TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

April 7, 2014

Promise Zone meeting held at Union College

Poverty, employment two main topics

CORBIN — By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer

Poverty and employment opportunities were two of the main issues discussed at a Kentucky Promise Zone meeting Thursday at the Union College Health and Natural Sciences Center in Barbourville.

Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky Extension Associate for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Marisa Aull came to gather the opinions of a crowd of about 60 Knox County citizens concerning the county’s greatest assets and its most dire problems that can be addressed through the Promise Zones.

All of Knox, Clay, Leslie, Perry, Letcher, Harlan and Bell counties, and part of Whitley County are included in the Southeastern Kentucky Promise Zone. The Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation will serve as the administrator of the zone, and will coordinate with the county to manage available resources and focus on the area’s issues.

Promise Zones are given a boost in their chances to receive federal grants for development, Aull said. She added the Promise Zones will expand the potential of Southeastern Kentucky. Aull called the Promise Zone Agreement a “grassroots movement.” There is no money attached to the Promise Zones, and Aull said this allows communities to decide what they think is best for them rather than being given money from the federal government with restrictions on its use.

Aull said she would draft a plan based on what was said in the meeting and present it to a community group for approval. She hopes to get a regional plan finished by early June.

Barbourville Tourism Director Denise Wainscott is the head of Knox County’s Promise Zone Planning Team. This team of about 21 people will review the draft of both community and regional plans before they are submitted for approval on the federal level.

A Promise Zone meeting was held in Whitley County March 28 where the problems of drugs, housing, jobs, and the poverty cycle were discussed. Drugs appeared to be more of a concern in Whitley County than in Knox County, while Knox County saw more problems in its lack of size and industry. Both counties cited jobs as a top issue.

“This is a good first step. Any time you get a group of concerned citizens together, things happen,” said Charles Frazier, 65, a lifelong citizen of Barbourville and a retired vocational school principal. “That’s what kept us from growing in the past; we didn’t have a plan. Well, now we do.”

Also attending the meeting was a group of eight Union College students. These students were in Dr. Amanda Fickey’s Appalachian development class. Fickey said the students were there to learn about development in Appalachian communities.

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