After joining SOAR co-chairs Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers to announce a $12.5 million grant for the Appalachian Wildlife Center in Bell County and a $2.52 million grant for Harlan Wood Products in Harlan County, the SOAR Executive Board met in Corbin to finalize a regional blueprint for economic growth and diversity in an effort to achieve one of the greatest rural economic rebounds in the nation’s history.
The SOAR Executive Board approved the regional blueprint to coordinate a strategic, proactive and systemic approach across federal, state and local levels to shape the future of Kentucky’s Appalachian region.
“This blueprint is a succinct plan of action that will help SOAR continue to create new opportunities and network resources to broaden our horizons,” said Congressman Rogers. “After losing more than 11,000 coal mining jobs in our region over the last eight years, plus countless more coal-related businesses, this board understands the urgency of success and diversity in our coal communities. As long as we persevere and work together, I believe our future is limitless.”
SOAR’s regional blueprint is a cohesive plan based on the original working group reports and feedback from community listening sessions held across 54 Appalachian counties.
“Eastern Kentucky has always been a land of resilience and innovation,” said Gov. Bevin. “That spirit is alive and well and serves as a guiding light in SOAR’s collaborative efforts to propel this region forward. We are thankful for the feedback and support from members of our Appalachian communities, and are excited by the unlimited possibilities unfolding before us.”
The board-approved plan includes seven overarching goals to spur economic development, including: access to affordable high-speed broadband, workforce development, create and expand entrepreneurship for the digital economy, reduce health disparities, increase industrial business and employment, create a local foods movement, and establish Kentucky’s Appalachian region as a tourism designation. The SOAR Regional Blueprint is available at http://soar-ky.org/blueprint.
“Built off of input from thousands of citizens across the region, the blueprint is a call to action to all stakeholders in eastern Kentucky to develop projects and programs that line up with its goals and objectives,” said Jared Arnett, SOAR Executive Director. “We will build teams around these goals, set metrics for success, and facilitate strategically aligned projects to transform the economy of eastern Kentucky.”
Students from Paintsville High School were recognized during the meeting for being the top high school hackers at the SOAR Health Hack-a-thon in October. In an effort to find a solution to Kentucky’s drug abuse epidemic, the student group, Team Oasis (Overcoming Abusive Substances by Interacting Socially), proposed a mobile app that would create a licensed, professional chat room that must be used before people can get a prescription for pain medicine. It would also serve as an online community support mechanism. The proposal earned the team an award of $1,000.
To see a list of all the SOAR Health Hack-a-thon winners, visit http://www.soar-ky.org.
The board also applauded recent advances on the KentuckyWired project, SOAR.network, and TechHire East Kentucky.
SOAR is a network of our Appalachia that unites 54 counties worth of talent enabling the people to shape the future of the region and it is driven by action. SOAR is us; creating these innovations and solving problems to make a better future for our region.
(Left) SOAR Executive Committee discusses regional blueprint
(Right) Paintsville High School winning team for the SOAR Health Hack-a-thon