Columbus Belmont Park, home of the Confederate anchor, will host WAVE Confluence October 24-25.
UPDATE: Governor Bevin has agreed to be a speaker at the WAVE conference.
WAVE, (West Kentucky Alliance for a Vibrant Economy), the effort by four Mississippi River Counties for jobs and attention, is planning a two day "confluence" at Columbus-Belmont Park October 24-25th.
WAVE has been working toward this conference since it was formed in the spring. The confluence planned is strongly reminiscent as the large multi county meeting in Eastern Kentucky two years ago. Over 1500 participants showed up at the SOAR conference. SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region, enjoyed the support of Congressman Hal Rogers and former Governor Steve Beshear. SOAR encompasses 45 counties of Eastern Kentucky, a region that has attracted federal attention because of its stubborn poverty. Eastern Kentucky remains one of the poorest, least healthy region of America.
Consultant Jonathan Miller said in a press statement that over 100 local leaders have participated in meetings since the project was initiated in the spring of 2016. Four county judges- Carlisle County Judge Greg Terry, Fulton County Judge Jim Martin, Ballard County Judge Vicki Viniard and Hickman County Judge Kenny Wilson contracted with Miller and his firm to lead their effort to take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal. Predictions of increases in shipping up and down the Mississippi River cruising past the four Kentucky counties got saliva flowing in the mouths of hungry local officials.
Each of the counties has suffered losses in population and jobs over the past ten years. Ballard was the most recent victim, losing the lucrative Verso paper mill that once employed 1000 workers. Losses of factories that hired local workers like the Goodyear Tire factory continue to reverberate. Job losses in Mayfield and Paducah deeply affect these small rural counties. The closing of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant involved a large group of Ballard County workers. Fulton County is beginning to climb out of the doldrums in employment statistics. Until recently, Fulton led western Kentucky in double digit unemployment.
The four judges are hoping that one of their counties will get a river port that has sufficient capacity to be a stop for goods going up the River from New Orleans and a port of call to ship out the agricultural products that are the backbone of the region. Row cropping corn, wheat and soybeans occupy thousands of acres in the four counties.
Fulton County has a port at its county seat, Hickman. The Port is a relatively small facility requiring yearly dredging to remain viable. Ballard and Hickman Counties both have repair facilities on the River, Hickman's at Columbus and Ballard at Wickliffe.
A four county Port Authority has been established with former Fulton County judge David Gallagher as its chair.
WAVE is seeking corporate sponsorship to put on the meeting. Miller says that leaders from across the state will be invited to the two day event.
For more information, contact Jonathan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org 859-619-6328