Local, state, and federal officials along with business leaders are meeting in Pikeville for another Shaping Our Appalachian Region Summit. The first event aimed at furthering economic and social vitality in southeast Kentucky was held in 2013.
Chuck Sexton is president of One East Kentucky, which is an economic development organization for nine southeast Kentucky counties. Sexton said building capacity for industry is part of his organization’s mission. “If we have an area where we’re 90% there that could help us attract an industry, but we need more wastewater availability or we need natural gas or fiber, we’re going to push for opportunities to get that infrastructure into place so that we can be successful,” said Sexton.
The economic development official added this year’s announcement that EnerBlu would not be moving forward with a battery plant project in Pikeville was a disappointment but doesn’t leave a shadow on the region. “Hopefully what you don’t see is a loss of momentum. The adage that winners never lose, they either win or they learn. We have to stay positive in eastern Kentucky. We have to understand what our value proposition is and we have to keep pushing that,” explained Sexton.
Sexton said successes in recent years have included 1,000 new jobs in the nine-county region. He’s looking optimistically toward 2020, partly because firms One East Kentucky began talking to more than two years ago are primed to make decisions next year.
He anticipates two federal grants announced during the two day summit to focus on industrial recruitment. Sexton said attracting manufacturing jobs is a primary objective becauses of the skill set of the workforce in eastern Kentucky.
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