Joshua Ball, associate executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), spoke to the Beattyville Downtown Alliance on Monday, November 6 at Beattyville City Hall.
The Downtown Alliance was created as part of Beattyville‘s Main Street program and is committed to establishing dialogue among downtown merchants to bring more people and economic development to the downtown area. He also noted the significant work being done by Teresa Mays, manager of Beattyville’s Main Street program, and Dedra Brandenburg, director of Beattyville/Lee County Tourism.
“I want to commend you on what you have done,” said Ball. He noted a CNN story that described Beattyville as one of the poorest counties in America. You have moved away from the rhetoric and focused on the opportunities and potential of your city and its surroundings.”
Ball specifically talked about the merchants’ role in SOAR. He told them their work every day exemplifies the core values of the organization. “
It is easy to look at SOAR as some over-arching organization, but we are here to complement your efforts,” he continued. “At the end of the day SOAR is about you, it’s about us, and it’s about doing our part to move the needle and create a 21st Century Appalachia.
Beattyville Mayor John Smith talked about the city’s Streetscape project and how it is has helped spruce up the downtown district. He also spoke of the city’s plans to connect mountain trails to the city.
“We believe that the proposed trails can bring new visitors to the city and capitalize on the large number of people visiting the [Red River] Gorge and Natural Bridge,” he said. “I think we have something special here, and we want to showcase it to tourists.”
Ball highlighted SOAR’s Regional Blueprint and tied the seven goals to initiatives, businesses, and projects going on Lee County. The goals are:
·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.
“You are collectively tackling challenges and turning them into opportunities,” he said.
Ball also encouraged business owners to join SOAR’s new Blueprint Partnership program. The initiative is open to businesses, organizations, and individuals and is a formal commitment to support and implement the Regional Blueprint in their respective communities. Organizations are asked to contribute $50 annually, and a portion of the funds raised will go to create a Blueprint Action Fund to assist in projects that align with SOAR’s Regional Blueprint. Individuals are asked to contribute $10. Businesses, organizations, and individuals that do not have the capacity to give can waive the fee and join for free.
“The Blueprint Partnership program is about building a network of hope and opportunity,” said Ball.
“It’s about sharing ideas and seeing the commonalities we share across city and county lines.”