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UPIKE-USDA announce $40 million partnership

September 24, 2014 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
On behalf of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien has announced a $40 million Community Facilities direct loan to the University of Pikeville to construct a new facility to house the Kentucky College of Optometry.

“Comprehensive investments in health care and education have a tremendous impact on regional economies like Eastern Kentucky,” said O’Brien. “We are making these strategic investments now to have a positive impact on Kentucky’s future.”

The new program will be the first college of optometry in the state. Describing the Kentucky College of Optometry as the “birthplace of rural optometry,” University of Pikeville President James L. Hurley expressed appreciation for the USDA’s commitment to the region.

“UPIKE and the USDA successfully partnered on the Coal Building, a $32 million facility that houses the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine,” said Hurley. “This new investment will provide opportunities on many fronts, including education, health care and economic diversity. With our nationally recognized medical school, and now a college of optometry, we are establishing an integrated health care model for rural medicine.”

The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities program, State Director Thomas G. Fern noted.

“USDA invests in projects such as the college of optometry because they not only create jobs, they are essential to improving the quality of life for rural Kentuckians,” Fern said. “Community Facilities projects are vital for the creation and maintenance of strong rural communities. Rural Development is proud to assist such a worthwhile project that will provide tremendous economic, medical and educational benefits to the region and the state.”

The new facility is part of a strategic plan to upgrade educational services in Central Appalachia. The project’s estimated $52 million cost includes a $5.5 million applicant contribution, $3.7 million in private donations, a $1.5 million Appalachian Regional Commission grant and a $1.3 million Department of Commerce grant.

“This facility is going to change the landscape of Pikeville once again, bringing health care, opportunity and jobs,” said Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn. “This institution is the catalyst to help carry us where we need to be. We are excited to be the conduit to allow the funding to come through.”

The University of Pikeville is located in Pike County, which is part of the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity. The project at the Kentucky College of Optometry is one of many being highlighted by the SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) initiative, which was created to boost economic development in Eastern Kentucky.
From left, Hurley, O’Brien, Fern and Blackburn.

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