- Associated Press - Friday, July 4, 2014

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Officials in eastern Kentucky are discussing ideas, such as forming a regional economic development organization, to attract more business to Appalachia.

The Appalachian News Express (http://bit.ly/1nZMuXf) reports the ideas were floated at a recent forum in Pikeville focused on bringing new business and industry to the area and expanding what’s already there. The forum was part of an initiative called Shaping Our Appalachian Region that seeks to improve the economy and quality of life.

“Your goal in business recruitment is to create something that’s going to create an investment in your community, where you’re making something, you’re creating something and shipping that out, whether it’s intellectual capital or a physical items, that you’ve created jobs and industry within the territory that brings in … new money for your economy,” said Brad Hall, a representative of Kentucky Power who chaired the meeting. “So how do we do that? And that’s the question that we ask from this committee …”

Denise Thomas with Big Sandy Area Development District said issues such as a lack of cooperation between officials have hindered efforts to attract more businesses. She recommended better cooperation as well as an analysis to determine skills of the local workforce.

“We have to identify what is feasible here,” she said. “(The area needs a) targeted industry analysis considering all the factors; what our workforce can do; pick the low-hanging fruit.”

Another idea was to assess the region’s infrastructure needs with an eye toward commercial development.

Some industries have been turned off by a lack of “work-ready” sites and workers in the region, but Hall said a regional economic development body could help to alleviate those problems.

“We have to have an economic development champion that’s fully functional in marketing anything that we have to offer,” Hall said. “We had a consultant here … and the first thing they said was, ‘Look, you’ve got a lot to offer, but we’re four hours away from you and we didn’t know you existed; we had no idea that Eastern Kentucky had anything to offer.’ That’s because there’s no economic development champion in place to market what we have to offer and that’s what puts you in that target, is to create something that attracts that attention.”

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Information from: Appalachian News-Express, http://www.news-expressky.com

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