Piggybacking on the April news that Braidy Industries is building a new aluminum plant in the Appalachian foothills of Greenup County with the possibility of hundreds of high-paying jobs, downtown Ashland in Boyd County received a significant boost with the announcement last week of the closure and sale of the Ashland Plaza hotel to two businessman who plan to make it a 4-star Delta Hotel by Marriott.
It’s great to see the old adage about a rising tide lifting all boats play out in areas of the state that desperately need positive economic news. Ashland has taken some wallops over the years, including with the loss of thousands of its best paying jobs in the steel industry, which had long been an economic staple.
Kentucky has experienced an overall record in terms of economic development over the past year. The state had reported $5.8 billion in investments as of May with Braidy Industries, Toyota’s expansion in Georgetown, and a new Amazon facility in northern Kentucky contributing heavily to the record figures.
Ashland officials hope the new hotel will be the silver bullet the city needs in revitalization efforts. City and county officials have worked hard for years to make the development come true. Economic Development Director Chris Pullem called it the “best day for downtown Ashland in 35 years” at the announcement last week.
Jim Nizzo of New York-based WB Hospitality and his partner Andy Spiros announced the purchase alongside city officials and Pullem. The city will provide about $4.6 million to the business developers through bonds to help with construction costs, about one-fourth of the developers’ total investment in the project. Funding for the incentive is set to come from a 20-year Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, program launched in downtown Ashland this summer by the city and the Boyd County Fiscal Court.
TIF is an option taken frequently by government bodies to attract businesses and capitalize on major developments. The TIF program allows the city to capture anticipated increases in city, county and state tax revenue generated inside the downtown TIF district, and use the funds for public infrastructure improvements or incentives for private businesses. Tax rates will not be raised as a result of the TIF program, city officials said. A financial consulting firm from Lexington projects the TIF program to bring in $16 million in TIF-eligible funding over the 20-year program.
The city will also bring down an adjacent building for parking spaces and to construct a convention center that should benefit downtown for years to come. These are all important steps in rebuilding Ashland’s downtown business district that has slumped for 30 years.
With Braidy Industries poised for success in South Shore and locating its headquarters in Ashland, the future of northeastern Kentucky has not looked quite this bright in some time. The downward economic spiral may soon be trending in the other direction once all the pieces are in place.
Braidy Industries plans to be operating by 2020 and the new hotel may be open for business within a year.