Some Background on SOAR

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Ahead of tomorrow’s Shaping Our Appalachian Region conference in Pikeville, we’ve compiled a short reading list of articles about the summit, the challenges facing eastern Kentucky, and ideas for the future. These pieces will prepare you for watching our live coverage of SOAR, starting tomorrow at 9 a.m. on KETKY and at KET.org/live, as well as our hour-long recap of the day’s events at 8 p.m. on KET.

–Gov. Steve Beshear and Rep. Hal Rogers outline their goals for convening SOAR.
“The summit and the work that will follow is a bipartisan, private-public effort to create and implement new strategies that will help these important communities … Eastern Kentucky is not an island. Kentucky is strongest when all of its regions contribute to the economic competitiveness of its economy.”

–The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Bill Estep reviews the challenges facing Appalachian Kentucky, and some of the failed efforts of the past.
“The coal industry long dominated private-sector employment in the region, but there are fewer people working in the industry than at any time since the state started keeping records in 1927. The layoffs have spread through the economy, hurting other businesses, and the downturn in production has cut tax revenue for state and local governments.”

Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen asks, “Can a new and different chapter be written for Eastern Kentucky?

–Pike County Judge/Executive Wayne T. Rutherford says the issues have been studied enough. What the region needs, he says, is results.
“We have planned and we have made progress, but what we need now is cooperation and help from the Federal government to invest here to reclaim our tomorrows.”

–Professor Dan O’Hair and researcher Michael Childress at the University of Kentucky believe solutions that will help Appalachian communities can benefit struggling rural counties across the Commonwealth.
“Kentucky’s county-centric parochialism, legacy of undervaluing education, and geographic terrain have presented formidable obstacles in the past, but information and communication technologies offer the potential to overcome these traditional barriers … The reality is that rural Kentucky — not just Appalachia Kentucky — needs a new plan for the future.”

–Finally, Appalachian historian Ron Eller encourages the participants to learn from past mistakes.
“Thinking out of the box about land use and tax reform, reforestation, energy efficiency, the expansion of public places, water conservation, health care delivery and job training will generate needed employment opportunities and also build confidence, resourcefulness and hope … The best outcome of the Pikeville gathering, therefore, would be the creation of an ongoing process to sustain democratic change in the region.”

See you tomorrow on air and online, and remember we’ll have a running synopsis of the SOAR proceedings on this blog and on Twitter.

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