Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

October 29, 2013

United effort

Beshear, Rogers seek ways to improve region’s economy

ASHLAND — Gov. Steve Beshear and 5th District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers have joined hands in a bipartisan effort to find ways to bolster the economy of eastern Kentucky. With the loss of thousands of coal jobs and the planned 2015 closing of much of the Big Sandy Power Plant near Louisa, the timing could not be better for a renewed effort on regional economic development.

Beshear, who is in the midst of his second and final four-year term as governor, and Rogers, a Republican and dean of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, have called  a summit of public and private sector leaders to find solutions to problems the region faces. It will be Dec. 9 at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center in Pikeville.

We applaud the latest effort and hope it leads to finding new ways to strengthen and diversify this region’s economy that is overly dependent on coal. With coal sales dropping rapidly as industries shift to other more environmentally friendly types of fuel, the need for this region to broaden its economic base has never been greater. While coal has always had its ups and downs, there is a great chance the coal industry will never completely recover from its current slump. Indeed, even though this region still has a plentiful supply of coal, some already have written the obituary for the coal industry in eastern Kentucky

Beshear and Rogers have dubbed their joint effort SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region.

The one-day summit may be an excellent way to get the new effort started, but the real success of the new initiative will be depend on what happens after the summit. This region has a long history of bringing together area residents to talk about our problems and what we can do about them. The problem is too many potentially good ideas have never gotten past the talking stage.

The annual East Kentucky Leadership Conference has been tallying about the region’s problems for nearly 30 years, but many of the same problems they were talking about in 1985 still exist today with only marginal improvements. Kentucky Power Co. is funding an extensive economic development effort in four counties, but in a recent meeting at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, there was only a handful of elected leaders present.

It is good to have events like the Dec. 9 summit to bring leaders together to talk about regional problems, but the key is to turn all that talk into action. To do that, locl leaders are going to have to have a vision that extends beyond the county line and past the next election.

Beshear, who is in the midst of his second and final four-year term as governor, and Rogers, a Republican and dean of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, have called  a summit of public and private sector leaders to find solutions to problems the region faces. It will be Dec. 9 at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center in Pikeville.

We applaud the latest effort and hope it leads to finding new ways to strengthen and diversify this region’s economy that is overly dependent on coal. With coal sales dropping rapidly as industries shift to other more environmentally friendly types of fuel, the need for this region to broaden its economic base has never been greater. While coal has always had its ups and downs, there is a great chance the coal industry will never completely recover from its current slump. Indeed, even though this region still has a plentiful supply of coal, some already have written the obituary for the coal industry in eastern Kentucky

Beshear and Rogers have dubbed their joint effort SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region.

The one-day summit may be an excellent way to get the new effort started, but the real success of the new initiative will be depend on what happens after the summit. This region has a long history of bringing together area residents to talk about our problems and what we can do about them. The problem is too many potentially good ideas have never gotten past the talking stage.

The annual East Kentucky Leadership Conference has been tallying about the region’s problems for nearly 30 years, but many of the same problems they were talking about in 1985 still exist today with only marginal improvements. Kentucky Power Co. is funding an extensive economic development effort in four counties, but in a recent meeting at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, there was only a handful of elected leaders present.

It is good to have events like the Dec. 9 summit to bring leaders together to talk about regional problems, but the key is to turn all that talk into action. To do that, locl leaders are going to have to have a vision that extends beyond the county line and past the next election.

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