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Date: 12-24-2017

In meeting with Comer, many voice support for the legalization of medical marijuana

Dozens of residents across Western Kentucky got up close and personal with U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, this week during his first marathon meeting with local constituents.

Comer has a branch office at Madisonville City Hall, and he invited everyone within the 1st Congressional District to stop by during regular business hours Friday for a 15-minute chat.

"This is the first time I have ever done this, and it has been very productive," he said. "I did town halls in every county and most of them were fine. But, we had a lot of protesters (at times) that would be disruptive, at least to where we didn't have a productive town hall. This is a good way to spend 15 minutes with everyone."

Throughout the day, Comer met with individual citizens and veterans, as well as representatives of coal companies and trucking industries.

"There is a lot of concern about healthcare, a lot of VA issues, and then there are a lot of people who just wanted to speak their mind about the president," he said. "Some people wanted me to support him. Others came in and wanted me to impeach him. Everybody has a strong opinion of the president one way or another."

District One Magistrate Karol Welch, among other citizens, wished to voice their support for the federal legalization of medical marijuana. Welch lost her father to Parkinson's Disease 20 years ago, and now her husband is battling the disease. In November, Welch voiced her support for statewide legislation during a regular meeting with the fiscal court, and urged residents to do the same.

"It all started out at a (convention) with the Kentucky Association of Counties in Louisville, at the Galt House," she said. "I spoke before them and said we as Kentuckians are really making a big mistake. For one, you can buy marijuana anywhere you want, especially in Hopkins County. It is sad that we can not get the tax money for that."

According to Welch, funds generated from medical marijuana prescription sales would "fund the Kentucky pension plan completely, plus money left over."

"It upsets me so badly, I can hardly stand it," she added.

As he waited for his turn with the congressman, Dawson Springs resident Daniel Payne said he believes medical marijuana could have saved his father, who died in 2014, from the pain of intracranial pressure.

"I know my dad would be alive right now if we had alternative medicine," he said. "Doctors had him hooked on so many different opioids, steroids and Lortabs -- at some point he became addicted. There is no medicine on the market that can reduce pressure like that, so eventually he had several strokes and medication overdoses. His liver shut down, his kidneys shut down and and he died.

"At the end, he was normally 350 pounds," Payne continued. "In six months or more, he got all the way down to 85 pounds. He couldn't even hold his head up. I believe if there were a medical alternative, he wouldn't have ended that way."

Ginger Hayes, of Earlington, suffers from painful spinal stenosis and non-diabetic neuropathy in her feet. There is currently no cure.

"I have taken everything for it, and I am allergic to a lot of pills," she said. "I don't sleep, I am up crying most of the night from the pain. I can't get any relief. If only I could get rid of some of this pain.

"I have 3- and 4-year-old grandchildren," she added. "I can't take them to the zoo. I can't do this with them, I can't do that with them. I have to have some relief."

Hayes' husband Tommy, a local pastor, visited City Hall with her to provide some positive support.

"We are praying this works out," he said. "Whatever it takes to get people well. (Medical marijuana) is not harmful to them, it doesn't make them crazy like drugs do."

To the congressman, overall legislation is a hard sell -- at least at the federal level. Comer, who is a staunch supporter of agricultural hemp and its declassification as a Schedule 1 narcotic under U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency policy, says there is simply not enough support for medical marijuana legalization across the board.

"There is a lot of opposition in the Trump administration and opposition in Congress," he said. "With hemp, there is support. We can get that through. I am very sympathetic toward the people, but the problem is the votes aren't there (for medical marijuana)."

There is still hope, however, for legalization on a statewide level.

"You have states where medical marijuana is legal if you have a prescription, and then there are states where it is not legal, like Kentucky and Tennessee," Comer said. "Theoretically, they can pass a bill in Frankfort. I don't think the votes are there, but the polls are better than you would think."

According to Welch, that's all the more reason for people to take advantage of any opportunity to reach out to their respective legislators and let their opinions be known.

"If we the people don't get out and do something, nothing will happen," she said. "I am an optimist. My husband says nothing is going to happen, that you can work your heart out but nothing is going to happen in Kentucky. I disagree. I think if you get enough people involved, we'll finally get it."

Comer's Madisonville branch is one of three offices in Southwestern Kentucky. The others are located in Paducah and Tompkinsville. On Friday, Comer met with residents from Hopkins, Union, Webster and Ohio counties.

"Next year, we are going to do this more," he said. "I'll say I am coming to Madisonville and anyone who wants to meet can schedule an appointment at my office."

By Laura Harvey
Madisonville Messenger

December 18, 2017

A delegation from the Embassy of China toured Marshall University’s South Charleston Campus and the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) Thursday as part of a four day relationship-building mission to West Virginia.

We were pleased to host a delegation from China last week. The photo shows Marshall President Jerry Gilbert speaking to them on the South Charleston campus. They also toured RCBI.We were pleased to host a delegation from China last week. The photo shows Marshall President Jerry Gilbert speaking to them on the South Charleston campus. They also toured RCBI.

Embassy officials, led by Economic & Commerce Minister Counselor Deyou Tian, learned how RCBI assists manufacturers and saw demonstrations of computer-controlled machining equipment as well as large-scale and metal 3D printing.

