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The Center for Rural Development partners with our three affiliate organizations to better serve the needs of Southern and Eastern Kentucky. Regardless of its specific focus and tactics, each affiliate organization has an eye toward economic development and life improvement that broadens The Center’s base and increases its services.

The Center is dedicated to working cooperatively with these affiliates and state and federal organizations to maximize benefits to the region and meet its core mission: to provide leadership that stimulates innovative and sustainable economic development solutions and a better way of life in Southern Eastern Kentucky.

These affiliates include:

PRIDE Volunteers at work sign
Cumberland Falls trotline

Southern and eastern Kentucky is rich in natural splendor, outdoor adventures, culture, folklore, and tradition. The region is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Here, visitors can wonder at the same breathtaking scenery first viewed by Daniel Boone when he crossed the Cumberland Gap in 1769.

To promote stewardship of this majestic environment, Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, Inc., was created in 1997 to encourage citizens to take responsibility for protecting their environment and by providing the education and resources to do so. PRIDE, a nonprofit organization, partners with local governments, businesses, civic groups, schools, and volunteers to accomplish cleanup and education goals. With PRIDE, this scenic region is succeeding in uncovering its tourism potential.

In 2020, PRIDE launched The Kentucky Wildlands ― a regional tourism marketing initiative that showcases the region’s breathtaking beauty and rich heritage with the goal of driving economic development. Components of the initiative include a regional brand, media campaign, hospitality education, itinerary development, and entrepreneur training. The initiative collaborates with state and local tourism agencies, creating connectivity throughout the region.

The PRIDE organization and The Kentucky Wildlands initiative are committed to one bottom line:  enhance the quality of life and economy in southern and eastern Kentucky by caring for the environment and developing the tourism industry.

To learn more, please visit:
The Kentucky Wildlands –

SKED Southeast Kentucky Economic Development The Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED) is a non-profit economic development organization formed in 1986 serving 45 counties in Southeast Kentucky. SKED believes a brighter future in Southern and Eastern Kentucky begins with stronger businesses.

Whether you need money, advice or training, SKED helps businesses large and small find innovative solutions that inspire growth. SKED invests in a better way of life in Southern and Eastern Kentucky through business lending, marketing, training, expansion and recruitment – and have done so for more than 35 years.

SKED’s mission is to improve the quality of life and vitality of its service area by promoting sustainable economic development and employment opportunities with creativity, professionalism, and integrity in collaboration with local, state, and federal partners.

To learn more about SKED, visit

Operation UNITE

Operation UNITE, a non-profit organization serving 32 counties in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, is a collaborative model striving to prevent substance abuse/misuse and facilitate recovery.  “UNITE” is an acronym meaning Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education.  This pioneering holistic approach – creating strategic partnerships, providing leadership, promoting education, coordinating treatment, and supporting law enforcement – has become a model for other states and nations.

U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers created UNITE in April 2003 as a response to a special report, “Prescription for Pain,” published in the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper.  That series of articles exposed the addiction and corruption associated with drug abuse in counties largely included in Rogers’ Fifth Congressional District.  Based in London, UNITE also maintains offices at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Southeast Community & Technical College in Harlan, and the Big Sandy Area Development District in Prestonsburg.

UNITE operates the KY HELP Statewide Call Center, which provides resources for Kentuckians seeking help for a substance use disorder and offers comfort, support and guidance to family members confronted with a loved one’s addiction.  In addition, UNITE created and now serves as the Educational Advisor for the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, the most influential annual gathering for stakeholders to discuss what is working in prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.

For more information about Operation UNITE, visit

UNITE mascot giving high-fives interacting with children.