Thursday’s monthly meeting with the board from the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) produced updates on the proposed Ag Expo center and the Veterans Park, as well as a few tantalizing glimpses of some brand new projects that haven’t been firmed up yet.
Chris Girdler, president and CEO of SPEDA, gave a few new facts about the possible agricultural expo center being headed by Pulaski County Government and County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley.
Kelley had given his part of the update Tuesday at his “State of the County” speech held during the Somerset-Pulaski Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
There, Kelley said that the deal for it was “close to getting done.” He said the center would hold events like livestock shows, concerts, tractor events and more.
Girdler explained Thursday where the blame in the delay of moving forward lay – and it was primarily with the COVID-19 pandemic.
SPEDA helped the county in 2020 by issuing a Request for Information (RFI).
Girdler said the response was less than stellar.
“Quite simply, we didn’t receive any formal responses whatsoever. Couldn’t have been a worse time to do something like that,” Girdler said.
However, during that time they did receive several informal responses, and so local leaders didn’t give up on the plan
After talking with the Kelley and several people within the agricultural community about three months ago, Girdler said SPEDA decided to reissue the RFI.
This time, Girdler said, “We have received multiple inquires, but three to four very serious inquiries,” one as recently as yesterday.
Those three to four serious potential groups say they will submit formal applications. The deadline for the RFI is June 30.
Girdler also explained that the request was open for whatever plan those groups are willing to submit.
“Basically, it’s open-ended, where these particular interested parties will bring to us what they envision as a way in which to accomplish our goals,” Girdler said, meaning they could propose an arena with a 5,500 seating capacity or a 2,000 seating capacity, or anything that they felt was appropriate.
They could also propose the best financing options or list private entities that might want to operate the venue.
Girdler said he hoped to have an update at the July SPEDA meeting.
Girdler also discussed possible plans on the horizon for Windstream. He said he had spoken with executives of the communication company who said they were interested in participating in the Veterans Park project.
And speaking of that project, Girdler said there has been a delay in getting final financial numbers from the engineers.
They are two or three weeks behind because they had to wait for the existing buildings of the property to be torn down before they could get true estimates on water drainage and other aspects of the land makeup, Girdler said.
The park is planned to go at the corner of North Main and Oak streets in downtown Somerset.
As for projects that are planned to be announced soon, Girdler said he would be meeting with leaders at TTAI in the next week with an eye on coordinating a 25th anniversary celebration.
TTAI, the car part manufacturing plant located on Ky. 461, technically had their 25th anniversary last year, but Girdler said they were unable to hold a celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Girdler said the hope is to hold a celebration in October, which is Manufacturing Month.
Then, Girdler cryptically mentioned another project that he said the details were being finalized for – a mural that would not be located in the downtown area.
Girdler simply said the name “Jordan Justice,” the artist who painted the murals on the side of the Chamber of Commerce building and the former Food Fair building, now home to Charred Oak Grill and the Be You Boutique.
“This [mural] will be at a location that will have tremendous visibility on Lake Cumberland,” Girdler said.