Gov. Steve Beshear and 5th District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers have joined hands in a bipartisan effort to find ways to bolster the economy of eastern Kentucky. With the loss of thousands of coal jobs and the planned 2015 closing of much of the Big Sandy Power Plant near Louisa, the timing could not be better for a renewed effort on regional economic development.
Beshear, who is in the midst of his second and final four-year term as governor, and Rogers, a Republican and dean of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, have called a summit of public and private sector leaders to find solutions to problems the region faces.
Beshear and Rogers have dubbed their joint effort SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region.
The one-day summit may be an excellent way to get the new effort started, but the real success of the new initiative will be dependent on what happens after the summit. This region has a long history of bringing together area residents to talk about our problems and what we can do about them. The problem is too many potentially good ideas have never gotten past the talking stage.
The annual East Kentucky Leadership Conference has been talking about the region’s problems for nearly 30 years, but many of the same problems they were talking about in 1985 still exist today with only marginal improvements. Kentucky Power Co. is funding an extensive economic development effort in four counties, but in a recent meeting at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, there were only a handful of elected leaders present.
It is good to have events like the Dec. 9 summit to bring leaders together to talk about regional problems, but the key is to turn all that talk into action. To do that, local leaders are going to have to have a vision that extends beyond the county line and past the next election.
— The Independent, Ashland, Ky.