By Claudia Gayle Patton, EKU Class of 2016
Corbin’s economic heart beats vigorously, thanks in part to efforts of Andy Salmons.
Andy Salmons received a message from a friend filming a documentary on poverty in Brazil. Needing a helping hand, the friend asked Salmons to devote the next two years to the project. Advocating for the less fortunate was the beginning of what has become a very successful and responsible journey into leadership and social entrepreneurship. After five years in South America, Salmons returned to his family home in Corbin.
Corbin, a medium-sized Southcentral Kentucky town, is known for Cumberland Falls, the Moonbow, and the original Kentucky Fried Chicken. The inner-city area didn’t thrive like it had before he left for Brazil. Jobs and industries had naturally moved closer to I-75. Salmons discovered that the businesses in downtown Corbin had only been receiving $15,000 of help and tax breaks – collectively. Building and store fronts were at a 40 percent vacancy.
“The dedicated downtown commerce was surviving, but needed to thrive. There was a strong, and real sense of faith in possibilities, and a clear path to help my community. I wanted to jump in” said Salmons.
Though he has yet to finish his degree, Salmons drew on the formal education he did have. He did his research, and “bloomed” ideas with community leaders for new and sustainable businesses and partnerships with local farmers, musicians and craftsman. He wanted to create jobs, and develop downtown Corbin into a place for social gatherings, not just for locals, but for travelers on I-75.
“I established the You & Me Coffee shop in 2012, where I could use regionally grown produce to make great food and baked goods to enhance the coffee house experience," said Salmons. "It was also an opportunity to provide a platform for resident and regional talent of all kinds.”
You & Me took off, bringing with it a two-thirds growth of city focused business. This growth has steadily continued after Salmons. With the help from his friends, he launched an inspiring social media campaign. He encourages others to come to the heart of the town for food and shopping, when you finish, stay for the live music.
Salmons took the position of downtown director, another opportunity to impact Corbin. While in this leadership position, Salmons accomplished a lot. The budget for municipality development and aid grew from $15,000 to $250,000. Store front retail vacancy is now below 9 percent. There are plans to renovate the upper floors of the downtown buildings for residency. In 2013, Salmons teamed with entrepreneur friends to open a farmer’s market. It has been such a draw for commerce and fellowship, there are plans for a year-round venue.
Salmons believes in having a “direction” for community evolution and success. Using his leadership skills and entrepreneurial drive, Salmons continues to work alongside supportive local officials and eager citizens to better his hometown. The next community project… a bike path! Salmons wants to make Corbin the “coolest place in south Kentucky.”