Lincoln County invests in tri-county industrial project

Published 3:37 pm Thursday, June 22, 2023

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STANFORD – A tri-county industrial development project involving Lincoln, Garrard and Rockcastle counties has received support from the Lincoln County Fiscal Court.

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Magistrates heard from Jeff Vanhook, executive director of the Rockcastle County Industrial Development Authority during their May 23 fiscal court meeting.

Vanhook presented magistrates with information regarding a tri-county industrial development project.

“We’ve been working on this for a while, in concept, about regionalism and pulling our communities together,” Vanhook said.

The project would include Lincoln, Rockcastle and Garrard Counties. The three counties would form a special purpose government entity to purchase a 165-acre tract at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 150 and Hwy. 461 in Rockcastle County.

Vanhook said the workforce population for Rockcastle County is about 16,800; Lincoln County is about 20,000; and Garrard County has about 17,000.

“Individually it’s not a big number but when we get collectively together, we approach that 60,000 workforce number and then with the logistics of Rockcastle County being about two-and-a-half miles off of the interstate and then the opportunity to buy it at 50 cents on the dollar is where this really makes economic sense for us all,” Vanhook said. “We’re talking about an investment of about $1.6 million but we’re going to get 50 percent of that back which allows us to do infrastructure work and things like that. A bigger goal in mind is, you know, revenue-sharing is something that a lot of communities have never really thought about how to do that.”

The land purchase totals $1,524,000 with an additional $77,600 for due diligence costs including engineering, geo-tech services, environmental and archeological surveys. The final total is $1,602,000.

Each of the three counties would be responsible for one-third of the costs which totals $534,000.

“In this situation we’re doing something that’s outside of the box but we’re doing something that doesn’t matter whether it’s in Lincoln County or Rockcastle or wherever, we know that our people who are paying taxes that we’re going to be spending are going to benefit one way or another,” he said.

Vanhook said 6,500 people leave Lincoln County every day to work and pay occupational taxes in other counties.

“We get no benefit out of that,” he said. “But if they’re driving to Mt. Vernon and this industrial site, you’ll get your share of it.”

Garrard and Rockcastle Counties applied for grant funding from Kentucky Product Development Initiative (KPDI) grant funding to match the costs of the project, which is $801,000 and the tri-county SPGE will jointly receive the benefit of that funding.

The Stanford/Lincoln County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) has agreed to apply for matching funds to develop two build-ready sites at the Rowland Industrial Park, so the Fiscal Court will be making the investment in the tri-county project.

According to County Treasurer Mary Hopkins there is potential for a second round of KPDI funding that could be used for purchasing another 30 adjoining acres.

“The financial benefit for each county is that the SPGE would be a taxing district that would collect an agreed upon occupational tax rate from the developed businesses within the area,” Hopkins said. “The revenues would be divided between the three counties for as long as there are jobs in the area.”

Hopkins said in the worst-case scenario the county would invest in land that is being reimbursed 50 percent by grant funding that could be resold if agreements were to fall through.

Vanhook said it’s making an investment with the end-game being a return on dollars and there is very little risk to loss as demand for industrial property in proximity to I-75 and rail siding capabilities are becoming a scarcity.

“We’re doing it collectively but we’re marketing our region and we’re showing the state that we’re willing to work together and that’s going to give us additional interest,” he said.

It’s a project that’s been in the making for years, according to Lincoln County Judge-Executive Woods Adams.

“This is just another step in getting to where we’re able to have opportunities for economic growth and booms…” Adams said.

A board with equal representation from each county will be formed, he added. Each county Judge-Executive will serve on the board, along with two other appointees from the county.

Lincoln County Fiscal Court magistrates appointed Jeff Ralston form the Lincoln County Industrial Development Authority and Magistrate Dan Gutenson to serve on the tri-county board alongside Adams.

“The support in Rockcastle, it’s already passed and we’ve got everything we need done. Garrard, the IDA has their funds so they’re able to do it but they’re going to get the support from their fiscal court. Basically, Lincoln is the last piece to put it together,” Vanhook said.

The industrial park is located at the corner of Ky. Hwy. 461 and U.S. 150 in Mt. Vernon.

“That’s probably one of the busiest intersections in the state of Kentucky,” Vanhook said. “There’s 5 million people that go to Lake Cumberland every year, 4 million of them coming through there. When you talk about high visibility exposure…”

The property includes 165 acres and 96 acres of the property have already been cleared for previous farming, he added.

“Two and half miles from the interstate, power runs right through the back end of it, sewer is on the front, water is within 600 feet,” Vanhook said. “The utilities are already there.”

The property also has the ability to reconnect to a railroad.

“Our communities working together, we’ve created a different vision of what we have before and it’s a thing about people don’t have to live in our community to work here. Just like I said, we have 6,500 people in Lincoln County that go other places and we let them collect their taxes. if we got the industry here, what’s the difference in them coming here and leaving their tax money for us, because that’s going through our parks systems, our school systems…,” he said.

Vanhook said the best way for the local government to create revenue is through the occupational tax.

“We can raise property taxes 30 million dollars and make maybe $15,000 but if we create $5 million in wages, that’s $75,000,” he said. “It’s creating jobs. When we create jobs, we’re lifting our communities up.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity, a hedge opportunity investment for us, in looking toward the future and having growth as far as revenues go and job creation,” Adams said.

Magistrates voted to commit up to $600,000 to the project.

Magistrates Joe Stanley and David Faulkner both agreed it was a positive project for Lincoln County.

“Regionalism between Lincoln, Garrard and Rockcastle is going to be the most critical thing we do,” Faulkner said. “We can’t run government alone anymore. We have to have a coalition of three counties to make it work. This is the start of a great relationship that we’ve needed for a long time.”