There were some excellent developments reported out of Rowan County this past week that we felt the need to share with our readers here in the Tri-State.

The first was the groundbreaking of the Independent Stave Company's new Commonwealth Cooperage. The second was the announcement that the AppHarvest project in Morehead is advancing with its plans to construct a 60-acre greenhouse as part of a major sustainable agriculture project.

First, the Independent Stave effort. The company broke ground on their Commonwealth Cooperage, which is expected to create 220 jobs. This represents a $66.5 million investment. The new cooperage will be near the Morehead-Rowan County Airport. The facility will produce white oak barrels for the bourbon and whiskey industries. In the last four years, ISC has opened two stave mills within the state, Benton Wood Products in Marshall County and Morehead Wood Products off Cranston Road in Rowan —a 120-employee operation with a more than $11 million investment. We state the obvious when we say the bourbon and whiskey industries are big-time job creators for the Commonwealth. This is an amazingly positive development. We congratulate the ownership of this company, the economic development leaders in Rowan County and the state for making all of this happen. State tax incentives are involved in making it all work.

Also, the AppHarvest project continues to move forward. AppHarvest is quite intriguing by any measure. AppHarvest is a Kentucky-based AgTech company that wants to change the way America grows food.

“We’ve got to find a way to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible,” said Jonathan Webb, the company’s president and CEO, during a recent appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Yes that's correct. An agricultural startup in Rowan County is drawing national media attention from the likes of 60 Minutes. AppHarvest is looking to build one of America’s largest greenhouses off KY 801 North in Rowan County. They also plan to launch a series of education partnerships to turn the region into the country’s "AgTech capital." They have lined up funding from Silicon Valley. The goal is to mass produce local, healthy produce using far less natural resources than traditional ag.

"Growing indoors, using artificial lighting to maximize yields, while also putting the water directly to the roots of the plants,” said Jonathan Webb, the company’s president and CEO. “We need 80 to 90 percent less water than open-field agriculture. We’re able to grow year round because of the controlled environment.”

How cool is that? The project is expected to create 280 jobs. This past week AppHarvest said the company has selected Netherlands-based Dalsem to build its 60-acre greenhouse. In other words this project keeps moving forward.

So why are we in the Tri-State so closely following what is going on in Rowan County? The most obvious reason is there is great potential for people in Carter, Greenup and Boyd counties to find work at these projects. It is also possible that, if these projects are successful, resulting growth will potentially impact Boyd Carter and Greenup counties. Yet another huge reason is the fact that successful economic development and job growth models in America increasingly require a strategic regional approach, i.e. county lines are irrelevant. What is relevant is what the region can offer potential employers as a whole whether it be its workforce, infrastructure, natural resources or incentives.

What is good for Rowan County and all of Eastern Kentucky is good for the Tri-State because we are all in this together.

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