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July 17, 2014

‘Barbourville wants business,’ West tells town hall meeting

BARBOURVILLE — Barbourville’s mayor wants his city to grow jobs.

And during Tuesday’s town hall meeting, he suggested a good way to start would be to establish an economic development council.

The idea of forming what would be the Barbourville Economic Development Council came to Interim Mayor Darren West, when he was looking at ways to raise money for the city.

“The city can be a business. You’ve got to see something that you can go after,” West told an audience of around 20 persons at the second of what he called “Barbourville Town Hall Meetings.”

In addition to recruiting businesses to the Barbourville, West added the city could provide tax breaks as incentives to get and keep them in town.

Saying the recent success of the Knox County Farmers’ Market helped get him interested in growing the economy, West wants the economic development council to look at “agri-economics.”

He noted one way is for local farmers and merchants to sell and promote their products through the Farmers’ Market, which could lead to other opportunities for growth.

Taking a page from the county’s history book, West also mentioned the Barbourville-Knox County area was largest grower of industrial hemp back in the 1940s, and encouraged it to be grown again today.

One person in the audience agreed with what the mayor said.

“Economic development makes a lot of sense. At one sense, having people responsible for it, and coordinating our efforts helps out. Give people information on what they can do, where they can go. We don’t make an effort on what’s available. Let peole know what’s coming ahead of time and coordinate everything,” said newspaper publisher Jay Nolan.

West mentioned the city signed a letter of interest for a federal grant Tuesday, which would involve putting a permanent Farmers’ Market location with a pavilion in Barbourville. He added the city’s looking at 3-4 locations for the site, with one site being the City Parking Lot, behind Mitchell’s.

The grant application mentioned the city is looking at renewable energy sources for the site, which would involve using materials such as solar panels.

He stated the present Farmers’ Market site in the Paul Baker Law Office parking lot near U.S. 25E has seen a dramatic increase in business since the market opened in mid-June.

“We’ve gone from nine to 39 vendors in one month, and hundreds of people at the market,” West commented.

Tuesday’s town hall meeting was at the District Courtroom of the Knox County Courthouse. The Mayor said it give citizens who don’t normally go to the regular Barbourville City Council meetings a chance to attend, get updates on past and present actions made by the city, and to give feedback on city issues of the day.

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