Appalachian Regional Commission Conference Underway In Pikeville

The Appalachian Regional Commission Fall Conference is underway in Pikeville. Hundreds have gathered to discuss the future of Appalachia. The impact of the A.R.C. can be seen in the many projects across Eastern Kentucky.

The new clinic at the Osteopathic School of Medicine at Pikeville College is free for students and faculty, one of the many new things added thanks to funding from the A.R.C. Its additions are attracting and graduating medical students, who are planting their own roots in Appalachia.

Doctor Michael Murphy, Associate Dean for Clinical Sciences, says 50 percent of new applicants are from Kentucky or Appalachia, like second year student, Jill Blandford.

"I was an occupational therapist for pediatrics for seven years and then decided to go to medical school and so this was just the most natural transition after my third and fourth year. I could go into any field of medical through my residency and feel really good about it," Blandford said.

"It's the people of Appalachia, like Blandford, who were in the minds of President Kennedy and President Johnson when the A.R.C. was created to bring the region's economics up to par with the fast pace of the rest of the nation.

"In the last forty years, we've seen our poverty rate cut in half, our infant mortality rate reduced by two thirds. More than 800 thousand families received water and sewer and we've built over 2400 miles of the Appalachian development highway system," said A.R.C. Spokesperson Louis Segesvary.

From streetscape projects to connecting Kentucky globally by broadband, the A.R.C. is far from finished with growing 51 counties in Kentucky.

While the A.R.C. serves 13 states, eight million dollars of its budget is allocated to Kentucky alone every year.

Aside from community projects, the A.R.C conference is also impacting Eastern Kentucky businesses.

Local business managers say they're excited. They say with this many people in town, business is booming. They say people can't stay in the Expo Center all the time, so when they're not there, they're out spending money in their business.

Hotels are booked with people from all over, but managers say it's good for business.

"We've had anywhere, 50 to 60 people a day calling wanting rooms for the conference," said Teresa Duncan with the Pikeville Holiday Inn Express. "We've actually been sold out for the conference for about three months now."

And so have other hotels.

"Which is a good thing. Always a good thing to be booked," said Thomas Huffman with the Landmark Inn. "This conference has helped this week tremendously."

Restaurant managers say hungry out of towners are also coming their way.

"We really enjoy meeting people. I personally enjoy meeting people and seeing them come in and out of the restaurant," said Joshua Huffman with Landmark Restaurant.

And they're serving them a taste of Eastern Kentucky.

"We look forward to providing them a good country cooking to everybody who comes our way," Joshua said.

The Appalachian Regional Commission also works to boost the economy.

"I think this conference has been a boost for the whole community," Duncan said.

Pikeville business owners would say A.R.C. has certainly helped them this week. Hotel managers say business was down over the summer, they think because of high gas prices, so they say this week is just what they needed.


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