Appalachian Transition is devoted to ideas for a more just, sustainable and prosperous future in Central Appalachia. We are at a critical moment in our region. The time has arrived to talk about the coming transition of our economy, workforce and communities. This site is a resource for that conversation.

Appalachian Transition Blog

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Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season! We'll be back with more news and stories of transition in the new year!

SOAR offers hope for Eastern Kentucky's transition

By now you’ve probably heard about the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) conference that was held last week in Pikeville – it’s certainly been all over the news here in Kentucky and we’ve been sharing more stories as they come in on our Facebook page. While the stage was dominated by bigwigs – with a few notable exceptions – the audience was filled with far more “regular folks,” people from the region who are hungry for action on economic diversification in the region. And at a time when it’s so easy to be pessimistic, the tone at SOAR was one of optimism.

The morning was full of presentations and panels, some more useful than others. One of the most interesting speakers was Jenn Noble, a young entrepreneur (and the only Appalachian woman to speak) from Hazard who owns the Treehouse Café and Bakery. An artist, she had the opportunity to go to New York City but, she said, “My community needed me more than New York City,” and so she came back home. 

Also interesting was the presentation by two brothers from the iron mining region of Minnesota, which suffered the same downturn in their industry that we are facing today. Their story was familiar – massive job losses, once-vibrant towns emptying, young people leaving to find opportunities elsewhere – but what they did about it is something we can learn from. The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board was founded in the 1940s and is funded with mining taxes. The IRRRB today is tasked with job creation, supporting community transition and increasing access to higher education. It  has approximately $142 million to invest in the future of the region. Eastern Kentucky has no such fund – nor does the rest of Appalachia, though it’s certainly been discussed.

The idea of a severance tax permanent fund gained traction over the course of the day, among participants if not politicians. Governor Beshear stated in an interview that now is not the time to be making changes to the severance tax, due to the tenuous state budget situation. Regardless, legislators did seem to acknowledge that something needs to happen with severance taxes.

Maybe many of the major ideas that came from the SOAR stage weren’t new or surprising – Rep. Rogers touted four-lane highways and Gov. Beshear wants more broadband access – but perhaps what’s more important is the fact of the conversation itself. Community members have been talking about the need for transition for a long time now, on front porches and in the grocery line, at church and the dinner table. But until now we haven’t heard much about it from our elected officials. Conversations among participants in the audience and on social media –and in the media prior to the event - wondered if anything would happen after this one-day event. At the end of the day, Governor Beshear made a public commitment to continuing the SOAR process. In thirty days we’ll have a written report of the day’s findings, and thirty days after that, his administration will respond. Critically, he also committed to funding the process in the next state budget. And all of the legislators talked about the importance of bridging county and partisan divides.

News Roundup from SOAR Summit

There has been so much coverage from the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Summit held in Pikeville, KY on Monday that it would be impossible to post all of them to social media. There will be a blog post covering our thoughts about the conference in the next couple of days, but in the meantime, check out the great articles, blogs and A/V coverage below. If we missed anything, let us know in the comments! 

The Lexington Herald-Leader had a phenomenal two-day spread of op-eds on Sunday and Monday, featuring some insightful commentary and positive ideas about Eastern Kentucky's future:

​​Other news outlets across the region covered the summit:

Opportunity and hope as ways to remedy drug addiction

There’s a giant, pervasive elephant in the room of Appalachia’s bright economic future: drug addiction. Literally billions of dollars have been spent trying to remedy this problem that has claimed thousands of lives and shattered thousands more. But it persists.

Highlander Center still accepting applications for Appalachian Transition Fellows

The Highlander Center in East Tennessee will start its Appalachian Transition Fellowship Program next year, and as Erica Peterson of WFPL News in Louisville reports, the program will “select 15 communities in the Appalachian areas of Kentucky, Tennes

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