West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative (WK&T) is making a push to purchase the former Mid-Continent University in Mayfield and turn it into a technology park.
The coop held a reading Saturday at the Graves County Fiscal Court as part of a Tax Increment Funding (TIF) requirement. TIF permits local governments to use temporary tax increases for economic development projects. The $40 million investment aims to develop the campus to a center for tech start-ups and skills training programs.
WK&T Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Huckeby says the project is in partnership with the Graves County Economic Development Office and state officials.
Huckeby said the project began with a desire to consolidate WK&T operations into one location, "so that we would all be operating under one roof. So with the MCU campus available, it was a really good opportunity to look at that." She said they also wanted to look at other opportunities to benefit Graves County and the surrounding area.
She said the plan was well received by local leaders. "It's very exciting I think to all of us to be able to look at something that happened with MCU a couple of years ago and had an impact on our economy here and be able to look at that area and come up with ways to make it beneficial to us to drive economic development here, to be able to have highly trained employees that employers are looking for."
The technology center could potentially offer opportunities for training or provide a location for entrepreneurs to launch ideas, she said. According to a news release, the site will be equipped with high speed internet access and a potential on-site solar farm.
"The classroom set up is there and available for other colleges to maybe have classes there, or it may be that corporations or companies want to have training sessions there where they want to bring in someone to give specialized training. We hope to have a community area, a corporate location where people can come together, training, commercial offices, things like that."
The TIF would be used to develop the campus. WK&T developed a conceptual design showing retail and commercial office space as part of TIF requirements.
She said consolidating operations helps streamlining WK&T for the future and will reduce overall operating expenses.
In a release, Mid-Continent University Vice President of Finance Tim Walker said, "Selling the campus to WK&T is an opportunity with significant potential. Creating a technology park would be a fantastic outcome that could drive this community's economic growth for years to come."
The 2,500-student private Christian school closed in 2014 after battling financial and accreditation issues. While MCU still has some business operations at the site, and has a provision for retaining the space until December 2017, the campus is otherwise vacant.
The purchase of the campus will be determined by court approval. MCU has filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of Kentucky to approve the sale. An additional TIF reading is expected later this year. A specific development project hasn't yet been developed. Huckeby stressed the project is still in the very early stages.
WK&T is a telecommunications cooperative offering internet and television service in western Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee.