2023 was a banner year for our organization. Our dedicated team wakes up each day with one task — advancing Kentucky’s 54 Appalachian counties.
That’s exactly what we have done in 2023. Let’s take a deep dive into the milestones we achieved.
Supporting Entrepreneurs and Startups
How big? Let me explain. We served 569 startups in 2023.
Of these startups:
- 14 new businesses launched
- 36 new jobs were created
- 22 businesses secured more than $720,000 in investments
- 18 startups advanced and 67 of them leveraged resources from technical assistance providers such as APEX Accelerators, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Small Business Development Center, Mountain Association, Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation, and others
We also support entrepreneurs, startups, and our communities by hosting events. In 2023, we held 35 events with more than 3,800 attendees, including:
- The Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition, presented by Community Trust Bank
- The Speed Pitch Competition
- Patent Trademark Bootcamp
- Ignite the Fire Within
- Social Media Workshops
Our team also provides small businesses with a variety of direct services. They include:
- Business Planning
- Website Services
- E-Commerce Services
- Digital Media Services
Interested in starting a business or scaling an existing business? Your first step is downloading our Complete Guide for Entrepreneurship. From there, a member of our Innovation team will connect with you.
Remember, no idea is too small or too big to get started. Only you can stop yourself from pursuing your dreams.
We’re known for our events, and our events are among the best you’ll find in rural America. In 2023, we held more than 30 events, spending more than $336,000 with local businesses.
Some highlights of 2023 were:
- The SOAR Summit, presented by the Appalachian Regional Commission and Appalachian Wireless
- The Country Music Highway Tribute Show, presented by Double Kwik
- Grant Workshops, held in collaboration with Grant Ready Kentucky, in Hazard, Paintsville, Morehead, Somerset, and Harlan. These workshops attracted 294 participants from more than 140 organizations.
Connecting people to the Internet and ensuring affordable access is crucial for any person living in Appalachia. This serves as a gateway to information, educational resources, and opportunities that can empower individuals and communities.
That is why we launched our Office of Digital Equity.
Through the support of the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Outreach Grant and funding from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, we are sharing the good news of the ACP — and saving eligible households $360 a year on the Internet bill.
More than 500 families have been signed up for the ACP through our Digital Equity Team.
Another exciting project was a collaboration with the Kentucky Department for Public Health to provide 60 Starlink devices and one year of complimentary Internet service in the Meathouse community of Martin County and the Red Bird community of Clay County.
This program has been life-changing for rural communities. Mack McCoy, of Martin County, shared his thoughts.
“Prior to Starlink, we basically had nothing. This past year with Starlink has made such the biggest difference. I work at an elementary school so I have to be online for ‘Google Classroom’ for snow days and such and it’s like having LTE right here in the hills. My parents are not in the best health, and they have to do telehealth right from the comfort of their own home. I can not thank Colby Kirk and Joshua Ball enough. They have no idea what a difference this has made to me and my parents!”
2023 was a record year for grant and foundation awards for our organization, totaling more than $6.2 million.
Here are a few of our larger awards:
Remote Worker Attraction
Recruiting remote workers to our region is not an idea. It is a reality and happening now. In 2023, we partnered with MakeMyMove (MMM), the nation’s first and only marketplace that matches remote workers to communities across the country offering relocation incentives.
Since our partnership, 1,396 people have applied to the program and 162 people have been pre-approved!
Of those people who have applied, 22 people have been offered the chance to move to our Appalachian region, 13 of those people have accepted an offer and two of those have already moved to our region with one relocating from Florida to Harlan County and the other moving from South Carolina to Johnson County.
We rank sixth among communities working with MakeMyMove. The five ahead of us are urban or more densely populated areas.
We are all-in on remote worker attraction. There’s no better place to plug in and work and unplug and play!
Don’t take our word for it. Here is what some of our applicants are saying.
“The appeal is a different scenery and lifestyle and a smaller community where it is green and has seasons. I think that it would be a great place to raise a family and I wouldn’t have to worry so much about crime as well as the cost of living. We are looking for a definite change.”
“I chose to move to EKY because it was always my dream to live in the mountains with nice weather, snow, and a relaxed environment. When I went to Kentucky, the hospitality that I received there I didn’t receive in any other part of the USA. As an immigrant, I grew up in a very small town in South America (3K people or less) and EKY reminded me of my childhood. And what excited me to move is the growing opportunities that the commonwealth of Kentucky can give you, maybe no one can see it, but Kentucky has a lot of things that can be provided to you. Like the mountains, the derby, and the bluegrass!”
We need your support
SOAR is nothing without you. And we need your support and continued support.
How can you help?
- Volunteer by Mentoring students in your community
- Whether you donate or volunteer at one of our main events, a small act goes a long way
- Become a partner
- Make a donation
Together, we will continue to Shape Our Appalachian Region!