SOAR update shows growth for the region

Published 6:18 pm Friday, March 23, 2018

Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) recently released its 2017 Impact Report.

“The transformation taking place in Appalachia Kentucky is not a result of one single organization,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “It is because of the collaboration taking place across the region. People are coming together and progress is happening on multiple fronts.”

The report aligns with SOAR’s Regional Blueprint, a plan for the region that was created by the input of more than 3,000 people in Kentucky’s Appalachian region. The Blueprint outlines seven goals. They are to:

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• Increase the availability of affordable, high-speed broadband, through fiber, to businesses and residents; and increase adoption rates throughout the SOAR region;

• Develop our regional workforce to be competitive in the digital economy and emerging industries;

• Create more and expand existing small businesses within the region by taking full advantage of the digital economy;

• Reduce the physical and economic impact of obesity, diabetes and substance abuse;

• Increase the amount of industrial employment, which includes manufacturing, natural resources, processing, and distribution by expanding existing companies and attracting new ones;

• Create a local foods movement by connecting local producers to markets for their product, both within and outside the region; and

• Establish Kentucky’s Appalachian region as a tourism destination.

Arnett stated that the progress that happened in 2017 is just the beginning of “a lifetime of work that is ahead of us.”

“The people of the region have spoken loud and clear. They believe there is a future in Appalachia,” said Arnett. “This is a place worth fighting for. Our Impact Report is just a snippet of the collaborative and innovative work taking place by ordinary people and organizations that are doing extraordinary things. They care because they believe that there is a future, and together, we are building a 21st Century Appalachia.”

To better align people and organizations across the region, SOAR launched a Blueprint Partnership program. This program allows individuals, organizations, and businesses to network and commit to the work of the Regional Blueprint.

“This provides our partners the opportunity to network, collaborate, and connect with one another,” said Arnett. “We believe in our Regional Blueprint, because it is a plan, a vision that was created by the people of our region for the people of our region. Our Blueprint Partnership program allows for individuals, organizations, and businesses to align their work and their passion with that blueprint to build a 21st Century Appalachia.”