Votes are in, and the name for the River County Economic Development Project has been chosen. WAVE, or the Western Kentucky Alliance for a Vibrant Economy, will serve as the acronym for a four county collaborative effort to restore job loss and increase development in Fulton, Hickman, Carlisle and Ballard Counties.
An art contest to determine a logo will be held between high schools in the region until the end of September.
The online votes for the name were announced Thursday at the Carlise County Courthouse as well a tentative agenda for the upcoming October 24-25th “Confluence.” The first annual event scheduled to utilize panel discussions to streamline a strategic plan towards utilizing one of the river counties’ most valuable resources, the Mississippi River.
WAVE is a response to the recent expansion of the Panama Canal, a project that is expected to increase river traffic significantly. The new group, founded by the Judge Executives of the four counties, wants to capitalize on the projected change and bring new jobs to the region.
“We have lost two tire plants, Ingersoll Rand, USEC, now the paper mill, every big plant that we have around is gone. So we have got to find some other way to survive,” said Carlise County Judge Executive Greg Terry.
Project advisor Jonathan Miller said several initiatives to increase development in the region will be considered, currently the opportunity to bring a new terminal to the area tops the list.
Judge Terry said the group is studying the benefits of another regional terminal potentially located at the former Verso Plant site in Wickliffe.
If private dollars are not garnered to support the idea, Miller said the group will seek alternatives.
“Ultimately the market is going to decide if we build a new terminal, so we are really going to count on the private sector to determine whether this makes sense or not,” said Miller.
The Eagle Rest Plantation, a 534 acre farm donated to Murray State University by Ballard County district judge Jimmy Don Robinson will be considered an asset in furthering the core mission of WAVES economic development initiative. MSU foundation president Bob Jackson and Hutson School of Agriculture Dean Tony Brannon are both members of the WAVE project advisory committee.
Miller says pending approval from the state Department for Local Government Friday morning the newly created West Kentucky Regional Riverport Authority will have its first meeting to vote on positions and set up a legal structure for future public private partnerships to invest in projects.
An early priority of the group was to establish a mulit-county port authority to oversee potential projects, the board of directors:
Representing Ballard County and Wickliffe: Mayor George Lane and Charlie Martin
Representing Carlise County: Judge Executive Greg Terry and David Rambo
Representing Fulton County: Former Judge Executive David Gallagher and Lynn Major
Representing Hickman County: Judy Stephens and Bruce Kimball.
More than 100 local leaders have participated in focus groups and implementation committees and their work will be elaborated on at the October Confluence, according to Miller.