By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
The promise of creating jobs, increasing economic safety, and improving opportunities in career education are just a few areas the recently-created “Promise Zone” is focusing on.
That came Thursday from the man who’s helping governments, businesses and agencies partner together for the zone’s success — Jerry Rickett, President and CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.
During a lunch-hour speech before the Corbin Rotary Club, Rickett said London-based KHIC submitted the application for eight Southeastern Kentucky counties to be named the first of five Promise Zones in the nation in January.
All of Knox, Clay, Leslie, Perry, Letcher, Harlan and Bell counties, and part of Whitley County are included in the Southeastern Kentucky Promise Zone.
Rickett stated that in Whitley County, all of the City of Corbin and much of the southern half of the county were in the zone.
Citing the loss of jobs in the coal industry and the region’s economic situation, he said KHIC will serve as the administrator of the zone, and would coordinate and manage the resources available.
To do that, Rickett’s counting on plenty of what he called “power partnering.”
“Kentucky Highlands tries to partner with anyone we can. Partnerships are difficult. I think this is the best example of people wanting to come together,” he told Rotarians during their meeting at David’s Steakhouse in Corbin.
To stress the importance of partnership, Rickett showed a large card, listing the names and logos of most of the partners involved in the Promise Zone for Southeastern Kentucky.
It included the University of Kentucky, the Governor’s Office in Frankfort, U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Southern Tier Housing Corporation (STHC), General Electric, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Berea College.
All eight Promise Zone counties are what Rickett called “Local Government Partners.” He added the counties have delivered on projects where they could be helped in their efforts to access the resources they need.
In Whitley County, the two projects were to build 13 energy-efficient workforce homes in the Emlyn community, and to replace four bridges in the county road system.
In Knox County, their two projects were for the Knox County Hospital and Knox County Detention Center.
Rickett told the audience two of those projects — in Knox and Whitley counties — would be spotlighted Friday.
First, he mentioned Kentucky’s 5th District Congressman, U. S. Representative Hal Rogers, will join national and state administrators from the USDA at Knox County Hospital in Barbourville for a major announcement concerning the hospital.
A statement from Rogers’ office Thursday said that announcement would take place beginning at 10 a.m. in the hospital’s main lobby.
Second, Rickett invited Rotarians to the groundbreaking of the energy-efficient homes project in the Emlyn community of Whitley County. That event, which involves Implementation Partner STHC, takes place at 1:30 p.m.
Two regional organizations are among the Promise Zones five “Supporting Partners.” They include the Cumberland Valley Area Development District, which serves Whitley County, and KCEOC Community Action Partnership, based in the Knox County community of Gray.
He noted KHIC is one of the “Implementation Partners” — one of the partners that has signed on to the Promise Zone for 10 years. Others include STHC, the Governor’s Office, the Cabinet for Economic Development, UK, Operation UNITE, Eastern Kentucky PRIDE and the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE).
Admitting the task ahead would be a challenge, Rickett closed by saying the region needs to be change in a positive way, to move forward.
“We need not to be critical, and step up to the positive things we can do,” he said after the meeting.