SOAR summit agenda released

Amelia Holliday — Staff Reporter

November 26, 2013

PIKEVILLE—Tourism, job creation and retention, and infrastructure are three of the topics planned to be focused on at the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) summit in Decemeber.

The summit, announced by Gov. Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers in October, is the first step in an initiative meant to find a solution to the economic hardships facing Southeastern Kentucky since the coal industry in the region took a dive in 2011, costing over 6,000 jobs so far.

The agenda lists Chuck Fluharty, president of the Rural Policy Research Institute, as the moderator, with guest speakers from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board in Minnesota.

According to a press release from Rogers and Beshear, the board “channeled the collective energies and ideas of the people of the iron-mining region in northeastern Minnesota to forge a new and successful future.”

In October, Fluharty to the Herald that the institute, which has been brought in as a consultant for the summit, will be looking at communities and organizations that have pulled through similar economic crises as the one Southeastern Kentucky is in, like the Iron Range board.

“It’s an amazing place today because the region decided to change its future,” Fluharty said, adding that Southeastern Kentucky has that same chance since the first step has been taken with the summit.

The summit will begin with introductions by government leaders, including Beshear, Rogers, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, and Senate President Robert Stivers, followed by panels centered around Kentucky’s youth and future innovation, according to the agenda. Nine breakout discussions will then be held, with each group focused on one topic, including job creation and retention, entrepreneurship and innovation, infrastructure, public and private investment, tourism, and lifelong learning.

Discussion of the breakout groups will be held later in the afternoon, with commitments to the region by those at the summit coming at the end of the day.

According to a press release from Rogers and Beshear, more than 1,100 people have registered for the summit, which will be held Dec. 9 at the East Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville, as of Friday. Registration is open to the public and can be done online at kydlgweb.ky.gov until Nov. 27.