

Representatives of the eight participating counties - Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall, and McCracken - make up the board which owns the site.

Graves County representative Tony Goodman, who serves as board chairman, said the idea of attracting one large prospect was the original intent, one that may need to be re-examined.

"That (attracting one big prospect) was the reasoning," said Goodman. "It probably needs to be changed. I don't know to what extent. That's something we're going to work on in the future."

The board also will need to hire a manager or leader, since the departure of Bill Beasley, Goodman said. Beasley started with the project in 2001, left the organization, and returned a few years later as a consultant before leaving to pursue other projects.

"He's done a good job for us," Goodman said. "We need to find the next person to step up and get things going again."

The chairman said hopefully with the economy picking up, and a point person to lead a marketing effort, the project can go forward.

There are still challenges. While the board owns the land, and has leased a large portion as farmland to generate some income, estimates to build the needed infrastructure at the site have ranged from $40 million to $70 million.

Fulton County Judge-Executive David Gallagher, who along with other county judge-executives appoint members to the board, knows the estimated infrastructure cost for things like roads, rail access, water and sewer lines, electricity, etc., is a major hurdle.

"That's a huge price (for infrastructure)," Gallagher said. "I don't see that happening, somebody writing us a check (for $70 million)."

Gallagher agrees the megasite idea is "probably not as viable as it once was." He'd like to see the board rely on the economic development professionals who are already members, such as Fulton-Hickman County Economic Development Director Eddie Crittendon, whom he appointed.

"We really need input from our economic development people who understand the labor force and what's available out there (as prospects)," Gallagher said. "I'm in favor of it being successful. We just need to come up with a strategy, a direction to go in."

Chad Chancellor, Paducah Economic Development president/CEO, was appointed by McCracken County Judge-Executive Van Newberry. Whether the site ultimately attracts one large industry, two medium-sized ones, or any other combination, it has to be seen, he said.

"I'm not aware of a prospect in the last two years," Chancellor said. "It's one thing not to be able to win every prospect, but it's another thing not to have anybody come look at it. You've got to have prospects ... it's as simple as that."

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

Comments made about this article - 1 Total

Donald Frick posted on: Sunday, July 20, 2014 7:50 AM

Title: Industrial Park Board faces Mega challenge

Ethonal Plant===Corn Growing Area===Would Support Agriculture in Western Kentucky from Grower to Livestock Feeders{Poultry, Swine, Cattle, etc.}. Would Create Jobs and Support Industries.

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