Oct 27 2014
I've enjoyed spending time traveling across beautiful southern and eastern Kentucky this month, and speaking to folks about local, state and national issues.
On Wednesday, October 22, I served as a tour guide for 50 SOAR-Shaping Our Appalachian Region leaders and community members as we visited five facilities in southern Kentucky that are utilizing high speed internet. The tour was designed to help leaders prepare for Kentucky's new "Super I-Way" that Governor Beshear and I announced earlier this year that will extend 3,000 miles of fiber optic infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth, starting in Eastern Kentucky. The first phase is scheduled to be complete in 18 months, so now is the time to plan our work and work our plan. Click here to learn more about the tour of "Silicon Holler." Read more >>>
LINKS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TOUR: WYMT, Associated Press, Herald Leader, Forcht Broadcasting
On Thursday, October 9th, I spent the day in Pikeville, one of Eastern Kentucky's modern-day "boom towns." I visited with community leaders to discuss ongoing projects in Pike County, including the next steps of SOAR - Shaping Our Appalachian Region. Jared Arnett, the newly named Founding Executive Director of SOAR joined me at several stops to answer questions about the organization.
I had the opportunity to speak to school superintendents and principals from 12 school districts in Eastern Kentucky during a School Administrators Luncheon hosted by the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) in the Booth Auditorium. Our students are making great gains in achievement, thanks to the leadership of our educators. In fact, according to new state rankings, three of the top ten districts in Kentucky are in the Appalachian region. Six of the top ten school districts that made the greatest gains in the state are also in our region. I applaud our educators and our students for their outstanding work. Read more from UPIKE.edu >>>
I also had the pleasure of announcing a $750,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant for the new University of Pikeville's Kentucky College of Optometry. The funding will be used to purchase essential equipment for the new school. The national need for optometrists is expected to grow by 11,000 jobs in the next five years, and I applaud our leaders in education for advancing the conversation with business leaders to better prepare our workforce for jobs that will be in high demand.
I presented UPIKE Men's Basketball Coach Kelly Wells with a "Difference Maker Award" for his exemplary leadership as Head Coach, as well as his passion to build character among students and to raise awareness about the dangers of drug abuse. He has inspired so many people in our region and given hope to others battling challenging illnesses.
I also spoke to the UNITE Pike Coalition during the organization's regular monthly meeting at the Pikeville First Baptist Church and shared encouraging statistics in the battle against the drug abuse epidemic. The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy reported 12 fewer overdose deaths in Pike County in 2013 than 2012. Those are 12 lives that were saved and 12 families that didn't have to suffer through the unbearable pain of addiction, so we need to continue the work of education, prevention and treatment. Bob Finch, a long-time UNITE Pike Coalition member was recognized with a "Difference Maker Award" for his volunteer service during Camp UNITE each year and his dedication to drug-free education in the region. Read more from the Appalachian News Express >>>
The Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) hosted a roundtable discussion with administrators and members of the Heart Institute Team. I commended PMC for its rapid growth and upcoming 90th anniversary celebration. Healthcare is now the number one driver of our economy in Eastern Kentucky. With Pikeville Medical Center and the University of Pikeville working together, the City of Pikeville has emerged as an economic leader in healthcare. In fact, I presented Dr. Bill Harris with the "Health Impact Award," recognizing him as the guiding force behind the rapid growth of the advanced cardiology program at PMC. Read more from the Pikeville Medical Leader>>>
It was a pleasure to join Eastern Kentucky PRIDE to celebrate the ceremonial signing for the new Pikeville Lift Station. When completed, the $44 million lift station will support 200 homes in Pike County, 38 businesses, and the development of the Pikeville Commons retail center and apartments. A project of this magnitude requires in-depth strategic planning and the heroes behind the scenes like Donovan Blackburn and the City Commissioners have ensured that the city can meet growing infrastructure needs. I also applauded Kelly Scott, sponsor of the Pikeville High School Panther PRIDE Club for being selected as the November 2014 PRIDE Volunteer of the Month. Congratulations! Read more >>>
In Martin County, I toured the impressive Recycling Solutions Technology Facility in Inez. Not only does it provide an environmental impact by reducing landfills in our region, but it also generates an economic boost to our rural area. This company specializes in renewable energy development and converts trash into energy by utilizing a gasification platform.
At the Carl D. Perkins Job Corps Center, I recognized Jimmie Slone as a "Difference Maker" in our region. Thanks in part to her tireless efforts, the Perkins Job Corps Center is now ranked #8 in the nation and #1 in Kentucky. Jimmie has also worked to recruit Kentucky students to the program and wielded vital community partnerships to help students gain internships and employment after graduation. I also applauded the students and educators on their impressive 94% graduation rate. Read more from the Floyd County Times >>>
At Rockcastle County High School, I joined Operation UNITE and Appalachia HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) to announce a new pilot drug-testing project called "Give Me A Reason." Free saliva-based drug testing kits are being distributed to 13 locations in Rockcastle County to help give students another reason to stay drug-free. Parents can pick up test kits free of charge at any of the locations. The pilot project kicks off in Pike County in November. Read more >>>
I also recognized Jamie Lear, Program Specialist for Rockcastle County Schools, as a "Difference Maker" in our region. Jamie has volunteered her graphic design skills for UNITE to design several educational materials. Keep up the great work!
I also had the pleasure of announcing the 2014 Outstanding UNITE Clubs of the Year. Rockcastle County had a clean sweep again with Rockcastle County High School, Rockcastle County Middle School and Mount Vernon Elementary School taking the top honors. Congratulations to our students, sponsors and leaders in Rockcastle County! Read more >>>
On Thursday, October 16th, I spent the day in the northern part of Kentucky's Fifth Congressional District, in Boyd County.
At King's Daughters Medical Center, I presented Kristie Whitlatch, President and CEO of KDMC with the "Health Impact Award" for the facility's "Team Health and Wellness" program for employees. Since 2011, team members have lost more than 3,000 pounds and diabetics on staff have improved their blood glucose levels. Keep up the great work!
The Ashland Alliance also invited me to speak to more than 100 economic development leaders during a meeting at the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center. I discussed the federal budget, funding for the Ebola crisis, combatting the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as opportunities for folks in the northern part of the district to get involved with the SOAR initiative. After the meeting, Carol Rice Allen, Executive Director of the Highlands Museum, gave me and my staff a tour of the impressive facility that displays the history and heritage of the Ashland area. Read more from The Daily Independent >>>
I ended the day in Boyd County with employees at the Calgon Carbon plant, where more than 200 employees work to produce activated carbon in Catlettsburg. Plant managers said Calgon Carbon uses upwards of 140,000 tons of coal at the facility every year.
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