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August 15, 2018

Group develops strategic plan for regional economic development association

MCKEE, KY — The Jackson County Development Association concluded a 2017 ARC Flex-E-Grant project that resulted in the development of a strategic plan and a regional economic development organization for Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie, and Owsley counties.

The Jackson County Development Association was awarded $8,800 through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Flex-E-Grant program, which is administered by The Center for Rural Development, to work with five economically distressed Kentucky counties to form a regional economic development council.

The Jackson County Development Association worked with representatives in Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie, and Owsley counties to form the council. They contracted a strategic planning consultant from the University of Kentucky Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky.

After multiple planning meetings, a strategic plan was documented and the community partners decided to proceed with the decision to form a regional economic development organization. The organization will be called FOCUS, Five Original Counties Uniting Successfully.

The Center for Rural Development (The Center) and the Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College worked together to identify projects that align with the goals of the Flex-E Grant Program and support other regional initiatives such as Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) and the Kentucky Promise Zone. The grants provide a critical resource for communities to plan and implement projects that address both local and regional development efforts.

The 2017 ARC Flex-E-Grants funded 22 projects totaling more than $180,000 in grant funds with a minimum of 20 percent matched locally. The grants were awarded in economically distressed counties, as designated by the ARC, including Carter, Clay, Cumberland, Estill, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Lawrence, Lee, Letcher, Magoffin, Menifee, Metcalfe, Morgan, and Whitley counties.

Three additional multi-county projects with a regional development focus will impact counties of Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Whitley, and Wolfe.

These Southern and Eastern Kentucky communities used the grants to engage local residents in planning processes that explore strategic approaches to community and economic development, and projects that result in assets for tourism, downtown revitalization, youth development and other areas.

For more information on The Center’s Flex-E-Grant program, contact Patti Simpson at 606-677-6000.

Established in 1996 through the vision of U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, (KY-05), and other leaders, The Center for Rural Development is a nonprofit organization fueled by a mission to provide leadership that stimulates innovative and sustainable economic development solutions and a better way of life in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. The Center provides innovative programs in leadership, public safety, technology, and arts and culture. The Center is committed to constantly expanding its capabilities in order to deliver a range of key services throughout Kentucky and the nation.

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