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By: Amy Charles |
July 25, 2022
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced a $4.4 million competitive grant awarded to the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) by the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). The university plans to utilize the grant to support the construction of the new UPIKE AgTech Innovation Center of Excellence. The project aims to promote job growth by bringing innovative industry to the area while enhancing educational opportunities for UPIKE students. The grant will be matched with $5.75 million in local funds.
In partnership with the City of Pikeville, the EDA grant involves a lease agreement between UPIKE and the city, allowing the university to use nearly 14 acres of land at the Kentucky Enterprise Industrial Park at Marion Branch in Pikeville for the construction of the agtech research and education center. Bringing together the public and private sectors to create economic development only furthers the relationship UPIKE President Burton J. Webb, Ph.D., has forged with the city to strengthen the regional economy.
“Like our partners in the City and in industry, we are committed to the ongoing economic development of the region,” said Webb. “High-tech agriculture and indoor growing are industries that are exploding throughout the region. The UPIKE AgTech Innovation Center of Excellence puts Pikeville on the high-tech agriculture map and will enable us to grow with this innovative industry.”
Expansion of the university along with announcements of large donations and grants are born from the vision of UPIKE’s leadership, together with the diligence of Vice President of Advancement and Alumni Relations David Hutchens and his dedicated team. Hutchens anticipates a ripple effect from the full realization of the project to provide a boost to the job market and help diversify the economy.
“UPIKE is honored to have been selected to receive this competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Completion of the UPIKE AgTech Center of Excellence will be a catalyst in promoting growth for a new industry in the region that is beyond our imagination,” said Hutchens. “This endeavor will attract new partners to the area with an end result of much-needed job creation. We are excited to be at the forefront of such an exciting opportunity for the region.”
The facility will include a greenhouse, classroom space, laboratory and offices to lead high-tech agriculture research efforts that aid the industry’s continued development and long-term viability while supporting increasing worldwide demand for food production. Once completed, the project will contribute to entrepreneurial and business development strategies for Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia, as well as the education of the next generation of the agricultural industry workforce.
The total ARP funds announced for investment in Eastern Kentucky was $8.5 million. ARP funding enables the EDA to provide more transformational investments across the nation while utilizing its greatest strengths, including flexible funding to support community-led economic development. This EDA investment is funded by ARP’s $300 million Coal Communities Commitment, focused on supporting coal-reliant communities and helping them create new jobs and opportunities through the expansion of a new industry sector.