Last Friday, my V.P. Amanda Clark and I, had the honor to participate in the 4th Annual SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) Conference in Pikeville, Ky. This was the third SOAR conference I have attended since coming back to my home state of Kentucky and becoming the President of the Alliance. Each one of these conferences has had a different feel and different perspective on where we are in Eastern Kentucky economically and what ideas there are for growth and development in some of the nation's hardest hit counties. This one one was different.
On Friday I heard our Governor, Matt Bevin, give one of the most moving speeches I have heard in three years back in the Commonwealth. He spoke of how Kentucky is awakening; how all parts of the state are finally getting to take advantage of what they’ve always had; how the story of Kentucky is being heard. He spoke of growth, but this growth was coming because we had something to offer. University of Kentucky Men's Basketball Coach John Calipari’s was the keynote speaker. Some things we just can't make up. Coach Cal spoke of meeting Craig Bouchard and learning about Braidy Industries. We spoke of the reasons why WE are going to win.
I hope you feel the enthusiasm that I am writing in this piece. I know this change is not happening as fast as many in this area need or want, but, it is coming! I have been blessed to have the opportunity to see and feel the change that is coming. This change is because of you. It is because of how your families have worked the hard jobs, have built the work ethic and determination in the fabric of who we are and what we have to offer in this new economy that needs just that; good workers that have skills and are willing to use them. What is old is now new again.
SOAR is about bringing people together, forming a vision and highlighting how we can form a better version of ourselves. Friday highlighted many of the positive steps that are underway in the region. Our area was well represented. I was proud to see the change that has occurred in the last four years-and even the last six months in this region.
If you have the time please watch Governor Bevin's introduction video. It will move you. I have also included a link to Coach Cal’s piece. I hope you feel what I did as I listened to each. I think our next client that comes here to see our region, I should just play these videos!
Thank you for the chance to help build and strengthen our local economy and home. Leadership and growth go hand and hand.
—Tim Gibbs, Ashland Alliance President and CEO