Dundalk agrees to twin with Pikeville, Kentucky

Margaret Roddy

The idea for Dundalk twinning with the City of Pikeville, Kentucky originated with Dundalk-born Dr Pearse Lyon's whose company Alltech is making significant investment in the Pike County state city.

Pikeville City Manager. Donovan Blackburn, who travelled to Ireland last year with a group from Alltech, says: 'Dr. Lyons suggested for the City of Pikeville to reach out to Dundalk to see if there would be an interest in twinning. Since Dundalk is Dr. Lyons hometown he felt it very fitting that Dundalk and Pikeville forge the same relationship that Dr. Lyons has with Pikeville.'

'There are several reasons we felt this would be an opportunity for both communities,' he explains. 'The hills of the Appalachian Mountains were settled by the Scottish and Irish. A lot of our culture and history derives from these ancestors. Our music, dance and a lot of our art are from Ireland. A lot of the surnames in the area derived from your geographic area. Even the McCoy's from the world famous Hatfield and McCoy Feud, fought here in Pikeville came from Ireland.

'Dr. Lyons not only discussed all the common themes our region has with Ireland, but also compared Ireland's past economic struggle with what Eastern Kentucky is now going through. Dr. Lyons felt the City of Pikeville could learn from Dundalk and that Dundalk could learn from all the recent success that Pikeville has achieved.

Pikeville has twice been named as 'One of the 100 Best Small Towns in America' and is one of the most progressive communities in the state of Kentucky.

'We have a population of almost 7,000 people, but as a regional hub, we are a service area to over 200,000 people,' says Mr Blackburn. The City of Pikeville is the county seat for Pike County, Kentucky. which has a population of 63,500.

Pikeville has a university and colleges, a large medical centre, the Easter Kentucky Exposition Centre, a theatre, and is developing outdoor facilities to take advantage of its position in the Appalachain Mountains.

As a result of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) programme, of which Mr Blackburn was managing director for a period, links were formed with Dr Lyons and Alltech is now getting ready to start construction of a new distillery and brewery in downtown Pikeville, which will be followed by a visitors centre and a Irish style Brew Pub. The city is also developing a new industrial park and Alltech will be looking to build a new multi-million dollar aquatic facility and a new poultry facility over the next 18 months.

Mr Blackburn notes: 'Alltech performs business in 128 countries and currently does $1 billion dollars in business with projections to be near $4 billion by 2016. The hope is that this relationship will not only be between Pikeville and Dundalk, but also Alltech. Our hope is that Alltech will continue to make investment in both of our communities while allowing our communities to form relationships in other sectors such as education and healthcare to name a few.

The next step in the twinning process will see a small group travelling from Pikeville to Dundalk for St Patrick's Day.