Press Releases

The Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) executive board today announced the hiring of Jared Arnett, of Harold, as the regional initiative’s founding executive director.
Arnett, the CEO of the Southeast Kentucky (SEKY) Chamber of Commerce, has been involved with the SOAR initiative since its start last December and currently serves as the chair of the business incubation working group. He will begin the new position Nov. 1.
SOAR co-chairs Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers cited Arnett’s passion for the future of eastern Kentucky, energy, vision and entrepreneurial business skills as key factors in his hire.
“I’m proud to say that SOAR’s founding leader is first and foremost an eastern Kentuckian who knows firsthand the greatest needs and challenges of our region,” said Congressman Rogers. “Jared’s experience exemplifies our mission at SOAR through his work to promote regionalism, job creation and strategic planning for the future. I have great confidence in his ability to take this organization to the next level and I encourage leaders across the region to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him as we work collectively for a better eastern Kentucky.”
“Jared Arnett has been a believer in SOAR since it started last year, and his enthusiasm for the potential of eastern Kentucky is infectious,” said Gov. Beshear. “He’s a relentless innovator, he’s well-connected to the people and institutions of eastern Kentucky, and he is deeply committed to advancing this region. He’s the right person to carry the SOAR initiative forward.”
Arnett has deep ties to Appalachia, especially to the entrepreneur and business communities. He helped transition the Pike County Chamber of Commerce into the regional Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in 2011, and was later named CEO. Since then, the chamber has grown to include more than 500 regional businesses with a 40 percent increase in budget.
“I am humbled to be selected for this historic position,” Arnett said. “I have tremendous respect for Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers for their continued commitment to implement a change in trajectory for Kentucky’s Appalachian region. I have spent much of my professional career to this end, and I am excited to continue that mission. I believe the best way to predict the future is to create it, and that is the essence of SOAR. I am honored to serve the executive board and to continue to build the region’s capacity for job creation.”
A native of Salyersville, Arnett has spent his professional career in Pikeville. He earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Morehead State University.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, of Prestonsburg, said, “The SOAR initiative has come a long way in a short period of time, and this hire represents the next major step in that process. I’m pleased to see Jared take on this responsibility and know he will do an outstanding job as we all work toward helping the region take full advantage of our ideas and resources. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”
“SOAR has already brought together numerous resources and people, crossing county lines and putting aside differences to work for common goals – the economic survival and renewed growth of eastern Kentucky,” said Senate President Robert Stivers, of Manchester. “Hiring the executive director is a commitment that the momentum achieved so far continues forward, and ensures the mission of SOAR remains focused.”
The Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), which has served as the interim administrative body for SOAR over the last year, will continue to support SOAR in a consulting role.
“RUPRI has been humbled and honored to play a small role in the development of SOAR, which now stands as one of our nation’s most innovative regional rural governance models,” said Chuck Fluharty, president and CEO of RUPRI, who has served as interim executive director. “SOAR must achieve results in a ‘collective impact’ framework, and Jared is an absolutely perfect selection to lead this region and its people in this approach. Jared’s leadership is already evidenced in his career achievements, which reflect his unique vision, collaborative approach, inclusive decision making, and understanding that lifting all sectors and all people is essential to fully achieving the region’s potential. He is also a servant leader, which must be evident if this region is to achieve the amazing impact it is poised to deliver.”
“Jared will be an outstanding leader for the SOAR initiative because it suits his strengths and interests in supporting eastern Kentucky,” said John Blackburn, chair of the SEKY Chamber. “I’m happy for the opportunity Jared has been given, but we will miss the leadership he has provided during some stormy times in the past two years.”
Arnett will be responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of strategic, operational and financial goals through strong management, leadership and communication with the wide array of citizens and stakeholders engaged in the mission to improve the economy and quality of life for the future of the region. He will develop and implement the SOAR Program of Work, as described in the Jan. 13, 2014, Final Report to the Region. The director reports to the SOAR executive board.
Arnett will work with the executive board to host a follow-up SOAR Summit in early 2015. Last December’s summit brought 1,700 people to Pikeville to discuss their vision for the region. Since that time, more than 2,500 citizens have been involved in providing detailed input for how to make positive changes in education and retraining, tourism, economic development, broadband, health, agriculture, regional collaboration, infrastructure and youth engagement.