Gov. Matt Bevin and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced Thursday that FarmedHere, the country’s largest and longest-running vertical farm, will locate a year-round indoor farm and food processing facility in the West Louisville FoodPort, creating 40 jobs with a $23.5 million investment.
The economic development project was one of three released by the Governor’s Communications Office.
“Agriculture is one of the Commonwealth’s signature industries and we are excited to welcome a company that will help us build upon that success,” said Bevin. “FarmedHere’s unique approach provides an opportunity to boost Kentucky’s local produce output and distribution. We are pleased to welcome FarmedHere to Kentucky and anticipate their fruitful partnership with the West Louisville FoodPort.”
FarmedHere plans to lease 60,000 square feet in the FoodPort for its vertical farming operation and use half the space for up to 10 rows of vertically stacked grow beds. The company will dedicate the remaining space to sorting and packaging leafy greens and processing herbs and other plants for inclusion in salad dressings, baby food and additional value-added products.
The facility’s location will help FarmedHere quickly deliver freshly harvested, USDA-certified organic and pesticide-free produce. FarmedHere also plans to hire veterans and second-chance employees including refugees and ex-offenders.
“Louisville is an ideal location for a FarmedHere vertical farm as it enables us to deliver healthy, local, organic produce 365 days a year to the approximately 18.2 million people living within a 200-mile radius of the city,” said Matt Matros, CEO of FarmedHere. “We are thrilled to partner with Seed Capital Kentucky, the West Louisville FoodPort, the state, Governor Bevin, Mayor Fischer and Louisville Forward as we work to make this new facility a reality and give back to the Louisville community.”
“FarmedHere’s sustainable practices and compassionate hiring policy make it an ideal community partner in west Louisville,” Fischer said. “The addition of this innovative company to the West Louisville FoodPort affirms our commitment to giving every citizen an opportunity for a healthy lifestyle by making locally grown food easily accessible.”
FarmedHere opened its first vertical farm in Chicago in 2010. The company works closely with local vendors to get produce from harvest to store within 48 hours, and to ensure distribution remains within 200 miles of the operation. FarmedHere currently sells to many large grocery stores in the Greater Chicago area, including Whole Foods and Mariano’s, a division of Kroger.
The company expects to work with traditional farmers, rather than compete with them, by growing produce in seasons when traditional farmers cannot, and by offering produce not supported by the Kentucky climate.
FarmedHere’s vertical growing technology and local distribution methods help reduce time to market, energy use and overall costs. By growing entirely indoors with complete control of all variables, FarmedHere eliminates many of the obstacles traditional agriculture faces, including bugs, diseases, pesticides and weather.
FarmedHere is one of several businesses to commit to operating at the FoodPort. Other businesses include The Weekly Juicery, Piazza Produce and Just One Organics. Construction is expected to begin in August and businesses will begin their operations roughly 14 months later.
To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved FarmedHere for tax incentives up to $400,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
In addition, FarmedHere can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies are eligible to receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives. Last year, the Kentucky Skills Network trained more than 84,000 employees from more than 5,600 Kentucky companies.
Bevin also announced:
— GreenTree Forest Products Inc., an Appalachian hardwoods producer in Wallingford, will add 10 full-time jobs with a $2.2 million investment for equipment upgrades at its Fleming County facility.
For its sawmill and pallet operation in Fleming County, GreenTree will purchase equipment including a 7-foot line bar resaw, a state-of-the-art 3D scanner and an optimized lineal edger, among other upgrades. The facility currently produces 8 million feet of Appalachian hardwood annually. The company expects the investment will increase production by 30 percent.
GreenTree also anticipates the new equipment will save the company $220,000 per year in production costs.
“Our family has deep roots in Rowan and Fleming counties. We are a third generation lumber family, born and raised in eastern Kentucky,” said GreenTree Co-Owner James Wells. “Our family has been in the lumber business since 1954 and we just celebrated our 25th year of business at our Fleming County location. We are proud to be a part of the business community not only in Kentucky, but in Fleming County as well.”
GreenTree, a Wallingford business, currently employs 45 full-time workers. GreenTree is owned and operated by David Wells and his three children, James, Greg and Michelle. David’s father, J.C. Wells, along with his three other sons, set up and ran his first Corley sawmill on their family farm in 1954. That operation grew into what is now Valley View Hardwoods in Morehead.
— LSK Inc., an air-compressor parts manufacturer that began 13 years ago in a shop next to Cory Crowley’s home in Graves County, will invest more than $1 million to build a new facility and create 10 new full-time jobs.
“LSK’s story is one that small business owners and entrepreneurs across the Commonwealth should use as an example of how to succeed on a grand scale,” said Bevin. “Being an entrepreneur myself, I can say without question that the company’s decision to stay, invest and provide jobs in Graves County does not go unnoticed. LSK is a prime example of the level of success all small business owners in Kentucky are striving to achieve.”
Crowley, LSK’s president, founded the company in Hickory in 2003 to make parts for centrifugal air compressors. LSK currently operates in a shop near Crowley’s home.
With the new investment, LSK will build a 10,800-square-foot facility in Mayfield to accommodate future growth. The additional space will allow the company to better supply its customers.
“We are excited about the new facility and are looking forward to the future,” Crowley said. “We are very happy that we were able to keep the company in Graves County since our customer base is located in the county. The county officials have made this a very easy process and we believe this will take LSK Inc. to the next level.”
Through the past 13 years, the homegrown manufacturing operation found additional customers and new demand for its products. It now supplies parts for assembly lines of Fortune 50 companies and power plants that provide energy internationally.
To encourage the investment and job growth in Graves County, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) preliminarily approved LSK for tax incentives up to $200,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
From Governor’s Office Communications