SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler, standing at right, presents a development proposal for the new SPEDA Commerce Park off East Ky. 80 with some assistance from Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.

SPEDA Commerce Park is a step closer to becoming a reality.

Last month, city and county officials joined SPEDA (Somerset Pulaski Economic Development Authority) President and CEO Chris Girdler in unveiling a sign for the 142-acre property, formerly known as the Garner Property in the Pine Hill and Barnesburg Road area, just off East Ky. 80. As of July 13, the property has also been annexed into the City of Somerset.

“That will help us in many different endeavors,” Girdler said, “but in particular, with utilities and things of that nature, that we’re going to need for industrial recruitment.”

During their August regular meeting on Thursday, the SPEDA board accepted a bid from Stanford-based AGE Engineering to develop the industrial park. 

AGE — in partnership with Weddle Enterprises, Solid Ground Engineering, DECO Architects, Eclipse Engineering and the Kentucky Archeological Survey —  was the low bid of two submitted. At $1.011 million, the Phase I proposal would create an entrance to the park off East Ky. 80 as well as develop two 50,000 square-foot pads. 

“We felt this would be the best proposal,” Girdler said. “We loved how they broke it down into phases for us to evaluate…They also took into consideration how we did not want to encourage any heavy industrial traffic on Pine Hill Road.”

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, one of the board members who served on the panel reviewing proposals, added he felt the phases as submitted by AGE would bring SPEDA closer to finishing out the whole property and put the organization in a better position when applying for grants. The board has already applied for a $3.6 million Abandoned Mine Land grant and plan to submit an application for a $500,000 Product Development Initiative grant through the Kentucky Association for Economic Development by the end of this month.

The other bidder, Lexington-based MSE of Kentucky in partnership with Jave LLC, submitted a $1.826 million proposal.

The vote for AGE was approved by a 5-0 margin with Vice Chair Michelle Allen not in attendance and Chair Brook Ping joining member Ron Pfaff in excusing themselves from the discussion due to each having at least one prior tie to the companies submitting bids. 

“When we get done here, we’ll have a nice, beautiful pad ready to roll and get everybody’s attention,” Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley said after the vote.

Echoing Keck’s comments about grants, Girdler noted that if SPEDA can turn the first two lots around quickly, it will help fund the development of the rest of the property.

In other business, the board:

• approved advertising an RFP (request for proposals) for an inaugural audit covering the organization’s first year and a half, February 2019 through June 2020.

“While we are not required by any law or anything of that nature to actually have an audit performed, we feel it is good practice to do that,” Girdler said, adding that the intent is to get a full audit every 2-3 years with a review of financial statements in the interim. “I think it’s good to establish that base line, that foundation from which we can operate and then that sets the precedent for future audits and bookkeeping practices.”

SPEDA Secretary-Treasurer Seth Atwell added that a full audit would also assist as the organization moves forward in applying for grants. “There’s value from this down the road,” he said.

• heard a presentation about the former Blackboard facilities at Valley Oak Technology Complex. The company still employs some 400 Pulaski Countians, according to Girdler, but the COVID-19 pandemic sped up their plans to move to a work-from-home model. With the Valley Oak lease expiring last month, Girdler added that the property will be placed on the market for sale or lease.

“Obviously that does impact our budget,” he said of losing Blackboard as a tenant, “but on the flip side, those jobs are still here.”

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