DLG Spotlight on Job Creation: Why Corbin, Ky. Will Soon Become the Popsicle Stick Capital of the U.S.

Press Release - 05/10/2018

DLG Spotlight on Job Creation: Why Corbin, Ky. Will Soon Become the Popsicle Stick Capital of the U.S.
DLG Spotlight on Job Creation: Why Corbin, Ky. Will Soon Become the Popsicle Stick Capital of the U.S.

This week, the new Smart Wood plant in Corbin, Ky. produced the first of billions of popsicle sticks that will come out of the facility annually.

Smart Wood is a leading manufacturer of food-grade wooden sticks – like those familiar to fans of Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars – and the Corbin facility is the French company’s first and only location in North America. The new plant will create between 90 and 100 jobs over the next three years, said Bruce Carpenter, executive director of Corbin Economic Development Agency. The plant is also expected to bolster the region’s logging industry as Smart Wood drives demand for tasteless, odorless beech wood, prevalent across southeastern Kentucky.

The impact stands to be huge for the region, and though the effort involved many organizations and agencies, Carpenter said bringing the company to Corbin “would not have been possible” without the help of the Department for Local Government (DLG). DLG is the arm of the Governor’s Office dedicated to meeting the needs of local officials and communities.
“We’re very appreciative of Commissioner Sandra Dunahoo’s support and assistance, and all those folks at the Department for Local Government,” Carpenter said.

Corbin became a contender for Smart Wood’s U.S. facility in 2016, after Gov. Matt Bevin met with company leaders during an economic development mission to Europe. The Corbin Economic Development Agency had recently erected a few “spec” buildings, in hopes they would attract new businesses to the Southeast Kentucky Industrial Park, and one building caught Smart Wood’s attention.

The company invested between $15 million and $20 million to customize the structure to fit their needs. Smart Wood asked that the Corbin Economic Development Agency help them complete the facility and install the necessary infrastructure.

The Department for Local Government worked with the agency to help them secure $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds and $429,312 in grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, which allowed the project to move forward.

“Many people don’t realize it, but the Department for Local Government plays an important role in our Commonwealth’s economic development and job growth,” Department for Local Government Commissioner Sandra K. Dunahoo said. “We help communities fund game-changing projects like the Smart Wood facility in Corbin, where all the key players are committed to creating opportunities for Kentuckians.”

Carpenter said the jobs created by the new facility are full-time, and the average starting wage is $15 an hour with benefits. Many of the jobs created will be filled by individuals considered low- to moderate-income.
The facility celebrated its grand opening in October, though it took several months to get settled in before starting production. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gov. Matt Bevin said Smart Wood was a “perfect fit” for Corbin.

“Smart Wood is dedicated to producing high-quality products by using the latest advanced manufacturing equipment,” Gov. Bevin said. “They were looking to potentially locate in a region that would best support that vision. The Corbin area’s foresight in preparing for economic development, the region’s ready workforce and their abundant natural resources made them the perfect fit for this company. We believe that Smart Wood will be the perfect fit for Eastern Kentucky as well.”
Smart Wood projects that the plant will produce 3 billion beech wood sticks each year, and that might just be enough to designate Corbin as the popsicle stick capital of the U.S., Carpenter said.

Are you looking to fund an economic development project to create jobs in your community? Find out if your project might qualify for available grant opportunities. Go to kydlgweb.ky.gov or call DLG at 502-573-2382.


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