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Purchase Area Development District Celebrates 50 Years

Matt Markgraf

‘Regional consent’ was on display in the Paducah Convention Center Monday as local officials and community stakeholders gathered for the Purchase Area Development District’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. 

Few remained seated as PADD Executive Director Jennifer Beck Walker called upon the different groups and public entities who work with the organization to stand in recognition of the spirit of unity. “This is the group of people that work together everyday to improve the quality of life for the residents of the Purchase area through planning, programs and partnerships and I sincerely thank you for your work,” Walker said.

Walker said she once heard regionalism defined as “an unnatural act among non-consenting adults” but said she believes that after 50 years, PADD “has finally reached the age of regional consent.” 

Walker said when PADD was founded in 1969, the Economic Development Administration funded the organization with a $39,000 grant that was matched 25% by local governments. She said the budget is now $10 million. 

Walker said PADD expends that funding toward services helping senior citizens and people with disabilities to remain independent, identifying unsafe roads that need upgrading, finding funding for water and wastewater system improvements, helping the unemployed and underemployed find jobs, helping with small business loans, supporting economic development through grants and project administration, helping to alleviate food insecurity and working on other issues with local governments. 

Congressman James Comer, the event’s featured speaker, said, "The great thing about this region is the fact that the judges and the mayors and the economic development directors and the chamber people get along really well.” He added, "We need to bring you to Congress for a few days to give us a lesson on civility and things like that." 

Comer said ADDs are particularly important for rural communities that don’t have the budgets to individually employ grant writers or administrators for different programs that receive state and federal funding, yet can benefit from the pooling of resources provided by the ADD. 

On the notion of regionalism, Comer said a new business coming into the Jackson Purchase benefits every county in the region. “You can’t have Calloway County compete against Marshall County for everything,” he said. “They have to work together and accept the fact that anything is a win. Anything that comes into a community is a win. If we have an infrastructure investment on Interstate 69 or Interstate 24, that’s a win for Murray, Kentucky, even if the interstate doesn’t go through Murray, Kentucky.”

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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