Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman county's governments are splitting an $84,000 economic study aimed at bringing jobs back to the Mississippi River-bordering counties of western Kentucky.
The closure of the Verso paper mill in Ballard County is hitting the region hard. Carlisle County judge-executive Greg Terry says the mill was his county’s biggest employer and that the Mississippi River counties are commissioning the study to determine the best way to rebound.
“You take in the construction jobs that were in there and the local business jobs around, you’re getting on up into the hundreds for each one of us," Terry said.
Terry says he had hoped the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization, or PACRO, would take on some of the cost of the study.
“The more we grow, that’s definitely going to help them, so I didn’t feel out of line by asking PACRO," Terry said. "They didn’t take it too well. They didn’t feel that was what it was created for.”
PACRO’s mission is to help mitigate the economic impact of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant’s closure. Terry is on PACRO's executive board and will also be a part of a new five-person committee that will determine how to spend money generated by selling off PGDP’s assets.
PACRO board member and Murray-Calloway Economic Development Corp. president Mark Manning said this new committee was created in reaction to Terry's request for funding and will address the lack of a defined process on how to spend those funds. Manning said it will meet for the first time soon. In addition to Terry and Manning, the committee will include Paducah Economic Development CEO Scott Darnell, Mark Cauley of Ballard County and McCracken County judge-executive Bob Leeper.
The river counties' study is being conducted by public affairs firm CivicPoint and should be complete in the next few months. Carlisle, Ballard, Fulton and Hickman counties are all paying $21,000 each for the study, which will seek the public’s input and explore all possible economic development avenues, not just the Mississippi River.