American Entrepreneur | Kentucky Proud
Jonathan Webb grew up in Kentucky, the 3rd largest coal producing state in the US, and has been committed to finding sustainable projects that can be developed on the 1.2 million acres of reclaimed coal mine lands in Central Appalachia. Webb has been calling on leaders in the environmental community to reinvest in a region that has experienced devastating job loss due to the war on coal.
Webb is the founder and CEO of AppHarvest. The sustainable agriculture company is bringing the future of farming to Appalachia with high-tech greenhouses. Paul Mastronardi is one of the most influential names in produce and he and his company SUNSET Produce have partnered with the AppHarvest team to bring this vision to life. The AppHarvest greenhouses will be landmark sustainable projects in the heart of coal country.
Prior to founding AppHarvest, Webb was based in Washington DC supporting the Executive Director of the Army Office of Energy Initiatives to help meet their White House goal of supplying 20% of DoD electricity usage from renewable sources by 2025. The Office leveraged private sector capital to develop large scale renewable projects on Army land and is considered to be a leading public private partnership program at the U.S. Department of Defense.
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"Our administration is dedicated to increasing economic opportunity across Kentucky, and this project presents a fantastic opportunity to help our Appalachian region continue its rejuvenation."
"It is imperative that the area has economic diversification and attracts new investments form outside the state," Mr. Webb said.
AppHarvest is committed to making Eastern Kentucky the high-tech greenhouse capital of the US. It is bringing Appalachia into the next generation of agriculture. The company is developing large-scale high-tech greenhouses growing fresh vegetables for local communities in the US. The average US meal travels 1,500 miles by the time it reaches your plate and in many cases is imported from other countries. AppHarvest will be able to to deliver fresh produce to the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest of the US within a day's drive.
Appalachia has been hit hard. 1 in 4 individuals in eastern Kentucky fall below the poverty line. The core of AppHarvest is built around a vision of employing the strong spirited individuals of this region. In the past decade, produce imports from Mexico to the US have tripled. National grocers and restaurant chains rely on these imports. AppHarvest is here to change that model and grow produce right here at home.
A region of spirit, perseverance, hard work, tenacity, ingenuity, and dedication.
Eastern Kentucky has experienced crippling economic decline due to war on coal. The unemployment rate is nearly double the national average. The East Kentucky workforce is rooted in Faith & Grit and it will persevere.
“This project would capitalize on increasing demand for US-grown produce, technical innovation, the opportunity to recapture market share from beyond our borders, and an available workforce. This is an exciting opportunity that could change the economic trajectory of the entire region for decades to come.” –Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner
Sen. Ray Jones of Pikeville, KY said Eastern Kentucky has a workforce ready for new opportunities and that AppHarvest will be a great fit. “Eastern Kentucky is continually seeking ways to diversify and attract much-needed jobs to our region,” he said. “Many of our people lost their jobs because of the decline in the coal industry. Our region stands ready with a willing and skilled workforce to meet this company’s needs. We are pleased that AppHarvest is locating in our region and look forward to their success, along with the economic boost they will bring to Eastern Kentucky.”
Rep. John Blanton of Salyersville said the project will assist with efforts to diversify the local economy. “I am thrilled to welcome AppHarvest to Pikeville,” Rep. Blanton said. “Eastern Kentucky is home to a dedicated and reliable workforce. We continue to work diligently in diversifying our economy, and AppHarvest is a welcome addition to our business community.”