Appalachia needs strong leaders

The Hazard Herald of Hazard, Ky., wanted to know in this editorial where the leadership in Frankfort has beenhiding while coal jobs in eastern Kentuckycontinue dropping, leaving thousands out of work without viable alternative opportunities.

"We don’t know what Gov. Beshear has up his sleeve, or how much he had to do with any of the positive job creation we’re seeing in other parts of the state, but he can’t expect to put his name on those successes while washing his hands of the declining economy in Eastern Kentucky. We’re hearing next to nothing from Frankfort about creating a new economy beyond coal. We need a new vision."

We agree that the region does need a new vision, and it seems like it will come from within before those without will take action. The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development has recently developed what could be a good series of steps folks in the region could take to create a new vision to diversify the economy and move the region forward into a bright future. You can read a bit about their plan in this editorial from MACED’s Executive Director, Justin Maxson.

Basically, they give four strategies:

  1. Better support local entrepreneurs and enterprises.
  2. Grow key sectors that build on Central Appalachia’s great assets.
  3. Provide workers with financial support, retraining and job matching tied to growing sectors.
  4. Better invest financial resources already available, and actively search for more.

They say these four strategies should be supported by increased conversation about the issues the region faces among all types of people from all walks of life; creating a vision for what the region wants to become; and, supporting existing and emerging leaders in the region. 

To reach that bright future that we believe these strategies will help us achieve, we need more elected leaders in Frankfort like Rep. Leslie Combs, who called on her fellow legislators to take action several weeks ago. We know there are more elected state leaders like Rep. Combs in this state. We just have to find them!