Speda ping, girdler, kelley

SPEDA board chair Brook Ping, left, listens as President CEO Chris Girdler, center, and County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley, right, discuss business. Kelley asked SPEDA to be a back stop for funding a the next phase of looking at bringing an Ag Expo Center to the area.

Pulaski County Government has dreamed for years of building an Ag Expo center in this area, and now with the backing of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA), that dream may be one step closer to reality.

On Thursday, SPEDA board members agreed to become the “back stop” for any potential investment into creating such a center, which could be used for cattle auctions, rodeos, concerts and other entertainment events.

A back stop means that an organization – in this case SPEDA – would guarantee a certain level of investment would be available in the case that no other investors come on board.

SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said that attorneys Frost, Brown and Todd have been asking for a $25,000 back stop, but that he believed he had negotiated that down to $10,000.

He also said that being the project’s back stop doesn’t meant they are not going to try to find other investors.

Girdler said that throughout the planning discussions for the center, both Kentucky Farm Bureau and the University of Kentucky Extension Office have participated in meetings.

“There might be potential if they see our community coming together to support this, they might want to join forces,” he said.

Girdler said that SPEDA’s involvement would be similar to its partnership with Dream Big Burnside, in which it agreed to put investment money into it up front.

“What we’re looking at now with this Ag Expo, if we move forward to an RFP (Request for Proposals) or RFQ (Request for Quotes), if no developer comes forward to absorb that cost, they’re looking for SPEDA, city, county, whoever that might be, to be their back stop, so they’re not out the entire amount of money. It’s a common practice,” Girdler said.

County Judge-Executive and SPEDA board member Steve Kelley said that the original feasibility study was done during the administration of former Judge-Executive Barty Bullock.

“The only thing lacking, they said, was that it’s not going to work if there’s no alcohol sales. Other than that, they said it’d be a great idea. Now we have that capability,” Kelley said.

Kelley said the county recently did a Request for Information on the project and received information from four potential companies.

“We’re at this point where to do the next step – the RFP/RFQ – I just feel like we’re almost over the hill, and I think this is something that’s going to benefit not only Pulaski County but also the city of Somerset. It’s going to impact tourism, its going to impact our hotels and economy in a big way. I think if we can find somebody willing to take the partnership I think its going to be a home run.”

Kelley ultimately made the motion for SPEDA to move forward, with all other present board members (board member and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck wasn’t in attendance, and board member Tina Hamm was joining via Zoom) voting in favor.

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