CORBIN — On Monday, the Corbin City Commission approved a motion authorizing Mayor Suzie Razmus to sign a letter of support for a grant application on behalf of The Holler, a digital marketing agency located in Corbin.
Beforehand, Kevin Flora and Josh Coppock, co-founders of The Holler, gave a presentation to the board and asked that the city would act as a grant administrator for the grant. Because The Holler is a for-profit business, they are required to have a grant administrator to receive the money.
Flora explained that the bid was through the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) and that The Holler had originally applied for it a couple of years ago. However, they were turned down back then, but were informed earlier this year that some of the funds from the original grant were left over and that The Holler would be awarded nearly $600,000 if the grant was approved by the Secretary of State later this week.
The grant would help pay for coffee shop equipment, coffee roasting equipment, a 15-passenger vehicle, and renovations to the old dialysis center located at 500 South Main Street in downtown Corbin. The renovations would see the entire second floor of the building be used by The Holler, while the first floor would be split up to allow for various uses.
According to Flora, the first floor of the building is 4,750 square feet. A quarter of that space would be used as a manufacturing space, and an intake out take center for The Holler. The other three-quarters of the first floor would be used as a coffee shop/roastery as well as businesses incubator spaces for other local entrepreneurs to rent.
Commissioner Trent Knuckles voiced his concern, saying he didn’t want to personally be responsible for helping put other local coffee shops out of businesses because a competitor had received grant funds from the government.
“I just think that’s wrong, that’s not how capitalism is supposed to work,” said Knuckles. “If they get the grant, that’s fine, but I personally don’t want to be responsible for putting somebody whose put their blood, sweat, and tears into a business out of business. It seems wrong to me.”
Flora offered a rebuttal, saying the term “coffee shop” in the grant proposal was used loosely, and that they would itemize it further if the council felt it necessary. He also explained that the grant was originally a $1.5 million grant named the “Appalachian Coffee Trail.”
“That would include 10 coffee shops along the CSX railway,” said Flora, comparing it to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. “In 10-20 years if that railway were to shut down, we could start a tourism type train that starts in Corbin and goes to these other communities, that was the goal,” he added, later noting that Corbin’s already existing coffee shops could become apart of the Appalachian Coffee Trail.
When asked who would administer the grants on behalf of the city, Mayor Razmus explained that the city would hire a temporary, part-time, employee to do so.
Flora also made note that the money is distributed from the federal budget into the state budget before ultimately being transferred to the grant’s administrator. As a result, he said the grant would qualify as a state-funded grant, and would be allowed to act as matching funds for potential future federal grants the city may be interested in applying for.
“That’s something that we would be open to discussing as well with the city, is that if there’s another grant opportunity on the table for the city that we could be apart of, that we could look at this $600,000 as matching funds for some other grant effort,” said Flora.
After a few more minutes of the presentation, the item calling for Mayor Razmus to sign the letter of support came up on the agenda.
After nearly 30 seconds of silence, commissioner Brandon Shepherd set the motion to authorize and approve Razmus to sign the letter. Commissioner David Hart seconded the motion.
The motion passed 3-1 with Commissioner Trent Knuckles voting against the motion. Commissioner Andrew Pennington was absent from Monday’s meeting.