1 Mar 2021

Brown brings 16 years of local-level economic development experience to the One East Kentucky team

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (March. 1, 2021) – Today, an important step in establishing One East Kentucky’s business retention and expansion program takes shape with the announcement of Martin County native Christi Brown joining the OEK team as existing industry liaison. In this position, Brown will be instrumental in helping stand-up the BR&E program by working with local community and economic developers, community stakeholders and business leaders to provide valuable support services to companies across the region.

Brown is a 2006 graduate of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute and most recently served as the Martin County Economic Development Authority executive director. During her time with the MCEDA, Brown developed strong relationships with many regional and state economic development partners, assisted with business development opportunities in Martin County, represented the MCEDA during industry site visits and managed industrial property located within the Eastern Kentucky Business Park, and both the Martin County Busines Center’s development and maintenance activities.

“I look forward to being a part of the One East Kentucky team,” said Brown. “OEK has established itself as an unparalleled leader in recruitment in the region. I am excited to become a contributor and feel very humbled to have been chosen for this position. My goal is to be a trusted resource and advocate for business and industry across the region.”

One East Kentucky’s BR&E program will help diversify the region's economy by focusing on building relationships with existing primary and secondary job-creators, connecting them with valuable resources for diversifying their product and market reach and assisting them with expansion opportunities. 

“One East Kentucky is constantly seeking new opportunities to positively impact our communities,” said One East Kentucky President and CEO Chuck Sexton. “Developing a robust BR&E program to assist in organic growth for our region is an important step forward. This program is even more vital as economies continue to navigate the aftereffects of COVID-19.”

The new BR&E program will focus on working with One East Kentucky’s regional partner organizations to meet the needs of existing industry, the development of unique local incentives and deal-closing packages, supporting local communities with a retail and small business strategy, regional training and education opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs, hosting existing industry site visits and relationship-building retention visits, and facilitating relationships with external resources like the Small Business Association, the Small Business Development Center and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. Over the next three years, the BR&E program’s goal is to assist at least 300 businesses across the region and help retain at least 250 existing jobs.

This regional business retention and expansion program is the first of its kind across One East Kentucky’s nine-county region and is largely thanks to the $1.23 million Appalachian Regional Commission grant awarded to OEK in September 2020. The ARC and the state of Kentucky recognize the need to diversify Appalachia’s economy by creating new employment opportunity within primary and secondary industry sectors and the Opportunity East Kentucky Industry Cluster Growth Initiative grant will ensure that OEK’s BR&E activities are successful for many years to come.

One East Kentucky, established in 2015, has primarily been focused on recruiting new industry to the region based on identified targeted industries. Without the critical economic development work facilitated by both recruitment and now retention efforts, population decline, job loss and degradation of the tax base are guaranteed to continue.

“The substantial impact of the loss of coal-related jobs and revenue across all of Appalachia is no secret,” said One East Kentucky Director of Regional Development Ivy Stanley. “However, the downturn in the coal economy has served as a catalyst for One East Kentucky’s work to bring well-paying employment opportunities to the communities it serves. Our responsibility to rebuild critical employment infrastructure, population and tax base extend beyond recruiting new companies to our communities. This new program and our work with community partners is invaluable to the future of east Kentucky.”

With One East Kentucky’s support and leadership, community leaders have been successful in making great strides to ensure a positive future for east Kentucky. OEK has helped secure over $3 million for industrial site development; over $4 million in grant funding support for workforce development; commissioned EKY Works - east Kentucky’s first-ever comprehensive talent identification study, which allowed OEK to quantify and qualify the abundance of available, skilled, workers in our region; and establishing our region as America’s first certified AEROready region, ensuring success in working to recruit aviation and aerospace related industry.

For more information about One East Kentucky or our nine-county region, contact Chuck Sexton at 606-886-7333 or  

About One East Kentucky:
Established in 2015 as east Kentucky’s Center of Economic Development Excellence, One East Kentucky is a 501(c)3 regional economic development organization responsible for spearheading the growth and diversification of eastern Kentucky’s economic base through recruiting new industry, jobs and investment to the heart of Appalachia. Since 2016, One East Kentucky has announced over 1,000 new jobs and $154.6 million in capital investment. For more information about One East Kentucky, the nine-county region, industrial properties, workforce development, incentives or other economic development resources, visit Follow One East Kentucky at, on Twitter @OneEastKY and LinkedIn.