Economic Development

Upon graduating from Wayne County High School in 1955, I was forced to leave home in search for work in Cincinnati, Ohio. As I sought to make my way in an unfamiliar city, far away from family and friends, I vowed to someday bring jobs to rural southern and eastern Kentucky, so that future Kentuckians wouldn’t have to leave home in order to make a decent living.  During my time in Congress, I have worked to create jobs and boost economic development all over the Fifth District. Through flood control efforts, community development projects, an environmental cleanup campaign, and region-wide tourism initiatives, our area is making progress in attracting businesses and new jobs. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to make this region a better place to live, work and raise a family. 

It is impossible to promote economic development, attract new jobs, or create a better standard of living if our people are constantly recovering from the death and destruction of raging flood waters. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have directed nearly $800 million dollars to flood projects in the Fifth District. In particular, I am proud of the work the Army Corps of Engineers has done through the Section 202 program, which I helped create. This vital program authorizes the Corps to design and construct flood control measures to prevent future flood damages in the Tug and Levisa Forks and Upper Cumberland River Basins. In communities where flood projects have been completed – such as Barbourville, Harlan, Middlesboro, Pineville and Williamsburg – family homes and businesses are more protected than every before, and the doors of opportunity are swinging open.

Further, As we saw in the devastating flooding of July and August of 2022, more must be done to prevent flooding in our region. In response to these catastrophic floods, I have worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin studies on how to best prevent such vast flooding damage. In the Water Resources Development Act of 2023, I successfully included language to prioritize flood mitigation studies in our region and reduce the non-Federal cost share for local entities from 50% to just 10%. Additionally, I have secured nearly $2 million in funding for the City of Beattyville to investigate potentially lifesaving flood control measures in their town – and fully plan on seeing the construction of those measures to completion.

 Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Webpage Link


In 1986, I worked with regional leaders to create the Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED), a community development organization that works to recruit businesses and create employment opportunities. Since its creation, SKED has successfully assisted more than 150 industries locate or expand their operations in our region.  These vital SKED projects employ more than 10,500 workers and have invested an estimated $500 million in our area.


In 1996, we celebrated the opening of The Center for Rural Development, a state-of-the-art facility that serves as an economic development and telecommunications hub for a 42-county region. The Center and its professional staff cultivate and promote the region's economic, educational, natural, and cultural resources to create better opportunities for the people of southern and eastern Kentucky

It is difficult to attract new businesses and tourists when our roadsides and waterways are littered with trash. In 1997, the late General James Bickford, former Secretary of the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, and I created the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program, which stands for Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment. PRIDE links citizens with the resources of local, state, and federal agencies to clean up the region’s waterways, end illegal trash dumps, and promote environmental education and awareness.   

Recognizing the unique challenges and potential of our region, I launched the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative in 2013. Together with former Governor Steve Beshear, we envisioned an open and annual summit for the region’s leaders, businesses, organizations, and citizens to come together for partnership and innovation. SOAR strives to energize southern and eastern Kentucky organizations and community leaders to think outside the box for an emerging Appalachian economy. With a focus on job creation, regional opportunities, and overall improvement of the quality of life in southern and eastern Kentucky, SOAR serves as a blueprint for a 21st Century Appalachia.

Since 2017, I have also been proud to partner with SKED on its Supplier Education and Economic Development (SEED) initiative, intended to connect southern and eastern Kentucky businesses with major contractors in the defense, automotive, and aerospace industries. Our region has a strong, capable workforce, and offers many manufacturing and machine shops that can provide great value to these industries at competitive price points. This initiative has already benefited our region, and I am confident it will continue to do so moving forward.

Supporting projects that promote economic development, job creation and cleaning up our communities has always been a priority of mine throughout my years in Congress.  I will continue to support policies at the federal level and projects at the local level which will ensure the long-term viability of the southern and eastern Kentucky we all know and love.