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Commentary on Life in Kentucky

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Watch Out for the Other Guy, Who Might Be a Deer
They don’t get much pub as crops, livestock and home landscapes, but Kentucky’s wildlife were adversely affected by this year’s drought, too. An unfortunate result of animals going on the move in search of water is that more of them have been struck on commonwealth roadways. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Employee Newsletter’s summer edition carried an item on the increase in the number of deer state road workers had to remove this year.

Rural roads often follow waterways through the countryside, and dry times increase chances thirsty fauna will be on these transportation arteries. Workers in Johnson County in the Highway District 12 reported removing eight deer in one two-day period in mid-June, according to the newsletter.

Deer removals vary by county and time of year, said Mark Brown, a public information officer with the Transportation Cabinet, but typically numbers are highest October through December, during mating season. This year’s drought, though, caused collision numbers in mid-summer, rivaling the height of mating season.

The state doesn’t compile deer removal stats, Brown said, but an informal solicitation last month produced reports that District 4, based in Elizabethtown, was removing 10 to 20 dead deer per county per month; Shelby County workers were carting away about 20 a month; and in Laurel County highway workers were picking up two deer carcasses a day.

Interstate 64 has the most deer-vehicle collisions, Brown said. He confirmed that animal experts say deer migrated more than usual trying to find water this year. In Johnson County, Keith Hill of District 12 said most deer collisions occur on four-lane roads but are increasing on all roads. “Motorists should be alert and watch for animals, not just deer, especially at dawn and twilight,” Hill warned.

Apply the figures above to the state and it equates to tens of thousands of dead deer a year on commonwealth roads. But Kentuckians don’t hit more deer than motorists in other states. In fact, according to a report on the Web site of State Farm Insurance, Kentucky is not even in the Top 10. State Farm’s report includes this staggering statement: According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are an estimated 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the United States, causing more than 150 fatalities and $1.1 billion in property damage.

Beware!

The insurer offers cautionary advice. First on the list: Pay attention to deer crossing signs.

Council Launches Plan to Increase College Graduates
The Council on Postsecondary Education released a plan to increase the number of Kentucky college graduates to the national average by 2020.

Double the Numbers: Kentucky’s Plan to Increase College Graduates explains that increasing bachelor’s degrees is the quickest, most direct way for Kentucky to increase its economic prosperity and meet the goals of the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997. The plan includes five statewide strategies as well as a regional approach that sets targets for each strategy in nine regions across the state.

“This plan is ambitious but attainable,” said Brad Cowgill, interim president of the Council on Postsecondary Education. “Reaching our 2020 goal will require a coordinated, collaborative effort from education and business partners across the state.  All Kentuckians will benefit from this effort.”

The five strategies target Kentuckians at every point of the education pipeline – high school students, GED graduates, adult learners, and transfer students as well as traditional college students.

E-town Unveils Design for Planned Passenger Terminal
Air travelers in west central Kentucky could have another option within a few years. As soon as Elizabethtown Regional Airport can obtain a letter of intent from a carrier to provide regional service, it plans to begin construction on a passenger terminal.

Addington Field, whose FAA identifier code is EKX, could be providing passenger service to one or more major hubs such as Cincinnati, Memphis, Atlanta and Charlotte for residents of a 24-county area in less than three years, according to Joe Yates, chairman of the Elizabethtown Airport Board. Market studies are complete, substantial support has been committed and the board is recruiting a carrier. Talks are underway with two or three carriers, Yates said, adding that the board is committed to bringing in jet service rather than only prop craft.

LHB Architects of Elizabethtown was commissioned to do a concept design for a passenger terminal, which was unveiled in mid-October.

Louisville Museum Plaza Groundbreaking
Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson speaks at the ground-breaking for the 62 story Museum Plaza skyscraper in downtown Louisville. The $490 million mixed use development will contain a public plaza, park, condominiums, lofts, hotel, retail shops, and a museum.  At 703 feet tall, the building would be the tallest in Kentucky. Museum Plaza partners include Laura Lee Brown, Steve Wilson, Steve Poe, and Craig Greenburg.  The development is the largest public-private partnership in Kentucky and uses tax increment financing provided by state and local governments.

Alltech Receives State Approval of Incentives for Biorefinery in Springfield
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) has approved financial incentives for Alltech’s first rural community biorefinery project – the first concept in North America that integrates feed, food and fuel production. It is to be built in Springfield about 50 miles southeast of Louisville in central Kentucky.

The $8 million incentives are the first to be awarded by the commonwealth and include a sales tax refund for building and equipment costs, a state income-tax wage reduction for new employment, and a credit against state income taxes.

Alltech will earn the benefits under the Incentives for Energy Independence Act, enacted during the second extraordinary session of the 2007 Kentucky General Assembly.

“This project and technology could have far-reaching implications, not just for the state but for the country as a whole,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech. “Alltech is committed to the future of agriculture and making Kentucky a national leader in that area. This incentive represents a big step towards making that happen.”

In addition to the above incentives, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant application is pending and expected to be announced in February. As part of the DOE proposal, Alltech’s rural community biorefinery will be the first in the United States to use cellulose (such as switch grass, corn cobs and corn stover) at levels of up to 30 percent of the raw materials used for conversion to ethanol and other value-added products. The facility, estimated to cost approximately $40 million, will employ 93 people at full capacity.

The planned biorefinery system will impact Kentucky’s agriculture by housing dairy and beef cattle to be branded under the “Kentucky Proud” label. The livestock will consume nutrient-rich byproducts from the biorefinery. Expanding the state’s dairy herd will reduce Kentucky’s $250 million milk-production deficit.

The facility will also have the capability to produce algae, a plant that needs little besides sunlight and carbon dioxide. According to National Geographic, algae can theoretically produce 5,000 gallons of biofuel per acre per year, whereas corn can produce 400 gallons per acre.  Additionally, algae grown commercially can absorb up to 450 tons of carbon dioxide per acre.

The biorefinery also presents an opportunity to forge partnerships with regional universities, giving students and faculty the opportunity to be actively involved in research and development with the state’s emerging energy economy. As part of the project’s research component, Alltech will coordinate R&D activities with the University of Kentucky and the University of Cincinnati.

Alltech’s business strategy is to commercially proliferate the biorefinery and license its technology for construction of facilities in an additional 10 or more geographically separate rural locations.

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