The Center for Rural Development encourages and fosters an improved way of life in the region and the state by working to bridge the digital divide through support of the implementation of KentuckyWired infrastructure in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. One of the many reasons for their support is that the concept of generating economic opportunity by increasing local access to high-speed broadband services has been demonstrated time and again.
Evidence shows that broadband connectivity results in business retention, growth, and attraction, while also helping people earn additional income. Having accessible and affordable broadband services creates a more favorable environment for cultivating commercial opportunities. Broadband is an important component in making a community an attractive place to live, helping stem the population loss that many rural communities are experiencing, and stabilizing the tax base. With the completion of the construction phase of KentuckyWired in Eastern Kentucky, plentiful opportunities lie ahead for rural residents.
One example of a business that is already making use of internet connectivity in order to grow is Morehead-based clothing brand, New Frontier Outfitters. The business was started by brothers Jared and Josh Ravenscraft in 2016 when they began designing hiking hats built for adventure. Four years later they have successfully gained a cult following with their clothing brand that appeals to those with a love for American blue-collar chic and retro-outdoors wear.
The brothers are avid hikers and skiers, and as they grew up in Appalachia they felt a bit alienated by existing outdoors brands that focused on the Western areas of the country. They set out to create a brand that represented Appalachia and conveyed its simplicity and beauty.
Their business began as they hand-delivered orders and included handwritten notes in shipments of hats that were inspired by retro ski badges and their father’s collection of trucker caps. Once they opened an online store, they experienced brisk sales and were encouraged to continue their efforts.
New Frontier Outfitters has now received several informal celebrity endorsements including actor Channing Tatum who was seen wearing one of their hats on “Entertainment Tonight;” country artist Tyler Booth who wore one of their shirts during a performance in Nashville; and they are also strongly associated with Grammy-nominated country group Midland. Most recently, Grammy-nominated country music artist Tyler Childers and his band have shown strong support for New Frontier Outfitters as well. Childers’ fiddle player, Jesse Wells, has been spotted wearing one of their hats both in concert and on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
The brand’s popularity and reach extends far beyond Appalachia and even the U.S. New Frontier Outfitters apparel is also sported by an oldies band in Sonora, Mexico; worn by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; and has even gained a strong following in the Netherlands. As a result, the business was awarded the Excellence in International Trade Award by the Kentucky World Trade Center in early December.
With such sweeping success, it might be easy to begin to lose ties with their Appalachian roots, but this is not the case for the Ravencraft brothers. “We are staying committed to this state and region when we could easily relocate. Building Appalachia’s first outdoor clothing brand, and doing it through e-commerce is a bit new age for this area, and we hope to be an example of what we can do in this state for a better Kentucky”, said Joshua Ravencraft.
New Frontier Outfitters has even collaborated with another Kentucky business, AppHarvest, to create one of their Appalachian inspired apparel collections. AppHarvest combines conventional agriculture techniques with today’s technology to build the #FarmingNow movement in Appalachia and aims to help Appalachia become America’s agtech capital.
“We must work together to achieve greater in our local communities. Let New Frontier X AppHarvest be an example that we need more people to partner in our state and work together to make this area stronger,” added Ravencraft.
The Center for Rural Development hopes to see many new businesses form and flourish as KentuckyWired’s middle-mile network provides new opportunities for communities, Fiber Boards, and local internet service providers to develop last-mile plans to extend internet access to businesses and residents. The Center also offers multiple resources to help improve the last-mile, or bring the last-mile to communities for the first time. More information about The Center’s Last-Mile Guide, CenterLinks Access Nodes, and Technology Assistance Program can be found at https://centertech.com/technology/kentuckywired/ or by calling The Center’s Broadband Technology Liaison, Scott Surber, at 606-677-6000.