Press Releases

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) welcomed leaders from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl to southern and eastern Kentucky for the federal agency's annual conference, hosted this year by The Center for Rural Development in Somerset. Congressman Rogers and Tony Wilder, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Local Government, guided ARC leaders from the 13 Appalachian states on a tour of two local facilities where broadband access is an essential part of everyday business. 

"Thanks to ARC's investment in our region, the I-Way (KentuckyWired) will provide fiber optic broadband access to every county in the state," said Congressman Rogers, Co-Chair of SOAR - Shaping Our Appalachian Region. "ARC leaders got a first-hand look at the types of high-tech jobs that our workforce can continue to accommodate. The tour was designed to inspire ARC leaders to help us plan for the many new tech-based opportunities that will be afforded by our new broadband interstate."

The tour started at Blackboard, Inc. located at the Valley Oak Technology Complex in Somerset, where more than 300 people are employed year-round. Blackboard provides support services around-the-clock for students, faculty and staff at more than 500 higher-education institutions around the world.

“When we opened our doors in Somerset nine years ago we were the only EdTech company in town,” said Willie Wilson, Director of Operations for the Blackboard Contact Center in Somerset. “Since then, we’ve been able to provide hundreds of employees the ability to work in the tech industry, and in turn opened lots of new and exciting career opportunities for them.”

The tour bus continued on to the City of Williamsburg where the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) is based. Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management joined us for an update on the important work at KCC, where facial recognition reviews are processed for all nonimmigrant visa cases worldwide. 

"We could not ask for a better staff than the one we have at KCC. Our team in Kentucky takes on every new task we give them and always exceeds our expectations," said Sarah Welborne, Director of the Kentucky Consular Center. "They are highly skilled and extremely dedicated to KCC's mission."

"The United States receives millions of visa applications each year and this Kentucky team helps process hundreds of thousands of those every single day," said Congressman Rogers. "I am so proud of the top-notch work of the staff at this facility and the important role they play in this step of our homeland security."

The ARC Conference entitled Appalachian Apps: Transforming Our Region's Economy continues through Thursday, October 15. Click here for more information. 

Beginning at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, October 15, Congressman Rogers will join Earl Gohl and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear for a panel discussion about the future of the Appalachian Region. The panel will be moderated by Renee Shaw from Kentucky Educational Television. Following the discussion, a special announcement will be made by federal and state officials.