Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 25, 2014

Appalachian initiative still has much work to do


The Independent

ASHLAND — Officials announced the leaders of an initiative to expand and diversify the economy in eastern Kentucky on Monday.

The committee overseeing the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative will have 15 members with experience in education, business and other fields. It will be co-chaired by Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers.

Two members of that committee have Ashland ties — local attorney Kim McCann and Lexington businessman Jim Host.

The goals over the next few months will be to hire a permanent executive director and setting up public meetings come up away with more action ideas to simulate the economy in that part of Kentucky.

Beshear and Rogers said during the announcement on Monday it was important to have a structure that will guide the initiative.  

They also announced the leaders of 10 workgroups that will help develop strategies in areas such as agriculture, business recruitment and tourism.

“We're gearing up to create quality jobs,” Rogers said at a news conference in Hazard. “When you’re talking about the future of our region, we want action.”

Leaders from throughout the state have met once already to try and figure out ways to help the region that is struggling so much financially because of the downturn in the coal industry.

With the help of SOAR and outstanding committee that has been put together, it’s our hope that some solutions will be found.

“I see us overcoming a lot of hurdles over the next several years to come,” said Pikeville city manager Donovan Blackburn, who will be managing director of the initiative.

Along with several “listening sessions,” leaders plan to hold a summit meeting on the initiative in November.