Monday, April 30, 2018

Ky. native says he has cash to bring high-tech greenhouse jobs to Central Appalachia, will break ground in a few weeks

Jonathan Webb of AppHarvest
Solar-power professional Jonathan Webb says he will bring about 600 jobs to Central Appalachia with high-tech mountaintop greenhouses where workers will grow produce to sell all over the U.S., Salena Zito reports for the New York Post.

Webb, 33, left his hometown of Lexington, Ky., to work in New York City in 2010, and was hired in 2014 by the Army to help President Obama increase use of renewable energy. After Donald Trump's election, Webb said he wasn't surprised that Trump's message had resonated in Appalachia, an area reeling from unemployment, the opioid epidemic and general disillusionment, Zito reports. 

Shortly afterward, he founded AppHarvest, and says he has has raised $60 million in capital from such investors as Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance and AOL co-founder Steve Case. He said he's tried to convince the executives at some of the nation's largest environmental organization to invest. "I have told them . . . they have a poor strategy in some cases," Webb told Zito. "Instead of campaigning against coal for green-collar jobs in coal country, they need to facilitate investment into the region to build projects." Criticizing the coal industry is cheap and easy, he said, but jobs are the best way to get Appalachians to support environmental initiatives.

Webb told Zito that AppHarvest expects to break ground in the next few weeks on the first greenhouses in Pikeville, Ky.

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