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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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