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Graves Economic Development president excited for 2019

Published Wednesday, January 2, 2019

sbyrne@mayfield-messenger.com 

Graves County Economic Development President Ryan Drane is looking forward to what he sees as a prosperous 2019 for Mayfield and Graves County. "I think what we're going to focus on is taking some of the momentum we established in 2018 and looking to apply that momentum to spur more growth in 2019," Drane said. One of the biggest announcements of 2018 came near the end of the year, when GenCanna announced in December it was building a $40 million hemp processing facility in Graves County. The plant is expected to provide 80 jobs. The company is close to closing on a property deal, Drane said, although its exact location has not been publicly announced. "They plan on breaking ground in February or March with a goal to be fully operational in October," Drane said. "We're really excited about that. That will bring a bunch of good-paying jobs to the community with a variety of skill sets." Besides the permanent positions, several construction jobs will be created as GenCanna seeks to meet its building deadline in time for the fall harvest. The company is looking at erecting several buildings on a 30-acre tract, Drane said. "Since they have a pressed construction deadline, there will be a lot of people out there working nearly non-stop to meet their deadline," he said. One of the reasons the announcement is so exciting is that it is very possible other associated industries will be interested in locating close by, Drane said. GenCanna uses the hemp flower to make CBD oils, powders and lotions. "The remainder of the hemp also allows us to attract other finished good manufacturers that utilize the plant," Drane said. "We're excited about the industry in general. What we want people to understand with hemp is you can utilize it for a variety of things, not just medicinal purposes but for plastics, car parts, flooring, insulation and fiber, clothing. There are hundreds of uses of the plant." The location of the plant in Graves County also means associated growth in housing and other areas, Drane said. "A lot of the people involved in the hemp industry are in other states or other countries, so for them to come to Mayfield and Graves County and make a sizable investment, it makes sense for them to want to live here," he said. "So we'll be working with housing development in the city and the county and working with them to call our community their home." Beyond GenCanna, Graves County Economic Development is also working in other avenues to move the county forward. An important one is workforce development. "That covers training existing employees," Drane said. "It covers finding jobs for those currently unemployed. It also covers finding and providing opportunities for those not currently in the workplace." He noted that 1,200 people who live in Graves County and were not participating in the workforce three years ago are now fully employed, either in Graves County or around the region. That's a number he wants to see continue to grow. One way of doing that is continuing to work with area educators, Drane said, naming off partnerships with both Graves County and Mayfield high schools, the area technology center, Murray State University, West Kentucky Community andamp; Technical College and the recently announced Sullivan University, which will be locating in the Mayfield Shopping Plaza. Drane said he is looking forward to working with newly elected Mayfield Mayor Kathy O'Nan in part because of her experience as an educator. "She has more than 30 years' experience working with our public school system, so she's going to be able to provide a critical link from what is being taught in our schools and the skills required for local employers." Bringing Mayfield and Graves County natives working outside the area back here to work is also something worth focusing on, he said. "One message that we really want to try to convey in 2019 is that Mayfield and Graves County are growing," Drane said. "The opportunities here are growing, and we really want for students who are in high school, for those that have maybe moved away to come and look at what opportunities exist here now. I think they will be surprised at the quality of positions and pay available in their own hometown." Another key initiative is property development, Drane said, something he intends to work on closely with Graves County Judge-Executive Jesse Perry. "In 2019, our organization is going to make every effort to make sure we have land available that has the right utilities for projects," he said. "We're also working on a program to partner with developers in constructing buildings that would be ready for potential companies looking at Mayfield and Graves County." Drane also stresses that moving forward economically is not about what is happening at the city or county level alone. Instead, he said, to attract jobs it is important to think regionally. "Announcements within a 60-mile radius of here have a positive impact on our community," he said, noting, for example, the purchase of the Wickliffe paper mill by Phoenix Paper likely means jobs for some people who live in Graves County. When the paper mill idled several years ago, he said, it had 46 Graves County residents who worked there. "These things are a big deal, and I celebrate with them whenever those things happen because I know they are really going to help everyone out," Drane said. "It's fine to be separated by county lines or school district lines when we're competing in sports, but when we're talking about jobs we don't need to have those lines."