HAZARD — The President of the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland visited Hazard on Aug. 31 to learn more about a program offered at Hazard Community and Technical College, which she believes sets a wonderful example for economic development in rural areas. Loretta Mester is the Fed’s CEO out of Cleveland, and the program that caught her attention is the electrical lineman and fiber optic training course, which is also part of EKCEP’s Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) initiative.
“While it is important to help people already in the labor force transition to other occupations in high demand, it is also important to start training people still in school so that they can develop the skills for the jobs of the future and to make sure that those providing that education and training understand what the jobs in demand will be,” Mester said in a Sept. 2 address she gave in Lexington about East Kentucky’s economy and her visit to Hazard.
The Federal Reserve is the central banking system of the United States. Eastern Kentucky is part of the Fourth Federal Reserve District, which also includes the state of Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia. By leading the Fed’s Fourth District, Mester has a firm interest in economic stability within the coalfields region. During her Sept. 2 address, Mester illustrated how impressed she is by groups in Hazard that are working together on economic development.
“H.O.M.E. appreciates that displaced miners are far from unskilled; rather they need the opportunity to hone their skills for different industries. For example, the H.O.M.E. program puts out-of-work miners through a course to prepare them for work as electrical utility linemen, a job that not only pays well, but also provides much-needed fiber optic lines to rural areas. As a result of this program, Eastern Kentucky may be able to keep a share of its skilled workforce in the region, thereby helping the local economy to grow. H.O.M.E. is also an example of community leadership and collaboration in action, as it brings together a wide range of entities and interlocking relationships, from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to Hazard Community and Technical College. An important next step will be for the partners to undertake a focused evaluation of the program so that we can all learn which specific strategies work and why they work, and which strategies are less effective and therefore less deserving of continued investment.”
Mester did not learn of the work being done in Perry County by chance. The Federal Reserve recently conducted case studies and released a report focusing on the economies in the Fourth District. The report includes five case studies, one of which examines the partnerships in the Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) program. The entire report can be found online through the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
H.O.M.E. continues to help out of work miners. EKCEP’s website is ekcep.org. The electrical lineman and fiber optic program is offered through HCTC. Hazard Community and Technical College can be found online at hazard.kctcs.edu.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.