CORBIN, Ky. – The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation (AWF), a Blueprint Partner of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), has selected a general contractor for the Appalachian Wildlife Center.
Hacker Brothers Construction, a London, Ky.-based business, will construct a state-of-the-art 80,000-square-foot visitors center near Pineville, Ky. in Bell County. Construction is set to begin in March with a projected opening in the summer of 2021. Officials with the AWF estimate the facility will attract more than 850,000 visitors annually, generate more than $170 million in annual spending and create more than 2,900 jobs.
“Our priority was to find a general contractor with a strong record for successfully completing large complicated projects and, if possible, we wanted to work with a local contractor. Hacker Brothers checked both boxes and made it an easy decision. They are highly regarded in the community and have a long record of success,” said AWF President David Ledford.
The visitors center will be the first of nine stand-alone attractions on the 20-square-mile tract of property.
SOAR has supported the Appalachian Wildlife Center project since its inception. The project aligns with SOAR’s Regional Blueprint, specifically the goal of making Appalachia Kentucky a tourism destination. Additionally, SOAR supported AWF’s successful efforts in being awarded a $12.5 million grant through the 2016 AML Pilot program and an additional $1.8 million awarded by an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) grant.
“This is a significant step for David [Ledford] and his team,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “This project has the potential to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Appalachia Kentucky, and that will have a ripple effect to not only Bell, Harlan, Knox and surrounding counties, but all of Appalachia Kentucky.”
Making Appalachia Kentucky a tourism destination is one of the seven goals outlined in SOAR’s Regional Blueprint.