Monday’s SOAR meeting saw Gov. Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers looking to ensure the long-term viability of the initiative.
In 2013, the idea behind SOAR, or Shaping Our Appalachian Region, was to take the first steps toward engaging leaders and ordinary citizens in Eastern Kentucky to help the region recover from the collapse of coal jobs in recent years. And while the initiative has its roots in a political promise made by Gov. Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers, Monday’s meeting of SOAR’s executive committee saw the two officials handing over the keys, in some respects…
"The job is falling to you. We can only do so much from Washington and Frankfort," Beshear told the SOAR executive committee.
The “you” in that sentence refers to a series of working groups. While news about the initiative may have slowed since last year’s summit in Pikeville, organizers have been been busy behind the scenes working to find ways to revitalize Eastern Kentucky's struggling economy.
"You can feel it. It is palpable. It is moving from political establishment to the private sector, the NGO sector, the faith community, and every sector that these working groups are working in," said SOAR Interim Executive Director Chuck Fluharty.
Those sectors include areas as diverse as Agriculture, Broadband, Business Incubation, Education, Health, Infrastructure, and Youth Engagement.
Leaders in those groups hope to have preliminary progress reports in time for the second SOAR summit, set for November.