Grants totaling $1.9M awarded to county projects

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Harlan County had a monumental Monday as officials went to Frankfort to accept and speak on the total $1.9 million Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) grant money awarded to two big projects inside the county.

In September, Judge-Executive Dan Mosley announced a $153,000 grant awarded to the Harlan County Fiscal Court and Harlan County Economic Development Authority to go toward the construction of a natural gas line to the state-certified build-ready site in Cumberland, known as the Harlan County Business Park.

“I asked you to keep the faith and say a prayer that additional grant funding would be dedicated to this transformative infrastructure project so that it could come to fruition, as that $153,000 would only be a portion of the funds needed. Our prayers have been answered,” Mosley said.

On Monday, Congressman Hal Rogers and Gov. Andy Beshear announced Harlan County has been selected to receive a $1.5 million Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot grant to fund the construction of the natural gas line to the build-ready site and adjacent property.

Mosley said 90 percent of companies that are new or are expanding require natural gas availability at the site they select.

“[Monday’s] announcement now guarantees the funding necessary to get this utility to this terrific site, so that we can achieve our ultimate goal of landing a company or companies that will create good paying, long-term, sustainable jobs,” he said.

“Economic Development isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Companies don’t fall out of the sky. We need jobs and we’re going to do our part to make sure that all necessary infrastructure is in place to make us as competitive as possible to bring them here.

“Keep the faith and say a prayer that companies will recognize these investments and choose to come to our county and provide Harlan County hardworking folks a chance to live the American Dream right here in our own backyard.”

For more information on the Economic Development Authority’s work with the Fiscal Court and private-sector partner One Harlan County, visit www.harlancountyeda.com.

“I appreciate the work of our EDA, the One Harlan County Board, along with our Fiscal Court and state and federal officials who share this vision to bring our county to a competitive level and provide hope for our people,” Mosley said.

A second AML project was also announced by Rogers and Beshear on Monday for an organization working inside the tourism industry in Harlan County.

Backroads of Appalachia, founded and directed by Erik Hubbard, was selected to receive $400,000 to develop a welcome center in Lynch, expand parking for motorcycles and expand their efforts in bringing motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts to Harlan County to drive the scenic Dragon Slayer Hwy 160 across Kentucky’s highest mountain — Black Mountain.

“We witnessed an influx of visitors last year, and with the events they have scheduled this year, combined with the end of the pandemic, I’m beyond excited to see their efforts grow even more in 2021 and beyond,” Mosley said.

Hubbard said the awarded grant money left him speechless but proud he and his team of locals are able to give back to the community and bring people into the region.

“It’s not about us. It’s about bringing people into places like Harlan County to stay and explore the beautiful area we call home,” he said. “If it weren’t for the locals and their support, we wouldn’t be here”

In one year, Dragon Slayer Hwy 160 has reached over 14 million people online, drawing in around 12,000 visitors to Harlan County and the region. Because of the boom in tourism dollars, nine new businesses were able to open.

The welcome center in Lynch has also employed five individuals, some of which are drug-transition workers sculpting a better life for themselves while serving their community.

District 3 Magistrate Paul Browning III said the grant for Backroads of Appalachia is a monumental leap forward for the county and region.

“These AML grant funds will enable our county to start seeing a real future beyond coal,” Browning said. “The funding provided today by Congressman Rogers and Gov. Beshear will enable our county to focus on our assets and really move us forward.”

For more information on Backroads of Appalachia and their work in Harlan County, find them and their Dragon Slayer Hwy 160 pages on Facebook.