Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC), in partnership with eight counties in southeastern Kentucky, was designated on January 7, 2014 by the President Barak Obama as the first rural Promise Zone in the nation. With this designation, the partners will engage the communities in a collaborative, comprehensive process aimed at improving the overall quality of life in the region.
As Lead Entity for the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone, KHIC intends to build upon its forty-eight year track record of successful economic and community development to concentrate resources in a targeted manner. The resources will be coordinated and managed by KHIC and will include partnerships between local, state and federal governments; the non-profit sector; schools, colleges and universities; law enforcement; and, private sector investment. KHIC developed a methodology for targeted development in its implementation of the Kentucky Highlands Empowerment Zone from 1994-2009 that was proven to be highly successful and more recently through the Stronger Economies Together (SET) project. KHIC is confident that the processes and investment that the partners will bring to the Promise Zone will yield a measurable return in terms of jobs created, increased tax base, decreased government spending on social programs, technology improvements, crime reduction and private investment. Of equal importance will be the immeasurable returns in terms of self-sufficiency, self-esteem and community well-being.
Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation will take a layered approach to establishing and implementing the Promise Zone initiative. The tiers will be (1) complete a comprehensive Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone Strategic Plan that includes participation from local officials, the business community, the non-profit sector and Promise Zone residents; (2) integrate the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone into the larger Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative (3) marshal and coordinate the entrepreneurship programs in the region, recognizing that economic success must come from within and the efforts must be concentrated; and, (4) capture the energy being directed at the region to bring new ideas and partners to the Promise Zone.
The identified areas of major need that the Promise Zone will address include:
- Job Creation
- Economic Development and Entrepreneurship
- Access to Technology
- Investment of Private Capital
- Crime related to Substance Abuse
- Employment Training
- Lack of Affordable Housing
- Lack of Coordination among Providers
The principles which KHIC and its Implementation Partners will employ in carrying out activities within the Promise Zone will include:
- It must be community-focused (driven by the true needs of community);
- It must be inclusive of all types of talent, underrepresented populations and all types of organizational leadership;
- It must be asset-based (building on a region’s assets);
- It must be collaborative (including leadership across private, public and nonprofit sectors, and engaging service providers);
- It must be comprehensive and integrated (addressing all elements identified in the Promise Zone Strategic Plan and integrating them into the regional economy);
- The effort must be community-based but regionally focused;
- The Promise Zone must be linked to and informing all partners;
- The Promise Zone must implement a sustainable strategy; and,
- It must be focused on continuous improvement.