Federal, state, and local officials joined hundreds of interested residents in Pikeville Monday for the second 'Shaping Our Appalachian Region' Summit. The meeting gave participants an opportunity to strategize on action steps to help move forward the eastern Kentucky economy.
SOAR Executive Director Jared Arnett says there are several priority issues. "It's not just recruit industry, it's not just entrepreneurship, it's not just community health, it's not just local foods,” said Arnett. “Those are all some of the working groups. It's not just broadband. But, all those are major pieces and some are higher priorities than others."
Governor Steve Beshear says he and Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers can be 'enablers' but people in communities also have to decide to make something happen. Beshear says officials in Washington are taking note of the SOAR initiative. "People there see a real effort to take an area of rural America that is suffering economically and turn the situation around," said Beshear.
Beshear touted efforts to increase broadband service throughout eastern Kentucky as a key to economic development.
Rogers says this meeting carried more emphasis on action. "For the last year and a half SOAR has been gathering information, talking to people, getting your ideas about what needs to be done and can be done and I call that planning your work,” said Rogers. “Now with this summit, I want to see us graduate to the next step, which is working the plan." said Rogers.
Rogers says Centers for Disease Control officials are taking an interest in SOAR effort.