Governor announces summit to improve eastern Kentucky's economy

HAZARD, Ky (WYMT) - State leaders are calling it the first step toward economic recovery.

Getting Kentucky back on track after thousands of job layoffs will take center stage at an upcoming summit in Pikeville at the Eastern Kentucky Convention Center in December.

It is no secret that eastern Kentucky's economy is struggling.

But a group of lawmakers, business leaders and education officials are hoping to change that.

Governor Steve Beshear said this task is big and he thinks the public needs to do their part.

"The ideas need to come from this region, you know? That is why we want the summit. We do not want to be imposing our thoughts on this region. This region has to develop its own ideas because that is the way it will work," said Beshear.

He hopes the "Shaping Our Appalachian Region" or S.O.A.R summit will provide people with exactly that opportunity and help improve lives in eastern Kentucky.

"We have got to start looking at other ways to develop a larger economy, a more diverse economy and innovation and technology are going to be a part of that. Education is going to be a part of that," said Beshear.

While few specifics were given at a news conference held Monday to announce the summit, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo suggested changes to how the state distributes coal severance money.

Others, like Jim Booth, who is the CEO of Booth Energy, want to create revenue in new ways.

"We have commissioned a study of tourism for eastern Kentucky and I really believe we can have some bright success in tourism," said Booth.

Still, Congressman Hal Rogers sees a future for coal but he is all for embracing new technology as well.

"Nowadays, access to the internet system, willing workers, motivated workers, we have got both and I think that is the future of our region," said Rogers.

Morehead State University President Wayne Andrews will be in attendance at the summit.

He said nothing should be off the table if it helps ensure that future is bright.

"Education is a piece of it. Economic development is a piece of it. Business development, entrepreneurship and the group they have assembled is an all star group," said Andrews.

The citizen-driven event will take place in Pikeville in December.

Prior to the summit, a S.O.A.R planning committee will meet to discuss topics to bring up at the event.

that will be made up of about 40 individuals with backgrounds in education, business and economic development.

Some of the members from eastern Kentucky include:

Bruce Ayers, retired Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Harlan
Charlie Beach III, Chairman of Peoples Exchange Bank, Beattyville
Fred Brashear, President and CEO of Hyden Citizen's Bank, Hyden
Cecil Clair, Owner of Cecil Clair Construction, Jackson
Ron Daley, Director of External Education Programs, Hazard Community and Technical College, Hazard
Dr. George Edwards, President of Big Sandy Community and Technical College, Prestonsburg
Dr. Stephen Greiner, President of Hazard Community and Technical College, Hazard
Jean Hale, President and CEO of Community Trust, Pikeville
Dr. James Hurley, President of University of Pikeville, Pikeville
Bud Warman, President and CEO of Highlands Regional Medical Center, Prestonsburg
Greg Wells, Chairman of the Board, First Trust Bank, Hazard


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