Friday, August 31, 2018

Fifth annual summit to improve Eastern Ky. economy convenes; region has improved, but progress is slow

While officials agree that Eastern Kentucky's economy has improved since the first Shaping Our Appalachian Region summit was held in 2013, "some of the summit’s most notable endeavors include factories not yet built, a state-led broadband project facing long delays, and efforts to curb a drug epidemic that continues to plague the region," Will Wright and Bill Estep report for the Lexington Herald-Leader. The fifth annual SOAR summit is being held today in Pikeville.

In response to plummeting coal employment and other woes in Eastern Kentucky, SOAR came up with a blueprint for the region's future that included "goals and strategies for transitioning to a more diverse and stable economy," Wright and Estep report.

Though regional unemployment fell from 11.5 percent in 2011 to 8.8 percent in 2016, the labor force has decreased from 216,000 to about 187,000 in that time, according to the East Kentucky Works Survey. Poverty rates in some counties have increased in recent years as well, according to data from the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.

SOAR officials acknowledge that progress has been slow, but Peter Hille, president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, said that "that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep going, it means we should redouble our efforts."

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