SOAR board approves criteria, application process for Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development fund


Special to Civitas Media



PRESTONSBURG — Eastern Kentucky communities will soon have a chance to apply for grants of up to $250,000 each to support work on job creation, broadband expansion, health and more.

The SOAR Executive Board approved funding criteria and an application process for the Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development fund today at its meeting in Prestonsburg.

“We’re excited to see what our communities are doing to impact important community challenges like job growth and leadership training,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “Successful local initiatives can be replicated, and KARD grants are a good chance for the region to see what’s working.”

The state established KARD through a $2 million appropriation during the 2015 legislative session. This seed money will support efforts that include job creation and retention, entrepreneurship, tourism, broadband deployment, workforce training, leadership development, health and wellness, infrastructure and/or economic diversity.

“SOAR is designed to support locally-driven efforts to advance job development, workforce training, health access and other markers that enhance quality of life,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “These KARD grants will give local programs a jump start toward making important community improvements.”

“The KARD fund gives SOAR the opportunity to support and invest in local projects that will create jobs and increase economic opportunities,” said Congressman Rogers. “This is a way for SOAR to help advance the vision of projects that will benefit the people of eastern Kentucky the most.”

KARD will be administered through the Department for Local Government. Organizations physically present in the region, such as non-profits, entities designated to represent SOAR, and counties or cities, may apply for these funds.

Priority will be given to projects that present the greatest likelihood of regional economic impact. Other criteria include:

• The unemployment level in each community where the project will be located;

• The likelihood that the project will generate future revenue for the community or Commonwealth;

• The number of new jobs and the wages to be paid;

• How much will the project benefit the economies and communities of multiple jurisdictions;

• Whether there is a funding match from the community, foundations or private sector;

• The likelihood of sustainable economic success;

• The inclusion of a strategy related to the KentuckyWired project and technology as an economic driver;

• The level of partnerships across geographies and sectors; and

• The economic impact of the downturn of the coal industry in those communities.

Organizations meeting the above criteria can apply online at www.soar-ky.org. The first round of applications are due Dec. 18. The maximum grant amount is $250,000.

The SOAR executive board also took time to honor Gov. Steve Beshear in his last meeting as SOAR co-chair. Gov. Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers created the SOAR initiative in 2013 and have been dedicated to its progress ever since. Gov. Beshear is term-limited and will leave the governor’s office in December.

“Our region could not have asked for a better, more selfless leader than Gov. Steve Beshear,” said Arnett. “Together with Congressman Rogers, he put politics aside and made a very public commitment to our counties and communities. He knows this work will take years, and he started it anyway. We are deeply grateful for his vision and his commitment to Appalachia.”

Congressman Hal Rogers introduced a video recapping the Governor’s work on SOAR, then presented him with a customized rocking chair to honor his service.

“The governor has been a steadfast partner as we launched SOAR — a long term mission to revitalize eastern Kentucky. His dedication to bring statewide broadband and other critical projects to fruition has been remarkable,” said Rogers. “I am grateful for his partnership and friendship. Through SOAR, we were able to put politics aside and focus on the importance of being Kentuckians first.”

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Special to Civitas Media

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