The most recent announcement of Appalachian Region Commission POWER grants included some much anticipated good news for Harlan County. We are part of three programs that were funded, meaning Harlan County will see some benefit from this federal funding.
The Harlan County Fiscal Court, Harlan County EDA and One Harlan County have been working closely for the past year with the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK). We, along with a few other counties adjacent to us, partnered with them on an ARC POWER application to revitalize downtowns. You have probably heard me say, “to have a strong county, you must have a strong county seat.” The grant to help revitalize downtowns, which includes Harlan, was funded in the amount of $1,464,251. This grant will provide us with tailored economic studies that identify economic opportunities for Harlan and provide financial support to implement these strategies. The grant will also enable us to leverage private investment in the process. There are other components of this grant that focuses on the arts and the youth of our county as well. We must change our downtown and make it vibrant once again. This will help!
Also, I had the pleasure of being part of a team focused on Harlan County as part of National Association of Counties (NACO) Innovative Challenge for Coal Communities last spring. Since then, they have been monitoring and mentoring our diversification process. I was invited to speak about this at their National Legislative Conference this past winter and was extended an opportunity to participate in a grant opportunity with them for Technical Assistance. This grant, which Harlan County has been included in, was awarded $60,000, to help us with a feasibility study for an industrial or technology park. Once the feasibility study is complete, we will qualify for funding for implementation to make one of these a reality. I found out last week that there is still $21 million available this fiscal year for implementation projects and we will aggressively pursue this and other funding streams once this study is complete.
Last but not least, the fiscal court and EDA’s partner in the Harlan Teleworks USA hub, Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, received $2.75 million for the Tech Hire Initiative. The project will serve people that are 17-29 who are out of school, and older adults who are unemployed or underemployed by offering them training for additional Information Technology Careers. Already, the Harlan Teleworks hub, has put 25 people to work in less than 3 months.
The Harlan County EDA has been conducting interviews for the Economic Development Director position that we received a grant from Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) to fund. We posted the position on the Kentucky Association of Economic Development website and the International Economic Development Council website. Many highly skilled individuals from around the state and nation applied for our open position. The interview committee of the EDA has narrowed the field down to three finalists and we are hopeful to have the selected candidate started in the position in early October. Someone working each day on economic development for our community is greatly needed. I am very encouraged by the experience, certifications, and successes several of the applicants have obtained and accomplished throughout their professional careers and look forward to working closely with the person that the EDA selects to continue moving our county in a positive direction.
If you need or want to contact me, you can call my office at 606-573-2600. You can email me at [email protected] or write to me P.O. Box 956 Harlan, Ky. 40831. As always, I would love to hear from you. Also, feel free to drop in and see me any time I can be of assistance. My office is located on the top floor of the old courthouse. Thank you!