MOREHEAD, KY (STL.News) On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear toured AppHarvest’s flagship high-tech indoor farm in Morehead for the first time and spoke about the company’s success as it transforms Kentucky’s economy while creating good-paying jobs and providing fresh, sustainable produce to the Eastern United States.
“From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, experts with an eye on the future are watching AppHarvest as it redefines how we feed a growing world along with how that world views Kentucky’s Appalachian region,” the Governor said. “This innovative company is forging a path toward a future of well-paying jobs in the growing agritech industry. This is especially good news for Eastern Kentucky as we work to break free from the pandemic and embrace our place as leaders in the post-COVID economy.”
Gov. Beshear was joined Tuesday by Rocky Adkins, his Senior Advisor, and Jonathan Webb, AppHarvest’s founder and CEO.
The Governor noted that he has wanted to visit previously but had delayed the trip several times to reduce travel during the pandemic.
“This visit is a long time in coming. We wanted to be here in late October, when this amazing facility became operational,” he said. “We wanted to come out when AppHarvest broke ground on two more facilities, both in Madison County. We wanted to be here just a few weeks ago when the first AppHarvest tomatoes were harvested, boxed up and sent out to groceries.”
Gov. Beshear also noted the company’s successful debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange just last week, with Webb and other company leaders ringing the exchange’s opening bell.
“There is a lot to celebrate, and we are happy to finally be here in person to say, ‘Well-done! Congratulations! And, thank you!’” the Governor said. He added that the successful rollout of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will make travel more viable as more activities slowly return to normal, although he noted vaccinating Kentuckians will take time with the limited supply from the federal government.
The company on Tuesday also announced an expansion of its educational high-tech container farm program, which places the units at Eastern Kentucky high schools.
“We knew long before opening our Morehead farm that we wanted to invest in the region to help grow our growers and build on the many outstanding community and education programs focused on building a more resilient Appalachian economy,” AppHarvest’s Webb said. “That’s core to our belief that we’ll build America’s AgTech capital right here and why we launched the container farm program at Shelby Valley High School years before we even opened our flagship Morehead farm. The technology in each unit is a good example of what our employees use every day on a larger scale.”
During his visit, Gov. Beshear highlighted the fact that the Morehead facility already has shipped more than 1 million pounds of sustainably grown tomatoes across the Eastern seaboard. He said a key part of AppHarvest’s vision goes beyond its own success, as the company aims to boost the entire region’s economy and fortunes.
“AppHarvest represents a new spirit in the commonwealth, a new optimism as we emerge from this pandemic battle-tested and ready to sprint forward,” he said, noting that company hopes to attract other businesses and investments to the area. “We already see the green shoots from this emerging. When Toyota Motor Company set up in Scott County in the mid-1980s, few could imagine the number of jobs and the economic activity, both directly and indirectly, that would flow from that one plant. We see the same path for AppHarvest and others: investments that will grow over time into powerhouse economic engines for our state.”
Webb joined Gov. Beshear at the Capitol in Frankfort in June to announce an international agreement with 16 other partner organizations, including the Dutch government, another critical step forward in the Beshear administration’s effort to make Kentucky the agritech capital of the world.
Also last summer, Gov. Beshear established the Governor’s AgriTech Advisory Council as part of his effort to make Kentucky a global leader. The council includes leaders in state government and local government, education and the business and labor sectors in the commonwealth. Members convene periodically to meet with the Governor and advise him on matters relating to the agritech industry.
More information about Kentucky’s opportunities in the industry, success stories in Kentucky and the state’s unique assets that make it an ideal agritech hub can be found at https://agritech.ky.gov. The site lists a number of development programs offered by the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy and the Cabinet for Economic Development and provides information on Kentucky’s higher education institutions that offer research centers and academic departments in agriculture and engineering. Outlined on the site are several development programs to assist agritech businesses, including loans, grants, tax credits, seed capital investments, matching state funds and export support.
In his Better Kentucky Budget, Gov. Beshear proposed the Emerging Industries Fund, which is designed to provide flexible resources targeted to Kentucky’s future economy and developing technologies in agritech. By incentivizing these sectors, Kentucky will be more prepared to succeed in the post-COVID economy.