Promise Zone marks 2-year anniversary


More than $223M in total funding announced

Special to Civitas Media



LONDON — More than $223 million in funding has been announced in the eight-county Promise Zone since its designation two years ago.

That means programs in Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley are seeing greater investments in areas such as online learning and other education initiatives, workforce training, business financing, broadband, infrastructure projects, tourism and housing and energy-efficiency projects.

In addition, the number of private-sector, government and nonprofit partners has increased by more than 50 percent in one year – from 42 partners to 64.

“Through our strong partnerships and cooperation, the Promise Zone is helping the region attract investment that is focused on creating sustainable economic stability and opportunity,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, which is coordinating and managing the federal Promise Zone. “Business investment; workforce training and education; and reliable infrastructure are a strong foundation for a bright future.”

Highlights of the $114 million in commitments made in the Promise Zone counties in the second year included:

· $30 million in private investments from Keeneland Racing Association for the Thunder Gap racetrack in Knox County.

· $19.9 million dollars in assistance for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) recipients in the Promise Zone to find employment opportunities through EKCEP and the state of Kentucky.

· $1 million POWER initiative that the Kentucky Cabinet for Finance and Administration received for “Unleashing the Power of the I-way,” which will maximize SOAR’s KentuckyWired broadband project. Promise Zone counties will be included in the first area to be built.

· $20.7 million from USDA to help more than 200 families with homeownership and home repairs; assist businesses with financing and energy-efficiency improvements; and aid communities with water and sewer infrastructure projects.

· Trail Town designations for Manchester and Harlan County’s Tri Cities, which will help increase tourism by being included in the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourisms state maps, visitor’s guides and other state promotional materials as adventure tourism destinations.

The Promise Zone has received attention from across the country and around the globe. For example, a journalist and film crew from Singapore toured the region as part of a story on how America reinvents itself.

In addition, the federal EPA included Corbin as one of a handful of communities it is profiling on how local foods are revitalizing downtown economies.

“The success of the southeast Kentucky Promise Zone in 2015 is very impressive and lays the foundation for continued success in 2016,” said Thomas G. Fern, state director for USDA Rural Development in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Promise Zone initiative gives the area a competitive advantage in applying for federal funding as well as additional assistance from federal agencies that oversee housing, education, economic development, agriculture and safety. Those agencies also will provide increased coordination to help the counties maximize federal and private investment.

You can learn more by visiting http://www.kypromisezone.com/, following the Kentucky Promise Zone Facebook page and participating in one of the annual listening sessions or periodic visits being held in each county.

The Kentucky Promise Zone – comprised of Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley counties — is one of only 13 Promise Zones in the country and the first in a rural area. The initiative gives the area a competitive advantage in applying for federal funding as well as additional assistance from federal agencies that oversee housing, education, economic development, agriculture and safety. Those agencies also will provide increased coordination to help the counties maximize federal and private investment. Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, founded in 1968 to stimulate economic growth in nine counties in southern and eastern Kentucky, now serves 22 counties in the region and has created more than 20,000 jobs. For more information, visit http://www.khic.org.

More than $223M in total funding announced

Special to Civitas Media

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