Stakeholders discuss ideas for a stronger Kentucky

BY JORDAN BROOKS

jordan.brooks@middlesboronews.com

Federal, state and local leaders gathered May 11 in Pineville to discuss making a stronger Kentucky at the Kentucky Highlands Rural Partners Network Community Forum.

Rocky Adkins, Senior Advisor to Gov. Andy Beshear told the crowd that true achievement comes from the Appalachian region and communities working together.

”Those regions that sing from the same hymn book,” Adkins said. “Those regions who have the same game plan that’s going to be carried out day in and day out, and yes, we have our own individual needs and our own individual communities and counties, I get that. But the regionalism I’ve seen from Eastern Kentucky has come so far, so quick. To where people are working together from the mountain caucus to the governor’s office to our federal agencies.”

Gayle Manchin, the Appalachian Regional Commission’s federal co-chair, was also present at the forum. Manchin stated that her goal is to bring together all 13 states that make up the Appalachian to spur more economic growth.

“Maybe do a grant together, maybe a walking trail, or a water system or a sewer-treatment plant that would serve a bigger area and you become a part of it, you don’t have the entire cost itself,” said Manchin. “So I think the more we can encourage regionalism across the county, and then all of a sudden you think we could cross state lines and do even bigger projects.”

Manchin also announced that the Appalachian Regional Commission is awarding $100,000 to each of five Appalachian development districts.

She said the money will help each recipient hire support people to help provide residents of each area with much-needed technical assistance.

Also highlighted at the forum was Main Street Pineville, taking their city that they seen on its way to ruin and turning it into a place that is livable, working to include plenty of retail and restaurants and other amenities people from the community traveled away from the area to get.

“We’ve now for six years worked on a streetscape project that we’re seeing come to fruition as we speak thanks to a generous grant from ARC and with the Kentucky Farming Association, as well as some other entities,” said Jacob Roan, the Executive Director of Main Street Pineville.

“We are starting phase two next month, actually, the streetscape project will involve wider sidewalks, decorative sidewalks, more parking downtown, I think we’re going to be able to add about 30 spaces downtown, public WiFi that we are installing as part of the fiber project in Eastern Kentucky, as well some other things like cafe tables and things that will really make our downtown more tourist friendly.”

Peter Hille, president of the Mountain Association, said that not only will towns be more tourist friendly, but will in essence make Pineville more attractive as a place to live. Hille commented that in the mass turn away from physical office spaces in the workplace, workers are more likely to want to live and make the move to a place with plenty of things to do locally.

Manchin noted how revitalization is taking place throughout the county.

“What is interesting to me about this project is that it’s been amazing and that so many of these downtown revitalizations started around a theatre that was in their community that people loved, went into disrepair, was closed, and now that seems to be one of the links that brings the community back together,” said Manchin. “So I thought it was interesting that the Bell Theatre was one of the things that really helped revitalize their community.”

Manchin spoke about the value of community in this project as well as many others, extending praise to downtown Pineville for their hard work on their revitalization project.

“Communities develop a plan, they get buy-in from their community and state to match some of the money and ARC, we become the third leg, sort of on that stool,” said Manchin. “The communities are always saying thank you for the grant, but we remind them that it really started with them.

“It takes a vision, and the community to agree that we share this vision, and you get some of your business people to say, ‘yes if I invest the community is going to get better,’ and then the state says ‘absolutely every community that we can revitalize helps the state,’ and that’s where the ARC can kind of put the final nail in, and say here is that final grant that’ll help you get it done.”

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