Thursday, May 21, 2015

Author, business owner offers a regional vision for Eastern Kentucky economic growth

"The Shaping Our Appalachian Region program, known as SOAR, can’t provide a new regional vision for Eastern Kentucky’s economy; we have to provide it ourselves," writes Jason Belcher, Eastern Kentucky business owner and author of Nexus of Innovation: The Promise of Eastern Kentucky. Belcher attended last week's SOAR strategy summit in Pikeville, Ky.

Jason Belcher
"There are literally dozens of ways for individuals to access resources to turn their ideas into reality," Belcher writes. "I’m one of them. Thanks to the Kentucky Innovation Network, I’ve been able to start my own business, Appalachian Aerospace, looking to build the next generation of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles. Aerospace is a major growth industry, and commercial drones alone are projected to generate $9 billion in economic activity over the next decade."

"Growth industries represent potential building blocks for a regional economy," Belcher writes. "Because the market segments are global, these industries are capable of sustaining a regional economy through large-scale job creation and revenue in-flows. Capturing a global market segment is a good way to build a strong regional economy capable of providing the jobs we need and the future we want. Morehead State University’s Space Science Center already has a toe hold in the Aerospace field, and our region can leverage that to gain a share of this global market segment."

"Eastern Kentucky can position itself to compete for ownership of multiple global market segments if we make the right choices today," he writes. "As a region, our economic future depends on our ability to think globally but act regionally . . . If we steer more growth industries here, the result will be an influx of high-tech, high-paying jobs."

"Programs like SOAR can’t do that for us, but SOAR is a tool that can help us do it ourselves," Belcher writes. "That means we have a competitive resource advantage over other regions who don’t have SOAR or similar programs. If we use our new programs, resources and opportunities to capture a share of global market segments, Eastern Kentucky can be an economic powerhouse. That’s a regional vision for our future." (Read more)

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