“Here we grow again.”
City leaders in Pikeville, Ky., are very fond of this expression, and with construction set to begin on another multi-million project in the downtown area, it is apropos for them to begin using it again.
Thanks to a $40 million direct loan through USDA’s Community Facilities program and additional funding from other public and private partners, the University of Pikeville – referred to as UPike – is moving forward with plans to build a 7-story Health Professions Education Building.
The new state-of-the-art facility will house Kentucky’s first-ever College of Optometry, as well as a nursing facility with labs, lecture halls and a food court. The project is part of a strategic plan to upgrade the comprehensive educational needs of Central Appalachia – specifically Eastern Kentucky – and meet the growing demand for optometrists.
The new education building is one of many projects USDA has helped finance in Pike County in the past few years. Thanks to additional funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, USDA provided a $32 million to UPike for a new School of Osteopathic Medicine. The medical school is now fully operational and accepted its first group of students last year.
In 2013, a $90 million project to expand and improve services at Pikeville Medical Center was completed using USDA Community Facilities loan funds. Earlier this year, USDA approved a $15 million in loan and grant funds to build new wastewater treatment facility to benefit residents of Pikeville and surrounding communities.
UPike is located in Pike County, which is part of the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity. This Community Facilities project is one of many being highlighted by the SOAR initiative (Shaping Our Appalachian Region), a collaborative effort of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to boost Eastern Kentucky's economic development.
The myriad challenges faced by the poverty stricken region of central Appalachia are well known and often difficult to address. But continued growth in regional hubs like the city of Pikeville will change the face of the region and create an environment where economic growth is not only attainable, but sustainable. USDA is proud to collaborate with partners in the public and private sector and is always looking for opportunities help rural communities grow and prosper.