Officials with the South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council said they should get word by November or December on whether the group will receive a grant that could help construct a spec building to be located on a pad-ready site in the city's Commerce Park.

"It would be for us to market to potential clients," noted Mark Lindsey, the council's executive director, following a regional board meeting of the council on Monday, as he explained how the planned facility would be utilized to benefit economic development in the region.

The recent board meeting took place at Pennyrile Electric in Hopkinsville.

Lindsey said the grant funds being sought for the building are from a Product Development Grant available through the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and the Kentucky Association for Economic Development, which advocates for economic growth in the state.

He noted that the grant can be for anywhere up to $500,000, and Lindsey said the local economic development council has just applied for those funds. He said the local community was among 48 across the state that applied for the Product Development Grant.

Of those initial 48, 23 were selected for site visits by state officials, including Christian County, and the director noted that state officials were complimentary of the community.

Afterward, they observed how knowledgeable local officials were of their industrial parks, they were impressed with a "top-notch" site visit, and they liked what they described as a detailed grant application that was one of the most professional they've ever seen.

Lindsey also noted that the Tennessee Valley Authority has invested in the spec building, and if that agency has, it's likely the state economic cabinet and the association will as well, he said.

The council's board members also on Monday discussed the impact of hemp in the region.

Member Lee Conrad, presiding at the meeting, credited Hopkinsville Mayor Carter Hendricks with an idea to have a roundtable meeting with ag leaders in the region regarding hemp.

"We're always looking at what sets our county apart, what sets our region apart," Conrad observed, pointing to hemp facilities in both Trigg and Christian counties and one local ag leader, Wayne Hunt of H&R Agri-Power, who has talked about vertical integration and hemp. Such a concept allows a company to control more than one level of the supply chain, and it has been utilized with corn as well as wheat crops, Conrad noted during the board meeting.

He described the current interest in the hemp industry as something that is exploding rapidly, and Conrad said both Hendricks and the economic development council director believe that officials in the region should do everything they can to capitalize on hemp at the moment. The council scheduled the roundtable session on hemp for 10:30 this morning at the Hopkinsville-Christian County Chamber of Commerce offices on Fort Campbell Boulevard.

Lindsey also pointed to the upcoming Industry Appreciation Luncheon and noted that 173 had said they would attend that event as of earlier this week; the luncheon will feature Vivek K. Sarin, the interim secretary for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, as speaker.

Presented by the local economic development council, the luncheon is set for 11:30 to 1 p.m. Oct. 23 at the James E. Bruce Convention Center at 303 Conference Drive in Hopkinsville.

It is free to industry members, and cost is $25 for non-industry guests. Those planning to attend should reply to Sharon Butts at sbutts@southwesternky.com or 270-350-2014.

Lindsey noted that some 200 industry and community members typically attend.

In other business at Monday's council meeting

• The council approved minutes from its August meeting as well as its financial report.

• The executive director noted that last week's Pride of the Pennyrile Industry Appreciation Event was good, with lots of industries on hand to network with each other. Some 90 people played golf during the event, which took place Thursday at Lake Barkley State Resort Park.

• Lindsey said Butts, the council's associate director, will travel to Dallas for an upcoming trip, but he said a marketing trip to Michigan is postponed, with officials instead hoping to have another trip, a "good, solid marketing trip," within the next couple of months.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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