KFTC members speak up for just transition at SOAR Summit

The conversation about economic transition in eastern Kentucky and Appalachia got a big boost on Monday as more than 1,500 people gathered in Pikeville for the SOAR Summit. Dozens of KFTC members participated, sounding the drumbeat for a just transition in the mountains and distributing ideas and literature with specific suggestions on the principles, process and policies that should guide that transition.

SOAR stands for Shaping Our Appalachian Region, a regional planning process announced in October by Governor Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers. The summit on December 9 in Pikeville was the first step in that process.

But KFTC members have been talking about a just transition for years.

“It’s a different tenor than what we had in April. But I’m excited. They know we gotta do something.” —Ray Tucker  

Ray Tucker of Pulaski County said the summit would not have happened if KFTC hadn’t hosted the Appalachia’s Bright Future (ABF) conference in April. That three-day event in Harlan brought together more than 200 people from across the region and outside it to explore avenues for a just transition in the mountains.

“It’s a different tenor than what we had in April," said Tucker, noting the involvement at SOAR of many people connected with government and business. "But I’m excited. They know we gotta do something."

Several themes of ABF were on the agenda at SOAR, including youth engagement, building from existing local assets, broadband access, entrepreneurship and regional collaboration. One legislator even used the words “bright future.”

“They looked to our template,” said KFTC member Sylvia Ryerson of Letcher County.

In the course of the day, participants contributed dozens of ideas during breakout sessions and via comment cards. Recurring themes included encouraging entrepreneurship, quality training for highly skilled jobs, working across county lines, strengthening education at all levels, sharing resources, expanding broadband, improving highways, offering better childcare, and putting aside political egos and rivalries.

Reflecting on the summit, KFTC members generally felt positive about the day.

Josh May of Letcher County attended a breakout session on leadership development and youth engagement. “I just couldn’t believe that a hundred people could come to consensus about some of the things we did,” May said. “I’m reeling right now. It’s surreal and amazing in some ways.” One thing his group came to consensus about is that eastern Kentucky needs new people in elected office.

The crowd of 1,500 at the summit spent the morning hearing from Beshear, Rogers, and a father and son from northeastern Minnesota who described economic transition in the Iron Range. In that region, people realized in the 1970s that a transition was coming, so they established a “rainy day fund” to fund economic development. Minnesota also returns two-thirds of severance taxes to the mining region.

Ray Tucker and Dee DavisIn the afternoon, participants chose from nine breakout sessions: job creation and retention, entrepreneurship and innovation, infrastructure, public and private investment, tourism, regional collaboration and identity, leadership development and youth engagement, lifelong learning, and health/biotechnology/human services.

The planning committee will compile the recommendations and develop a report to Beshear and Rogers within 30 days. Beshear and Rogers will review the report and produce a plan within another 30 days.

"Today is not the end of gathering new ideas," Beshear said. "That will be an ongoing process."

Keep checking our blog for additional stories about the SOAR summit. And here's some news coverage of the event:

A SOARing start

SOAR summit met with wait-and-see attitude

At summit, Eastern Kentucky leaders look to Minnesota for ideas to renew economy

SOAR Summit in Pike County, Ky. Addresses Economic Challenges

 

Comments

I think the main reason for S.O.A.R. is that the tonnage of coal is declining. Leaders in E. KY are forced by economics of decline in coal severence money; and. decline in coal revenue to develope the area to replace the loss in coal money, or become ghost towns all over E. KY. The people who own the land and everything else in E. KY will loose billions of dollars if their land values and their buisnesses will also become worthless; if some other form of revenue beside coal is not developed. One vital part of economic developement must be an international regional airport in E. KY like Atlanta.  Without an international airport buisness executives will not bring high tech buisnesses in the area that people make decent wages; and also illiminate the dumb hillbilly attitude which people all over the United States associate with people in East KY.Something I have been lobbying for is the training of Engineers in the colleges of E. KY.  One reason high tech industry does not come into E. KY is the lacke of colleges training engineers. If I would have went to S.O.A.R. I would have lobbied again for local colleges to create engineering programs in their colleges in E. KY - but i didn't have a ride to S.O.A.R.KFTC could develope a branch of its organization too help create buisnesses and give jobs to people.  I think kftc'ers should study Mohammad Yunus who gave low interest loans too buisnesses too create social buisnesses, and provide money so that the poor could get themselves out of poverty;  which would be a good addition too supplement capitalism in the United States too help the poor and abolish poverty in E. KY.we also need a four year college.....without a four year college and other colleges built we cannot compete with Lexington and Louisville for hi-tech industry that have colleges that train students for all types of work.  

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