Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone Public Forums
During March and April 2014, the University of Kentucky Community & Economic Development Initiative for Kentucky (CEDIK) completed a series of public forums within the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone. The purpose of these forums was to hear from residents what issues they felt needed to be addressed and what were the goals from their communities. The input gathered at these forums forms the basis of the 10-year Strategic Plan for the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone.
CEDIK has completed all the forums in the eight counties, including 16 open to the general public and 14 youth-only forums. Attendance at the public forums ranged from 30 to 100 residents and there were approximately 300 participants in the youth sessions.
CEDIK found there was little difference between the counties in the perception of needs. There were twelve issues that were consistently brought up in each of the sessions, including:
Affordable, Consistent High-Speed Internet Access – This is a need throughout the Promise Zone.
Economic Development – This includes entrepreneurship, economic gardening, natural resource-based development and promotion of clusters.
Regional Tourism Development – Includes adventure-based, arts/cultural-based, and heritage-based tourism geared toward longer stays by visitors.
Health Services – Needs to be particular attention to drug and alcohol rehabilitation services with development of transportation to and from these services as they are often hours away.
Retirement Community Development – Communities should take advantage of family ties within the region. The idea is that you do not have to create jobs for retirees rather they create jobs for residents.
Enhanced Transportation Access – This is especially important within the community as there are rarely intra-community systems.
Develop the Locally-Owned Commercial Community – Particularly important to downtown areas. It creates a visible sign of improvement.
Improved Energy-Efficient Housing – Savings are typically returned to the community through local spending and it provides more affordable housing.
Create Opportunities for Youth to be Engaged in Community Affairs – Young people feel they are excluded because of their youth not their ideas.
Emphasize Multi-County Thinking and Action – The communities feel it is now time to act and try things together.
Increase Access to Post-Secondary Education – There are affordability and accessibility issues for colleges and technical education that need to be addressed.
People Want to be Heard – There is a uniform lack of trust in the political process, particularly that in Washington. Need to demonstrate opportunities in the region to halt out-migration by young families. There is a need to take action now.
Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone Strategic Plan
Based on the input from more than 1,000 residents who attended the listening forums held within the Promise Zone, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and the University of Kentucky Community & Economic Development Initiative for Kentucky crafted a 10-year Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan is reviewed by the Promise Zone Advisory Committee for consistency with the goals of the communities. With the approval of the Advisory Council the Strategic Plan will be published and implementation will begin in earnest. That process was completed on September 12, 2014.
KHIC, as Lead Entity, will use in the Promise Zone the citizen engagement process it put in place for the Kentucky Highlands Empowerment Zone. Throughout the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone implementation, KHIC will annually hold a series of well-advertised public forums to present a program update to the community and obtain residents input into the Strategic Plan. It is at these meetings that residents will offer changes to the Strategic Plan, introduce new projects and propose a reallocation of efforts as necessary. KHIC recognizes that openness and transparency are necessary to keep citizens informed and engaged. The Strategic Plan was ammended to reflect that input on September 11, 2015.