PINEVILLE, Ky. (July 7, 2014) – Today, Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers joined the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Executive Committee to announce new investments into the region and new partnerships.
Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, announced an investment of $312,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to provide technical assistance in the formation and implementation for the SOAR initiative for job creation and private sector growth in the region.
“EDA is pleased to support the collaborative SOAR initiative,” said Williams. “This vital EDA assistance will help SOAR in its mission to help eastern Kentucky capitalize on its strengths to diversify, innovate and implement job-creating diversification strategies.”
The EDA investment will support implementation and technical assistance by a consortium of nine Area Development Districts located in the region.
Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), announced an investment of more than $1 million to engage 52 full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to improve the economy and quality of life in eastern Kentucky.
Through this investment, AmeriCorps VISTA members will provide more than 100,000 volunteer hours to Eastern Kentucky families and individuals in the areas of job creation and retention, youth engagement, education success, and health and human services over the next year. The VISTAs will recruit and manage volunteers, raise funds, and build the capacity of 16 local nonprofit and education organizations that tackle poverty and expand opportunity in Kentucky’s Appalachian region.
“SOAR is a bold and innovative effort to improve the lives of the people of eastern Kentucky, and we are thrilled to join with Congressman Rogers and Gov. Beshear in advancing this important goal through this major investment of human capital through AmeriCorps,” said Spencer. “AmeriCorps members are passionate, dedicated citizens who give a year of their lives to service, and we know they will make a big difference for eastern Kentucky.”
Gov. Beshear announced he will promote eastern Kentucky during his upcoming attendance at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Opportunity Investment Conference in Washington, D.C. July 24. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack created a new export and investment initiative called “Made in Rural America” to help propel the growth of small businesses across rural America.
“My time in D.C. is an opportunity to talk about SOAR and how we are using public-private partnerships to change the course of this rural region,” Gov. Beshear said. “The audience will include up to 500 movers and shakers, including major investors, rural business leaders, government officials, economic development experts and other partners. This is a great opportunity to not only spread the word about SOAR but also to plant seeds that, hopefully, lead to future investments.”
Congressman Rogers announced SOAR will host a “Health Impact Series” in August featuring Dr. Thomas Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The tour marks the first time that the Director of the CDC has visited eastern Kentucky.
“Our people have long suffered from high rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other health disparities, so Dr. Frieden decided to make a house call to eastern Kentucky,” said Rogers. “This is a rare chance to bring a world-renown leader in health care to our doorstep. We will look to Dr. Frieden for help in diagnosing our high risks, as well as his prescription for how we can improve healthy living and mortality rates.”
The SOAR Health Impact Series is free and open to the public.
· Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Center for Rural Development
· Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. at the Hazard Community and Technical College
· Aug. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Ramada Paintsville Hotel & Convention Center
· Aug. 6 at 10 a.m. at the Morehead Conference Center
Space is limited for the SOAR Health Impact Series, but individuals can reserve a seat by contacting Cheryl Keaton at 606-657-3218 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about applying to serve as a VISTA member, visit http://my.americorps.gov website and search for TASK.
For more information about SOAR, visit http://governor.ky.gov/soar/ and follow SOAR activities on Facebook @ShapingOurAppalachianRegion and on Twitter @SOAR_EKY. To contact the SOAR office, call 606-444-5127 or 606-437-5127.
About the SOAR initiative
The SOAR initiative was launched by Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers in late 2013, after a stunning downturn in the coal market exacerbated historic challenges in eastern Kentucky related to unemployment and poverty. More than 1,700 Kentuckians attended a one-day SOAR summit in Pikeville in December. SOAR is intended to help the region develop and put into action new locally-oriented strategies to attack persistent challenges.