The well attended SOAR summit in Pikeville on Dec. 9 was a step forward for Eastern Kentucky. In a region so uniformly hit by economic crisis it is an excellent sign that the region has come together. Many ideas were introduced and the vision, ingenuity, perseverance, and generosity of the people of this area was evident.
Hazard has changed over the years. The influx of doctors, teachers, and others has given us a more international profile. The city and county are known for working together. During weekdays, Hazard’s population swells with workers. Like downtown areas across the country our retail businesses have moved, but recent efforts to reclaim downtown are progressing. InVision Hazard, the possibility of a tourism river walk, an arts center and more are striving to make our town attractive.
Beyond physical improvements of a more attractive town are the real assets that we must capitalize on. One place to start is education. Hazard and Perry County is fortunate to have Hazard Community and Technical College. This unique school is spread over several counties. Constantly improving their school subjects and projecting modern ideas, the school is one of our most important assets.
Equally important is the ARH hospital. Today, HCTC offers classes leading to nursing and allied medical fields. The students find work in the hospital. Along with other medical clinics, Hazard is a medical center. These two institutions pose a challenge of working together. It is worth some thought to look at the city of Pittsburgh, Penn. They lost their factories and mills almost as suddenly as we lost coal’s important here. Pittsburgh resorted to two things – education and medicine. Today, the city is internationally known as an education and medical research center.
Transitioning to a 21st century economy can transform our area. A technology metamorphosis may be the creation of a new community. Hazard and Perry County and the surrounding area can hope for coal restoration, but still try for a movement of diversification. Hopefully, the SOAR summit will produce definite progressive moves for the future of Eastern Kentucky.