“This visit is another important step in demonstrating the high-tech resources that RCBI and Marshall University provide industry,” said Charlotte Weber, RCBI Director & CEO. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to showcase our services and demonstrate how we can help provide a trained, productive workforce to Chinese leaders in preparation of China’s recently announced multi-billion dollar investment in our state.”

Marshall University President Jerome A. Gilbert and John Maher, vice president for research, joined the delegation’s visit and explained how Marshall University promotes statewide economic development.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced last month that the Chinese have signed a memorandum of understanding to invest up to $83.7 billion in West Virginia. China Energy Investment Corp. plans to develop shale gas and chemical manufacturing infrastructure in West Virginia during the next two decades.

Since the governor’s announcement, representatives of China Energy Investment Corp. and individuals from various Chinese industrial sectors have been traveling West Virginia, meeting with state officials and economic development groups.

None of the Chinese delegation from Thursday’s visit had been to West Virginia until this week but expressed high praise for the Mountain State and its people.

“I am very impressed with this state,” said Qing Li, second secretary of the Embassy of China. “The people are so hospitable!”

By Becky Calwell, EdD 
RCBI · West Virginia’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center
1050 Fourth Avenue · Huntington, WV 25701
Office: 304.781.1690

# # #

The Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) delivers expertise and innovative solutions with leading-edge technology to advance manufacturing and entrepreneurship.


December 15, 2017

PIKEVILLE, Ky., December 15, 2017 – Kentucky Power on Friday joined state and local leaders as EnerBlu announced its plans to invest $412 million in central and eastern Kentucky.


Kentucky Power President Matt Satterwhite welcomes EnerBlu to eastern Kentucky on Friday. Kentucky Power worked with state and local leaders to bring the company to the region.Kentucky Power President Matt Satterwhite welcomes EnerBlu to eastern Kentucky on Friday. Kentucky Power worked with state and local leaders to bring the company to the region.

EnerBlu, an energy innovation company, plans to employ 875 with an average annual salary of $81,000 at a manufacturing facility to be built at the Kentucky Enterprise Industrial Park in Pikeville. Another 110 will work at the company’s new Lexington headquarters. The manufacturing facility will make lithium-titanate oxide (LTO) batteries, called EnerBlu Advanced Energy Storage Units. The batteries will power transit buses, commercial trucks, military vehicles and other equipment. The project, to be completed in 2020, is the result of a partnership that included Kentucky Power, Gov. Matt Bevin, Congressman Hal Rogers, One East Kentucky, the City of Pikeville, and other state and local leaders.

“Building a new energy company that can benefit both the local and global community is not only exciting, but very meaningful to us,” said EnerBlu Executive Chairman Michael Weber. “Kentucky Power has been at the forefront of the revitalization of eastern Kentucky by helping to attract companies that can put coal miners back to work through retraining and durable jobs. We look forward to working with them as we build our facility in Pikeville.”

EnerBlu is the sixth manufacturer to announce in 2017 that it is building facilities in eastern Kentucky with support and help from Kentucky Power. Kentucky Power visited EnerBlu’s facilities in Riverside, California, earlier this year to explore partnerships and help recruit the company to the region. Kentucky Power also provided $120,000 through a partnership of customers and stockholders to help fund geotechnical surveying and testing at the park and spearheaded efforts to develop the former mine site into an industrial park instead of a subdivision and golf course.

Kentucky Power also was instrumental in forging partnerships with and among several groups in bringing in business to the region. Projects announced in 2017 include:

· Braidy Industries, aluminum rolling mill, 550 jobs (plus 1,000 construction jobs), Ashland;

· Silver Liner, a tanker truck manufacturer, 300 jobs, Pikeville;

· AppHarvest, an agricultural grow operation, 140 jobs, Pikeville;

· Wright-Mix Materials, liquid chemicals, grouts, cement products, 130 jobs, Greenup County;

· Thoroughbred Aviation, aircraft maintenance, avionics, painting, 15 jobs, Martin County.

“Economic development is not just important, it is vital to eastern Kentucky,” said Matt Satterwhite, president and chief operating officer of Kentucky Power. “Today’s announcement demonstrates why Kentucky Power is investing in economic development and promoting the resources we have in eastern Kentucky. Our partnership with EnerBlu and other employers who are bringing jobs to our communities is the result of working together to grow the entire region.”

In the last five years, Kentucky Power has invested nearly $4 million in economic development in eastern Kentucky, including water and sewer projects; broadband expansion; industrial site development and certification; workforce research; and other endeavors.

A partnership of Kentucky Power customers and shareholders funds many of the projects. Customers contribute 15 cents each month to the Kentucky Power Economic Growth Grant (K-PEGG) program. All customer contributions are then matched by stockholders to generate about $600,000 a year for the region.

“We appreciate the support that we have received from the entire state of Kentucky and the team at Kentucky Power,” said Daniel Elliott, EnerBlu president and CEO. “By working with local companies, including the utilities in Kentucky, EnerBlu will continue to develop its power products to meet the needs of commercial and military customers in Kentucky and around the world.”