Last updated: December 03. 2013 10:43AM - 569 Views
Cris Ritchie — Editor

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HAZARD – Organizers are gearing up for the Shaping Our Appalachian Region summit on Dec. 9, and are expecting more than 1,000 people to be in attendance to discuss the future of Eastern Kentucky.

One of Hazard’s small business owners will be participating in a question-and-answer session on the morning of the summit to discuss her business and its role in helping to build a local arts community. Jennifer Noble, owner of Treehouse Café and Bakery, will be one of three panel members during the 30-minute session, scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

Noble’s business opened on Main Street in 2012 and has become a popular downtown eatery. And in addition to the restaurant, she has regularly opened up the business for different arts events, including a monthly poetry series and open mic nights for musicians that have drawn visitors from as far away as Lexington.

She said she received an invitation Monday to participate in the SOAR summit, and also expects to discuss her history as a young business owner in Eastern Kentucky.

“I think they’re interested in hearing about how I just moved away from Hazard, and instead of staying away I wanted to come back and bring something to Hazard like the arts and music, and have something here in Hazard so people don’t have to go somewhere else,” Noble said.

Noble moved to Somerset for a time before moving back to Perry County. She said she missed Hazard and wanted to return, and upon returning wanted to do something to bring what’s available in other cities to Hazard. She said old photos of Main Street’s heyday from the 1950s and 60s inspired her to open her own business in the downtown area.

The SOAR summit was announced in October during a press conference in Hazard, as Gov. Steve Beshear and Rep. Hal Rogers detailed what will be an informational gathering where Eastern Kentucky residents can have a voice in the region’s future. Eastern Kentucky is currently going through a significant economic downturn as more than 6,000 jobs in the coal industry have been lost since 2012.

More than 1,100 people have registered to attend Monday’s summit, which will held at the East Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville. According to an agenda released last week, government officials such as Beshear and Rogers will present introductions, which will be followed by panels focusing on the state’s youth and future innovation. Other breakout sessions will be held including topics such as job creation and entrepreneurship.

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