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Washington Post Article March 23, 2017

Trump’s budget targets rural development programs that provide lifeline in Appalachia


Lane Report Article on the Promise Zone

Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone sets record for investments announced

3-year total exceeds $453 million

LONDON, Ky. – More than $453 million in funding has been announced in the eight-county Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone since the federal designation began three years ago for Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley counties.

In addition, the number of private-sector, government and nonprofit partners has increased from 64 to 80.

“Investments announced in the Promise Zone for 2016 set a record,” said Jerry Rickett, president & CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, which is coordinating and managing the federal Promise Zone. “There is more work to be done, but we continue to gain momentum as additional partnerships are forged, and we attract new private and public funding. As a result, there have been tremendous investments announced in areas such as jobs, education and training, tourism, technology, and health.”

KHIC issued a top 10 list of highlights for the $220 million in commitments made in the Promise Zone counties in 2016:

1. Promise Neighborhood Grant: Berea College will receive $30 million as one of only six Promise Neighborhood grant recipients in the country. This cradle-to-career initiative will fund work in three school districts in Knox County that will reach 25 schools and more than 10,000 students to improve the educational achievement and healthy development of children.

2. Appalachian Wildlife Center: A $12.5 million grant from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement will help develop the Appalachian Wildlife Center in Bell County. It is expected to attract 638,000 annually visitors by the fifth year of operation and generate more than $1 billion in regional economic activity in the first 10 years.

3. Euro Sticks: Euro Sticks Group, a French manufacturer of ice cream and coffee stir sticks, selected Corbin as its presence in North America. It will create 90 jobs and invest $15 million.

4. Harlan Wood Products: Harlan County Industrial Development Authority received a $2.52 million grant for an alternative energy manufacturing center. Announced by Gov. Matt Bevin and Congressman Hal Rogers, the funds will be used to leverage an additional $10.5 million in private investment from Harlan Wood Products to create 30 to 35 new jobs and approximately 60 new indirect jobs.

5. Final Mile: Promise Zone communities have been collaborating and planning for ways to extend the KyWired middle-mile dark-fiber system into downtown areas, industrial parks and centers of commerce. This local “final-mile” system is critical for providing high-speed, high capacity Internet access.

6. Pineville Community Hospital: A USDA loan, along with strong partnerships among Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, First State Financial and Pineville Community Hospital, have saved more than 300 jobs and created 12 new jobs at the hospital.

7. Uplift America Fund: The fund has awarded $50 million to Fahe and $25 million to KHIC to be used as loans for community facility projects. It leverages federal low-interest loans, bank financing and private grants to target much-needed capital to persistently low-wealth area, including the Promise Zone.

8. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camp: The University of Louisville and Partners for Education at Berea College helped 27 Promise Zone high school students attend a free summer camp at the Speed School of Engineering’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research.

9. Telemedicine: The federal Health Resources and Services Administration awarded Baptist Health Foundation Corbin, Inc. a $1.2 million grant for expanding its telehealth network with infrastructure and personnel.

10. Faith-Based Convening: More than 200 people attended the first faith-based economic development summit “Jobs Wanted: Faithful Investing in Appalachia’s People.” The Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone and SOAR held the event.

“Investments in the Kentucky Promise Zone have created jobs, generated income and improved economic conditions throughout eastern Kentucky,” said Jeff Jones, acting USDA Rural Development state director. “Collaboration between Kentucky Highlands and local partners stretching across these eight counties is essential to creating new opportunities in the Appalachian region.”

The Kentucky Promise Zone initiative gives the area a competitive advantage in applying for federal funding as well as additional assistance from several federal agencies.

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University of Louisville holds first ever STEM camp for PZ

University of Louisville to hold first-ever STEM camp for Promise Zone students July 18-22

High-schoolers to gain hands-on experience with energy technologies

LONDON, Ky. – The Kentucky Promise Zone and the Partners for Education at Berea College today announced that approximately 30 high school students from Promise Zone counties will attend a free summer camp at the University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research from July 18-22.  The camp will focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lectures and hands-on work in the laboratory with a special emphasis on renewable energy.  This is the first-ever opportunity of its kind for students from the Promise Zone, which is comprised of Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and Whitley counties. Students will spend the week at the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research within the J. B. Speed School of Engineering working alongside center research scientists and engineers.   

Lectures will be held each morning, and students will complete lab exercises, including:

  • Solar energy conversion to electricity and fuels;
  • Physics and chemistry of advanced energy materials;
  • Energy storage; and
  • Water splitting for solar fuels.

 We are very pleased to host these students, who will have a jump-start on state and regional science competitions as well as gain an understanding of cutting edge STEM and renewable energy topics from the researchers at the Conn Center,” said Dr. Neville Pinto, UofL Interim Provost and co-sponsor of the initiative. “This is an investment in the next generation of innovators who might not otherwise have such opportunities.”  Dr. Mahendra Sunkara, director of the Conn Center added: “We strongly believe that inspiring kids into innovation and STEM fields can have a transformational effect on economic revitalization of the region in the long run. We also need an inspired next generation to be able to solve global challenges in energy and sustainability.”

Berea College’s Partners for Education will chaperone the students all week and provide transportation to and from the camp.  Participants will enjoy dinners at UofL’s “Ville-Grille” and participate in out-of-class activities in Louisville. “We are thrilled to bring our expertise in out-of-classroom learning to this partnership,” said Sara White, director of programs, Partners for Education. “We’ve been working in partnerships with regional schools and Berea College for over forty years to develop a holistic approach to education.” 

“The University of Louisville and Berea’s Partners for Education are generously providing this unprecedented opportunity for students in our region to learn from and work directly with top-notch scientists and engineers who are translating technology concepts into new products and, more importantly, jobs for Kentucky’s work force,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, which is coordinating and managing the federal Promise Zone. “These students will come back to the region with valuable skills and advanced knowledge.”

About the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research:The Conn Center provides leadership, research, support and policy development in renewable energy; advances the goal of renewable energy; and promotes technologies, practices, and programs that increase efficiency for energy utilization in homes, businesses and public buildings. It conducts and facilitates R&D on potentially commercializable renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. The Center promotes partnerships among the state's colleges and universities, private industries, and non-profit organizations to actively pursue federally and privately funded research and development resources that are dedicated to renewable energy solutions. Visit http://conncenter.org/ for more information.

About Partners for Education: Partners for Education at Berea College uses a place-based, student-focused approach to improve educational outcomes in Appalachian Kentucky. We braid services and align funding streams to optimize results. Through a suite of programs, including GEAR UP, i3 and the first rural Promise Neighborhood, Partners for Education leverages $25.8 million annually to serve 35,318 young people and their families. Learn more at https://www.berea.edu/pfe/.

About the Kentucky Promise Zone: Comprised of Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley counties, it is one of only 13 Promise Zones in the country and the first in a rural area. The initiative, which Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation is coordinating and managing, gives the area a competitive advantage in applying for federal funding as well as additional assistance from federal agencies that oversee housing, education, economic development, agriculture and safety. More than $300 million in funding has been identified in 2.5 years. Visit http://www.kypromisezone.com/  and follow on Facebook



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