PIKEVILLE – On May 12, the Patton Leadership Institute (PLI) held its latest session at Bit Source, a new technology company in Eastern Kentucky. Throughout the day the class heard from regional entrepreneurs and innovators.
The class was welcomed by Justin Hall, Bit Source President. Bit Source, a Pikeville-base technology startup focused on web design, mobile application, and game design, is becoming a catalyst for economic diversity in the region. Hall provided a tour of the facility and their staff presented projects and products they have developed, including several websites and web-based tools. Hall said they currently have projects with national and local companies.
Following the tour, Kelli Hall, Interim Dean of Career Education and Workforce Development at Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) discussed the new Fiber Optic program at BSCTC and the Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development (KARD) grant they received to help fund the addition of an Advanced Technology Center to BSCTC Pikeville Campus.
Next, Bit Source Creative Director, Payton May discussed the Tech Hire Initiative in Eastern Kentucky. Tech Hire is a network that connects employers seeking IT talent with Americans who possess unique backgrounds and a strong work ethic. Due to the collapse of the region’s coal mining industry, innovation and partnerships have been on the rise. Bit Source is playing a huge role in this initiative in training individuals for these positions.
Following May, Shaping Our Appalachian Region Executive Director, Jared Arnett touched on SOAR’s 2016 Innovation Summit on June 6th. During the June event, eight areas of innovation will be highlighted and 130+ groups from around the region and country will set up booths to discuss their respective innovative projects.
Next, Rusty Justice, co-owner of Jigsaw Enterprises and Bit Source, presented Hillbilly 101. Justice’s Hillbilly 101 presentation discussed past leaders, innovators, change agents from eastern Kentucky who have had significant impact on the region, and he discussed current leaders who are shaping our region. Leaders discussed included, Colonel John Dils Jr., Perry Anderson Cline, Effie Waller Smith, John C.C. Mayo, Katherine G. Langley, John Paul Riddle, Francis Gary Powers, John Goodlette, Dr. William C. Hambley, Billie Jean Osborne and Paul E. Patton.
One leader that Justice highlighted was Dr. William C. Hambley. Hambley was a well-respected physician and long-time Mayor of Pikeville. Dr. Hambley is best known for his vision and leadership in executing the Pikeville Cut-Through Project. The Cut-Through created hundreds of acres of new commercially viable land for development through eliminating the threat of constant flooding in downtown Pikeville and rerouted the railroad to bypass the city center. The Cut-Through, at the time of excavation, was the largest earth moving project behind the Panama Canal.
John Justice, President of Coal Education Development and Resource Inc. (CEDAR) discussed the organization’s history and their recent partnership with BSCTC’s Coal Academy. CEDAR was formed in July 1993 as a partnership between the coal industry, business community and academia. The organization was formed through the joint efforts of the North Carolina Coal Institute (NCCI) and Coal Operators and Associates of Pikeville for the purpose of educating students and the public on the positive effects the coal industry brings to communities. The primary delivery channel of this education is through the CEDAR Coal Fair. The Coal Fair invites students throughout eastern Kentucky, in grades K-12, to enter coal projects within seven different academic categories. The projects are displayed and judged at their school’s local Coal Fair, with selected projects being chosen to be entered in the Regional Coal Fair where cash prizes are awarded. The new partnership with the Coal Academy focuses on a new industrial workers training initiative, as well as skills training for incumbent trade workers in small businesses. The initiative is underdevelopment but will soon be rolled out fully in the coming months.
For the final speaker, Kentucky Innovation Network Director, Dr. David Snow, spoke about how the Kentucky Innovation Network is trying to help spur entrepreneurship and innovation in Eastern Kentucky. Snow touched on Kentucky Innovation Network’s client success, collegiate success through the startup Rhizofeed, youth engagement programs and SBI programs.
The leadership class of 2016 will end next month with a session devoted to regional tourism. The class will be zip lining at White Lightening Zipline and visiting Wayland.