16 Mar 2021


Project will help local communities be successful in locating retail operations to region

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (March. 16, 2021) – Today, a pair of freshly inked signatures solidified a partnership between One East Kentucky (OEK) and national retail and commercial recruitment expert Retail Strategies. Nearly a year in the making, this partnership is a very important component in ensuring east Kentucky’s vitality, residential quality of life and economic success for many years to come.

Through this partnership, eight eastern Kentucky communities will work closely with One East Kentucky and Retail Strategies to ensure they are armed with the necessary tools to successfully recruit new retail and commercial business opportunities. Utilizing Retail Strategies’ proprietary intelligence, real estate and data analysis, OEK will help facilitate the development of recruitment strategies for these individual communities to be successful in recruiting new opportunities their markets can support. Communities included in this project include Breathitt, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Lawrence, Magoffin, Perry and Pike Counties.

“As we continue to be successful in recruiting new employers to the region, new primary and secondary jobs will be created,” said Chuck Sexton, president and CEO of One East Kentucky. “These new jobs will positively impact the bottom lines of every existing business in our region, spurring small business development and commercial growth. We are constantly finding new opportunities to support our region’s communities and beyond and our continued recruitment success will necessitate growth in other areas like retail, restaurant, healthcare, residential and hospitality.”

Founded in 2011, Retail Strategies is the national expert in recruiting businesses on behalf of communities. They work to give communities across the United States an advantage in attracting businesses by putting to work their real estate expertise, data, and retail experience in successful commercial development. Attracting new retail to a community is a complex, connection critical, and time-consuming endeavor, but through their efforts, many communities have experienced success in recruiting new businesses by utilizing customized strategic plans and specific, executable strategies.

“Through our work with communities we have seen retail work as a catalyst for economic development,” said Sarah Beth Thornton, vice president of business development for Retail Strategies. “We applaud One East Kentucky for incorporating retail and restaurant recruitment as a part of their traditional economic development approach. Through the education of Retail Academy, city and county leaders will be armed with the tools necessary to ‘speak retail’ and truly understand the opportunities that exist within their markets.”

This project is being made possible by One East Kentucky’s Appalachian Regional Commission grant awarded in September 2020. Whereas OEK’s primary focus is the creation of primary and secondary jobs, the focus of the Opportunity East Kentucky Industry Cluster Growth Initiative is to address the financial needs of our region’s communities by ensuring OEK’s efforts support the creation of all new jobs in eastern Kentucky. This retail study will help local communities address areas of development outside of industrial recruitment and retention.

Working with Retail Strategies, One East Kentucky will uncover valuable information about the region like retail leakage and surplus, retail trends, market viability, customer personas and the highest and best use of the most marketable pieces of commercial real estate in our region. This information will be used to compare our communities with similar communities experiencing success and will be packaged for marketing each community to pre-qualified opportunities that have experienced growth and success in comparable markets. 

As existing entrepreneurs, small businesses and retailers are navigating COVID-19 and planning for the post-pandemic future, a digital resource tool kit will be made available for eastern Kentucky businesses as a part of this project. This tool kit will include information like digital marketing trends, success strategies and social media optimization. Additionally, a detailed webinar covering omnichannel retail techniques and discussion regarding current pain-points with a real-time virtual question and answer session with retail industry experts will be scheduled later this year.

“One Harlan County is looking forward to this opportunity and a new partnership with One East Kentucky which will bolster our local economic development efforts,” said Colby Kirk, executive director of One Harlan County. “One East Kentucky’s strong vision for the region and their ability to connect local communities with firms like Retail Strategies will lead to positive outcomes in eastern Kentucky. I am excited for the impact this project will make in Harlan County in helping our organization better recruit new jobs to the community and provide higher levels of support for our existing, locally owned businesses.”

An important component of this project also includes the Retail Academy. Retail Strategies’ online-based retail recruitment education platform for the region’s community leaders. This platform will help local communities further understand retail recruitment intricacies and put customized strategic plans and strategies to work to help ensure a bright future for the mountains of Kentucky.

One East Kentucky’s recently announced business retention and expansion program will be integral to this project’s success. Kick-off will take place over the next six months, followed by local communities’ recruitment efforts and working with One East Kentucky and Retail Strategies over the next several years. For more information about this partnership, 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.