Gov. Steve Beshear says an unprecedented sense of urgency will help the latest effort to diversify Eastern Kentucky’s flagging economy succeed.
The governor made the comments at the 2014 Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Business Summit, which has as its theme “The Future of Kentucky.” While Beshear said the Shaping Our Appalachian Region, or SOAR, initiative is ultimately in the hands of Eastern Kentuckians themselves, the scale of the coal layoffs has community leaders getting serious about remaking the region.
"The crisis that they sense with the downturn in the coal industry and the long term prospects getting those jobs back. I think that sense of urgency has really lit a fire, not only under the two of us but under the people of Eastern Kentucky," Beshear said.
With cutbacks pushing the unemployment rate as high as 16 percent in some areas, Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers said they don’t expect overnight solutions. But the state leaders did point to funding for the four-laning of the Mountain Parkway and a blueprint for expanding broadband as evidence that the initiative has momentum.
Earlier Monday, officials announced plans by Kentucky-based Alltech to build a fish farm, egg production facility, and distillery in Pikeville.