County contributes funds to EDA to buy railroad property

Published 9:39 am Saturday, October 7, 2023

The Fiscal Court agreed to contribute $340,000 for the Economic Development Authority to purchase 83 acres of Norfolk Southern Railroad property at their meeting on Sept. 26.

The land acquisition project is to help spur economic development. Since the money was not in the county’s budget, the $340,000 will come out of reserves.

The EDA is an agency for public land acquisition, formed in 2021 as a partnership between Boyle County and the City of Danville. Members include representatives from the city, county and the Danville Boyle County Development Corporation.

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DBCDC representative JJ Harris explained that in February, the EDA was awarded a $744,000 state grant from the Kentucky Product Development Initiative for the project, which the EDA has to match.

The KPDI is a new statewide effort to support upgrades at industrial sites to help Kentucky continue economic growth. It’s a collaboration between the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Kentucky Association for Economic Development, and includes $100 million in state funding for upgrades of sites and buildings.

Local governments and economic development organizations can apply for funding for infrastructure improvement projects that will lead to economic development opportunities and job creation. The maximum funding is $2 million per county per project.

This is the EDA’s first major land-acquisition project. It started the application process in September 2022.

The EDA comes up with a concept for the project, finds the land, prepares the land, then markets it for companies. Harris said the land could eventually bring hundreds, if not over 1,000, jobs to the county.

The first grant portion of $744,000 is a reimbursement match for buying the property. Phase two of the grant will provide additional funds of up to $2 million for improvements to the site.

Harris said the EDA wants to secure the land by the end of the year. Then they will have to do some surveys and engineering because the land is part of a larger parcel. There’s three different road access options that they can survey to determine the best fit, and they will likely improve utilities.

“What this will provide is community-owned property for economic development; we will have rail access, which we do not have through the Industrial Foundation or any other public access land for economic development,” Harris said. “We as a community own and control it; there’s no profiteering, this is totally public money that’s going for public control and access. Anything gained will be for the community’s benefit.”

He said their hopes are for the property to be an intermodal transportation logistics facility, essentially a place for companies to get access to railroads, roads, the bypass, truck shipping, etc.

“Logistics is very needed in all aspects of economic development, whether it’s industrial or it’s just warehousing operations,” Harris said. “It is a very good income-producing opportunity and they do create a lot of jobs.”

The county is committing $340,000 as a required match for the grant, and the City of Danville is contributing the same amount. The rest of the grant match and other fees, like the application fee and engineering fees, will come from money that the city and county have already given the EDA.

“The 83 acres can support at least a half-million square foot building or a building complex,” Harris said. “Once those are full, the end product would be multiple buildings, expanded tax base, and lots of employment.”

Magistrate Tom Ellis had concerns about them building any spec buildings on the property, since they don’t know that specifications companies might need. Harris said they would most likely not go that route.

“I can build a building today with 10 foot ceilings and 100,000 square feet; and somebody will come in tomorrow and say I need 75,000 square feet with 28 foot ceilings,” Harris said. “I would not ever recommend building at this point a spec building, it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Magistrates agreed that the project will benefit the entire county.