Gov. Andy Beshear announced a $1.5 million Abandoned Mine Lands Pilot program grant for site work at EastPark during Ashland Alliance’s annual meeting, held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, on Tuesday evening.

The grant is linked to the construction of a 65,000 square-foot building project in the industrial park where Greenup and Boyd counties meet.

The project, according to a press release from the governor’s office, will allow Northeast Kentucky Industrial Development Authority Inc. (EastPark) to compete for tenants that could create new jobs for the region.

“This is another huge step forward for Northeast Kentucky, EastPark and Ashland Alliance,” Beshear said. “This AML grant is another solid building block for job creation and a healthier future for this area as we emerge from this pandemic and create a better commonwealth for all Kentuckians.”

Beshear called it “100% shovel-ready.”

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (District 5) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have championed $540 million in federal funding for the AML Pilot program since 2016 — $130 million has been awarded to Kentucky.

Outgoing Alliance Board Chairperson Kristie Whitlatch, the President and CEO of King’s Daughters Medical Center, kicked off the 80-minute virtual event. She touched on the challenges the pandemic has presented to KDMC and the area. Whitlatch thanked Rocky Adkins, Beshear’s Senior Adviser who also spoke on Tuesday, for his unyielding support, and also showered praise onto Beshear for the tough decisions he’s made and stood by.