We went in-depth recently on Rowan County's economic development fortunes and the arrival of AppHarvest.
First, AppHarvest Founder Jonathan Webb documented how the agricultural startup is building a massive approximately 65-acre greenhouse near I-64 off 801 north in the Sharkey area. The project is expected to bring 280 full-time jobs.
The goal is to grow produce that can be shipped across the eastern seaboard and the nation from right here in Eastern Kentucky. Doing so will decrease the area's reliance on produce imported most often from Mexico and California.
“We've seen produce imports nearly triple south of our border,” Webb said. “Four billion pounds of tomatoes were imported from Mexico last year. We want to see that production come home and become regional.”
The operation will rely on captured rainwater and a controlled climate approach to growing. An early investor in AppHarvest is Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. The fund is managed by AOL Co-Founder Steve Case and best-selling author J.D. Vance and is backed by more than 30 iconic business leaders, including Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and former Google Chair Eric Schmidt. Equilibrium Capital has made an all cash investment. The project was originally projected at $82 million. It is north of that now and is expected to come in under $100 million.
The state and local governments have helped out with a $1.9 million new road on the horizon.
This is the latest positive development for Rowan County. The county is also the site of a new cooperage facility by Independent Stave Company, expected to create 220 jobs. Quite a bit of this has happened under the radar -- with a ton of attention going to Braidy Industries in EastPark Industrial Center, Rowan County has nearly 500 jobs planned between two projects. Quite the accomplishment.
We think this project AppHarvest project is a brilliant idea with huge potential. Think of the impact it will have on the environment, growing produce like this locally as opposed to shipping it in. The other part of the project we love is that it is new and fresh, literally, in the form of entrepreneurship that has the potential to be both green environmentally and a long-term job producer.
We congratulate Rowan County on their success. We also encourage all local entities to see if these ideas can be replicated -- or enhanced upon -- in Boyd, Carter and Greenup counties.