For Immediate Release: Regional Organization Challenge Communities to Develop Local Impact Strategies

Friday, April 20, 2018

Main News Photo

Prestonsburg, KY, April 20, 2018 – In January, One East Kentucky (OEK), SOAR and AEP Kentucky Power met with communities to present a challenge.  During the 1st Quarter of 2018, each of the nine counties represented by OEK were to create a strategy that could positively impact their community.  Participants were asked to bring all stakeholders together to create a holistic approach in support of the overall vision of OEK, SOAR and KY Power toward economic diversification.

“While OEK, SOAR and KY Power are strongly focused on specific regional strategies, it is important for our communities to be working on improvement at the local level,” said Chuck Sexton, President & CEO of One East Kentucky.  “It is critical that collectively, we understand the overall vision for East Kentucky’s future while simultaneously empowering each city and county to be proactive in implementing steps to improve their competitiveness in a global economy.”

To entice participation, each community that successfully delivered a strategy presentation would receive a $1,000 grant in order to begin implementing their project. The community with the highest scoring strategy would receive an additional $25,000 to make their idea a reality.  “Initiatives like this Regional Strategy Challenge are the reason we created the Kentucky Power Economic Growth Grant,” stated Jacob Colley, Manager of External Affairs for Kentucky Power.  “At the end of the day, economic growth comes from great planning, and we certainly wish to encourage strategic thinking in all of the communities we serve.”

On Wednesday April 18th, communities gathered at Big Sandy Community & Technical College in Prestonsburg to deliver their strategies to Chuck Sexton, Jacob Colley and Jared Arnett, Executive Director of SOAR.  “Listening to the presentations reminded me of how important regional thinking, with local action, is to the future of Appalachia.  Each of these groups stepped up with unique ideas that will have a positive impact in their community.  We’re glad to partner with them in moving their communities forward,” stated Arnett.

To prepare, each community hosted visioning sessions with leaders and partner organizations over three months to build consensus from local stakeholders.  They were then instructed to prepare for their presentations by delivering a strategy, implementation plan, projected budget and timeline for their project. 

“From our perspective, bringing local leadership together to discuss ideas was vital to the process,” Sexton continued, “and we hope our communities do this on a regular basis regardless of what goal they wish to achieve, or what obstacle they wish to overcome.”

The presentations by communities lasted for nearly three hours as Sexton, Arnett and Colley marked notes and judged their strategies on the basis of: Alignment with Regional Organizations, Holistic Approach, Feasibility, Projected Impact, and Stakeholder Inclusion.  After deliberation, Hazard/Perry County was chosen as the recipient of the $25,000 grant.

Tonita Goodwin, Executive Director of Hazard/Perry County Economic Development Alliance said upon hearing the news, “We were honored to have the opportunity to compete with our partners in the region and pleased to implement our program locally.  We plan to share this strategy with other counties and work with them to help bring their ideas to fruition as well!”

Perry County’s plan is to implement Entrepreneurship and Workforce Readiness classes within their local high schools. The goals of their strategy are to encourage students to think about starting their own company, and to be prepared for their future career working within the region.  The courses would be conducted per semester for 11 weeks each, with the first half focused on understanding how to start a business with real-life examples, as well as class projects.

In addition to Hazard/Perry County, Louisa/Lawrence County, Prestonsburg/Floyd County, Knott County, Salyersville and Jackson/Breathitt County will receive the $1,000 grant for participating.  “All of these communities have great ideas that we are excited about,” said Arnett. “Although we wish we could give each of them $25,000, we hope that every single one utilizes the $1,000 to kick-start their strategies and seek additional funding.”

The group plans to continue meeting quarterly to get updates on the progress of each community’s strategy and wishes to have the competition annually.

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One East Kentucky is a privately funded, non-profit regional economic development organization covering nine counties.  If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Charles Sexton at 606-886-7333 or email at chuck@OneEastKY.com 

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