Several people and organizations received awards Thursday night at the East Kentucky Leadership Conference in Middlesboro.
This is the 26th annual conference.
Thursday night, dozens of people celebrated Appalachian heritage and the region's future at the Awards Dinner and Showcase.
The East Kentucky Leadership Foundation honored the six individuals and organizations for their contributions to Eastern Kentucky.
Before the awards ceremony, Keynote Speaker Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson spoke to the crowd about solving issues plaguing the region.
"Theyr'e the kind of issues that are stubborn. They're the kind of issues that take patience. They're the kind of issues that progress and energy and ultimately great ideas and innovative thinking will bring about the kind of change we want for ourselves, our family, and our children," said Lt. Gov. Abramson.
Local leaders met during the day and discussed how to build an economy for the future.
"We are all sharing the same problem. We are all suffering from a declining coal market. Economic development is hard right now in Southeastern Kentucky," said Albey Brock, Bell County Judge-Executive.
"We can pool our resources and to take advantage of all the things that are out there and try to make the most of it," said Charles Burchfield, Middlesboro Mall Manager and a Director of the Bell County Chamber of Commerce.
At the dinner, East Kentucky Leadership Foundation Board Chair Bill Weinberg announced ideas of using coal severance funds to ensure money for regional development.
"We need to establish an endowment with our severance tax funds that will ensure a stream of money for regional development even after fossil fuels are no longer being produced in the region," he said.
The conference continues on Friday at the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College Middlesboro campus.
MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WYMT) - For more than a quarter of a century, the East Kentucky Leadership Foundation has recognized people and organizations with an eye to the future.
The East Kentucky Leadership Conference started on Thursday in Middlesboro.
The event honors individuals and organizations for their work to improve Eastern Kentucky.
At the sessions during the conference, they discussed how to build a better economy in the future.
Bo Green is a businessman in Bell County and a Middlesboro City Councilman. He came to the East Kentucky Leadership Conference to discuss the region's economy as a whole.
"I think it's important to be involved in your community and since it's the first time in our area, I could get a sense of what's going on in other areas in Southeastern Kentucky and just be a part of everything that's going on," Green said.
Leaders are trying to get more young people involved in tackling the region's problems and working on solutions. This year the conference is working with the Young Professionals of Eastern Kentucky organization. They are discussing how to improve the economy for the next generations.
"I think this lets us all realize we've got to start looking at other ways of building our economy. As we all know, the coalfields are a little slower than they have been," said Bill Kelley, Middlesboro Mayor.
"Economic development is hard right now in Southeastern Kentucky, so we're getting to share what are you trying to do versus what I'm trying to do," said Albey Brock, Bell County Judge-Executive.
Bell County leaders shared their strategic plan for the county and groups are brainstorming how to use it in other communities.
"Me personally, I'd like to just learn other initiatives in the area and that way we can use them to improve the city of Middlesboro, city of Pineville, and Bell County as a whole," said Green.
They hope these ideas from the conference will lead to a brighter future.