One East Kentucky announces partnership to expand economic opportunities in the region

By Nicole Childress, Building Kentucky

New opportunities and resources are coming to eastern Kentucky businesses.

One East Kentucky (OEK) and Regional Strategies have announced a new partnership to build a stronger economic region covering eight Kentucky counties: Breathitt, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Lawrence, Magoffin, Perry, and Pike.

“One East Kentucky’s strong vision for the region and their ability to connect local communities with firms like Retail Strategies will lead to positive outcomes in Eastern Kentucky,” said One Harlan County executive director Colby Kirk. “I am excited for the impact this project will make in Harlan County in helping our organization better recruit new jobs to the community and provide higher levels of support for our existing, locally owned businesses.”

While each community faces its own unique challenges, OEK Regional Development Director Ivy Stanley believes by working together, they can overcome many related obstacles.

“Each rural community has its own specific challenges, but they’re all related,” said Stanley. “And what people, I’m hoping, are beginning to realize, is that the future of Kentucky is rural.”

The partnership will provide webinars, trainings, a digital toolkit, and other educational resources. Additionally, it will recruit new retail and commercial employers.

“These new jobs will positively impact the bottom lines of every existing business in our region, spurring small business development and commercial growth,” OEK President and CEO Chuck Sexton said. “We are constantly finding new opportunities to support our region’s communities and beyond and our continued recruitment success will necessitate growth in other areas like retail, restaurant, healthcare, residential, and hospitality.”

The project will also study regional data such as retail trends and market viability and compare it to similar communities experiencing success. This will provide insights into how to better serve and market the region.

The project will kick off in six months and is funded by an Appalachian Regional Commission grant, awarded to One East Kentucky last year.

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