There were some excellent developments reported out of Rowan County this past week.

The first was the groundbreaking of the Independent Stave Company's new Commonwealth Cooperage. The second was the announcement that the AppHarvest project in Morehead is advancing with its plans to construct a 60-acre greenhouse as part of a major sustainable agriculture project. These are both worth noting because both have the potential to offer employment to residents from across the region. Both projects will need sizable labor forces to make it all happen.

First, the Independent Stave effort. The company broke ground on their Commonwealth Cooperage, which is expected to create 220 jobs. This represents a $66.5 million investment. The new cooperage will be near the Morehead-Rowan County Airport. The facility will produce white oak barrels for the bourbon and whiskey industries. In the last four years, ISC has opened two stave mills within the state, Benton Wood Products in Marshall County and Morehead Wood Products off Cranston Road in Rowan —a 120-employee operation with a more than $11 million investment. We state the obvious when we say the bourbon and whiskey industries are big-time job creators for the Commonwealth. This is an amazingly positive development.

Also, the AppHarvest project continues to move forward in Rowan County. AppHarvest is quite intriguing by any measure. AppHarvest is a Kentucky-based AgTech company that wants to change the way America grows food.

“We’ve got to find a way to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible,” said Jonathan Webb, the company’s president and CEO, during a recent appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Yes that's correct. An agricultural startup in our region is drawing national media attention from the likes of 60 Minutes. AppHarvest is looking to build one of America’s largest greenhouses off KY 801 North. They also plan to launch a series of education partnerships to turn the region into the country’s “AgTech capital.” They have lined up funding from Silicon Valley. The goal is to mass produce local, healthy produce using far less natural resources than traditional ag.

“Growing indoors, using artificial lighting to maximize yields, while also putting the water directly to the roots of the plants,” said Jonathan Webb, the company’s president and CEO. “We need 80 to 90 percent less water than open-field agriculture. We’re able to grow year round because of the controlled environment.”

How cool is that? The project is expected to create 280 jobs. This past week AppHarvest said the company has selected Netherlands-based Dalsem to build its 60-acre greenhouse. In other words this project keeps moving forward.

Cumulatively that is a combined 500 jobs. That is approaching the number of jobs the Braidy project has floated at EastPark Industrial Center. 

This is great news for Rowan County. We say thank you for these investments in these projects. We also say we look forward to a bright future of success for Commonwealth Cooperage and AppHarvest.