I love Appalachia Kentucky. I love the place, the people, and the opportunity that lies here. I spend the holidays each year reflecting on the privilege it is to call this place home.
From the people, the majestic mountains and valleys, and many partners, it’s a great time to be a part of the transformation taking place in Appalachia Kentucky.
As I look back on the year, I think about the sheer power of people and how our passion has driven action, innovation, and collaboration to achieve goals that will impact our generation and generations to come. From record jobs announcements and new investments, to the work to collectively write a new narrative of innovation, we are indeed building a 21st Century Appalachia Together.
This year, we worked to implement our Regional Blueprint throughout the region. This Blueprint is not only a plan, but it is a vision. It was a vision cast through the input of more than 3,000 people across the region and ten working groups. It is a plan built for our region, by our people.
The Blueprint outlines seven specific goals. The plan, which can be read in its entirety at www.soar-ky.org/blueprint, outlines seven specific areas of work that we believe will lead to lasting and meaningful change in the region. Those are:
· 21st Century Workforce
· Healthy Communities
· Small Business
· Industrial Development
· Regional Foods
Through the work of SOAR and our partners, we are seeing collaboration across city and county lines. We are finding collaboration that spans generations and passions, all working towards the commonality of “Building a 21st Century Appalachia…Together.”
What I'm most thankful for this year is that I'm not the only one who believes that there's a future. From Gov. Matt Bevin and Congressman Hal Rogers, to our partners on the ground in communities across Appalachia, we’re building a network of thousands of people who believe. The unity of our people is what makes progress possible. We’ve stayed the course. We’ve believed when others quit. We’ve believed in something greater than ourselves – that is faith – and have worked passionately and purposefully towards lasting and effective change – that is grit.
I’m thankful to know that together, we are tackling a challenge that many believe is insurmountable. Nothing can overcome our faith, our grit, and our common desire to build a 21st Century Appalachia.
Form our family to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas, the happiest of holidays, and a happy New Year.
Jared Arnett is executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc.