With over 800 individuals registered for the summit, it seems SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) has piqued more interest than just in those in government and the private sector.
The summit, announced by Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers last month in Hazard, is aiming to be the first step in an initiative to help heal a broken Southeastern Kentucky economy, which has lost over 6,000 coal jobs in the last two years.
“We must work together to attack our regional obstacles from many angles, by emphasizing public, private, and philanthropic partnership to address and implement improvements in education, health, work-readiness, infrastructure, and more,” Beshear said at the press conference announcing the summit, which will be held Dec. 9 in Pikeville.
According to Beshear’s official Twitter account, 870 people have registered for SOAR as of Monday. Registration is free, open to the public, and can be done online at kydlgweb.ky.gov; a comments section has also been opened on the site for those who cannot make it to the summit but would still like their voice to be heard. The registration deadline is Nov. 27.
Rogers, who represents Kentucky’s 5th District which encompasses much of the area SOAR is set to focus on, said it is urgent for work to be started toward a real solution for the area after the core industry in the area has taken continuous hits in the last year.
“We want folks to know that every voice will be heard at this summit, whether by submitting an idea electronically or through face-to-face interactions,” Rogers said in a press release last week. “The urgency for more jobs is overwhelming, as even more Eastern Kentucky coal mines announced layoffs last week. It’s time to get to work, so it’s encouraging to see our people are ready to pitch in on Dec. 9.”
Beshear said he is very pleased with the interest shown so far in the initiative, and expects even more Kentuckians to register as the registration deadline draws closer.
“We know the people who live and work hard in this region are eager to help shape its economic future, and to provide the ideas needed to overcome both short-term and long-term challenges,” he said. “So, this overwhelming response is gratifying, but not surprising.”