PIKEVILLE — With just 12 days remaining before a public summit on Eastern Kentucky’s future takes place at the East Kentucky Expo Center, organizers have released an agenda for the day’s events.
More than 1,100 have registered to attend the Shaping Our Appalachian Region summit on Dec. 9. The conference is intended to be a full day of planning and discussion on how the region moves forward in the face of continuing declines in the coal industry.
Eastern Kentucky has shed over 6,000 coal jobs over the past two years, prompting Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers to join together in creating the SOAR initiative. When the project was first announced in October, Beshear said it was time to find new solutions to the region’s economic woes.
“There is an urgent need for change and a new way of thinking about the issues in Appalachia,” Beshear said. “We must work together to attack our regional obstacles from many angles – by emphasizing public, private and philanthropic partnerships to address and implement improvements in education, health, work-readiness, infrastructure and more. Most critical, these solutions must be driven and championed by the individuals who call Appalachia home, because it is their enthusiasm and support that will carry these visions to reality.”
Registration for the SOAR summit will begin at 8 a.m., Dec. 9, with the summit getting underway at 9 a.m. At 9:30 a.m., two panels will examine the roles of youth and innovation in shaping the region’s future.
Chuck Fluharty, president of the Rural Policy Research Institute, will moderate the event and will speak on the subject of “Framing the regional challenge and opportunity” at 10:30 a.m. At 11 a.m., Joe and Tony Sertich, of the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board, in Minnesota, will talk about how that region confronted similar struggles.
After a break for lunch, the summit will break into nine simultaneous “regional opportunity” discussion panels at 1 p.m. The subjects will include:
• Job creation and retention
• Entrepreneurship and innovation
• Public and private investment
• Tourism, including natural resources, culture and arts, and community and regional foods
• Regional collaboration and identity
• Leadership development and youth engagement
• Lifelong learning
• Health, biotechnology and human services
Following the breakout session, the general session will reconvene at 3 p.m., with reports from the individual sessions and discussions about legislation and regional commitments. The summit will conclude at 5 p.m.