Governor Beshear visits London with funding announcements

Jan. 24—Continuing the momentum that London and Laurel County has set economically over the past few years, Governor Andy Beshear visited Highlands Diversified to praise their expansion and presented checks to four organizations to further their missions.

Beshear was in London on Tuesday to first tout Highlands Diversified's expansion to their facility that will create over 100 more jobs.

After a tour through the auto parts manufacturing plant, Beshear said it was through the dedication of employees that continued to allow companies to grow and extend their realm of employment for future generations.

"Your work has been so good that this company has chosen to expand, not once but twice. This is an expansion and you don't have an expansion without a good work force. Every area of our state deserves the best education, the best opportunities," Beshear said. "The biggest companies in the world that said they didn't have our number are calling us now.

"Bringing in more jobs will inevitably make the lives of Kentuckians better," he said. "I appreciate this company. If this company leaves a footprint, it should be right here in Kentucky."

Beshear added that the legislature is in session and one goal is to give educators an 11% raise, including every person working in the public school system.

In an exclusive interview with The Sentinel Echo, Beshear said Tennessee had just given 10% pay raises to public school employees and that Kentucky needed to raise its pay to ensure that the children receive the best possible educational opportunities available. Pay raises, he said, would provide the assurance of teachers, bus drivers, custodians and other staff.

However, with school districts already strapped to provide necessary services, pay raises could be financially devastating to many school districts — with Beshear stating that money would be allocated from state funds to provide those raises.

He also touted Pre-K education, which would prepare children for Kindergarten.

"Half of our students were not prepared for Kindergarten," he said. "A Pre-K program would also assist with childcare. Many parents can't afford to pay for childcare and this would assist them."

Beshear also addressed the housing shortage, stating that grants for affordable housing were in the works. He added that money is available for such programs and that efforts to alleviate the housing shortage — and provide affordable housing for limited income and elderly.

A stop at the Laurel County Courthouse culminated with four check presentations, where Beshear addressed some other issues that has spurred economic development and growth in rural areas of the state.

"For the first time in my life, Kentucky is a destination. We are re-writing our past and our future and how we are seen throughout the United States and ultimately how these international companies look at us," he said. "We've had the best four years in our economy. We've had $28 billion in private investments, we already have 151,000 new jobs."

Beshear said continued investment in infrastructure would take Kentucky from the 40th spot in the country to Top 10.

"There was a time when we said the jobs were going to urban Kentucky than rural Kentucky," he said. "But not now. More than 50% of jobs were coming from outside the urban areas. This is our chance to make sure that we are not just shovel ready, we are build ready."

The check presentations, he said, will help us resurface roads that our families use every day, increase reliable high speed Internet, support access to cleaner water and support economic development in this area.

"While we live in a hyper-partisan society, where they try to make everything about Team-this or Team-that, or red or blue, the things people wake up thinking about are not partisan at all," Beshear said. "They think about the school their kids are going to, they think about the roads and bridges they're going to drive on that way. Whether they can make enough money to support their families, or afford to take their kids or their parents to a doctor when they're sick. How far that emergency run is. That is what matters most to people each day."

Beshear added that while he may not always be successful in having legislators listen to his ideas, but that the people of the state can voice their concerns. Through those measures, Kentucky can set its place even higher in economic development and the future of the state.

Projects receiving funding Tuesday include:

—Discretionary Transportation Funding — Gov. Beshear announced that $125,000 was awarded to the Laurel County Fiscal Court to resurface more than a mile of Buffalo Branch Road and $175,000 to resurface more than 2 miles of Buffalo Road. These roads have greatly deteriorated in the last few years to the point where the postal service is complaining about their condition. The Laurel and Jackson county school systems also expressed concern for the safety of the children using buses. The roads run in both counties.

—High-Speed Internet Access — Through the Better Internet Program, the Governor presented over $1.1 million to Charter Communications to connect 448 homes and businesses in Laurel County to high-speed internet. The company will also contribute nearly $2.5 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment in this community to more than $3.6 million.

"I'm grateful to serve as a voice for London and Laurel County in Frankfort. The funding awards, a small part of our achievements, highlight the city, county and region's progress," said Sen. Brandon Storm of London. "Thanks to colleagues in the Kentucky General Assembly and partners like Charter-Spectrum, available funds prioritize crucial infrastructure — including 21st century infrastructure like broadband."

—Kentucky Product Development Initiative Award — As part of the Kentucky Product Development Initiative funding announced in March 2023, Gov. Beshear presented an award for over $1.5 million to the Laurel County Fiscal Court to support a project that will create a 105,000-square-foot building to attract new business in London.

—Cleaner Water Program — Gov. Beshear celebrated $3.8 million to utilities in Laurel County from the Cleaner Water Program. The funding will go to the following projects: $794,383 to the East Laurel Water District to install waterline and upgrade a pump station; $792,300 to the West Laurel Water Association to install new waterline along Kentucky Highway 552, Topton Road and Rooks Branch Road; $786,585 to the Laurel County Water District #2 to replace aging waterlines; $738,968 to the Wood Creek Water District to install waterline and fire hydrants on Hawk Creek Road; $527,068 to the London Utility Commission to replace a sewer main that serves homes near Kentucky Highway 363; and $164,103 to the Corbin City Utilities Commission to improve its sewer system.

"The funds announced today will all make life better for the people of Laurel County," said Laurel County Judge/Executive David Westerfield. "We always appreciate the state's support and will keep working to build a brighter future for our people."