CATLETTSBURG, Ky. — The Boyd County Fiscal Court approved a $100,000 economic development plan on Tuesday.

With the first two months of 2020 consisting of unfortunate news such as the closure of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and Cleveland-Cliffs’ dwindling interest in the blast furnace at AK Steel Ashland Works — on top of questions surrounding Braidy Industries — Boyd County Judge-Executive Eric Chaney approached Ashland Alliance President Tim Gibbs regarding the area’s economic future.

“We have all seen the blows over the last couple weeks and to be honest they have been hard to stomach and wrap our head around,” Chaney said.

Chaney said the county had been judicious with its finances, and there was $100,000 in savings with which it would part in order to help the community move forward.

The plan entails lead generation services, which will champion a marketing effort for Ashland and surrounding areas.

“With this partnership, we take the first step in changing our trajectory,” said Chaney. “It’s an entirely new path being forged to carry our community to better days. Today, this court and I are putting the money where our mouths are. We are pairing our resources and talent with the resources and talent of the Ashland Alliance.”

Gibbs said he will work with T.J. Morrison, the director of community and economic development in Boyd County, and Chris Pullem, Ashland’s community and economic development director, to “put our best foot forward” in wooing prospective companies.

“It’s a declaration of hope,” Gibbs said. “We want everyone to know we’re not sitting back and we’re going to be proactive. This is the way forward.”

Gibbs estimates the area will have 30-50 opportunities to throw its figurative hat in the ring for actively expanding businesses over the course of the next six to nine months — four to five times the average of what it usually experiences in a year.

The process of luring these businesses to the area will often begin with an effort executed through some means of technology, Gibbs said. There will be plenty of video and conference introductions, and Gibbs hopes that “first date” paves a promising path.

Gibbs credited Chaney for getting this ball rolling.

“The public’s been hungry for anyone to stand up and say, ‘Follow me,’” Gibbs said. “It’s a little Churchill-ish to stand up and say, we will not fall. But I think this is the beginning of that. This is one single county. I believe others will come in line.”

Chaney said he has seen the comments on social media that pose the question of what will county government do to stop the decline in the area and this is the answer.

“I have a vision for what our community can be,” said Chaney. “My vision is not to become what we once were, but to grow to what we can be. We do this by playing on the strengths we possess and not the hopes of dreams of rebuilding (the past).”