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The Center for Rural Development Participates in SOAR Summit 18

By September 11, 2018No Comments

Eastern Kentucky was once defined by its involvement in coal mining, but the downturn of the coal industry has had significant impacts. Eastern Kentuckians are now rallying together to overcome those challenges and focus on innovative solutions that reimagine the future. This was evident as a multitude of organizations, businesses, and individuals from across the region recently gathered in Pikeville for the SOAR Summit 18. The 5th annual summit was a two-day event, hosted by Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), which focused on implementing a brighter future for Appalachia Kentucky.

U.S. Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers, Governor Matt Bevin and Tim Thomas, the new Federal Co-Chair of The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), provided messages of inspiration to the more than 1,100 “change-makers” in attendance. They applauded existing efforts that are improving the quality of life and diversifying the economy. The speakers also highlighted the work accomplished by the many organizations in the region, including The Center for Rural Development.

The Center was among those actively involved in the event and its vision to promote innovation, collaboration and economic and community development. Lonnie Lawson, President & CEO at The Center contributed to the broadband panel discussion, “Middle Mile and Last Mile”. The session detailed the work that has been accomplished on KentuckyWired in the past year. Additionally, the conversation showcased the need for communities to focus locally on last-mile broadband solutions that can extend the reach of the KentuckyWired project.

“The Center for Rural Development is laser focused on helping bring high-speed, high-capacity internet service to all of eastern Kentucky. Thanks to the support of Congressman Rogers, Governor Bevin and ARC we are making that a reality,” said Lawson.

The Center offers information about local, state, and federal funds that support the initiative to bring broadband access to rural areas. Furthermore, The Center also helps communities better understand the process of setting up a broadband board, beginning feasibility studies, strategic planning, data collection, market assessments, and engineering and network designs.

The Center for Rural Development not only hopes to help close the digital divide but also has a much broader mission to provide innovative programs in leadership, public safety, technology and arts and culture. During the SOAR Summit, The Center was among 75 organizations displaying interactive exhibits that showcased inventive solutions to the region’s issues.

For more information, call 606-677-6000 or visit