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What are the assets of this community and the region?

The people - they are faith-based, hard working and committed to Harlan County

We have one of the highest proportions of college graduates in our population

Education (graduation rates)

Our youth (2)

Our children

People (5)

The people of Harlan County are our strength

Concerned citizens

We are hungry, ready for some action

People's dedication to the area

Retirees who left are coming back

The strength of our community (Lynch KY) is very weak. We are mostly a community of retirees with a small percentage of young people. But there is hope for us. I'm retired but I try hard to support our community

Ethnic diversity


Appalachian people are self reliant and resources

Our people are self-sustaining

Strong people

Self-sustaining with craftsmen and bartering

Resourceful creative young people

Determined people

Faith based community (2)

I believe that one of our greatest strengths are our morals. A majority of our region is in the bible belt and the whole region is riddled with churches

Large numbers of churches


Closeness of the community

Good communication between counties

Everybody knows everybody

The people always try to come together and help each other

Caring people wanting to work together

Friendly - willing to lend a helping hand

Generosity - All are willing to share

Everyone is willing to help someone in need. There are a lot of "I'll give you the shirt off my back" type of people. I spend a lot of time in both Bell and Knox counties and I feel like they also share of lot of these qualities

Determined and motivated people trying to better the community

Volunteers (2)

Not a lot of industrial resources but fellowship and neighbors

Entrepreneurs (2)

Innovative and uncharted ideas

Profitable ideas

Our people have great ideas

Deep cultural values

Culture (3)

Regional subculture

Appalachian subculture

Rich history and heritage

Mountain culture

We are a hub for bluegrass music

Regional foods

Artistic people (2)


Creativity of the people (2)

Many talents of the people

Many talents – artists, musicians, storytellers, quilters, artisans

Talented people

Community artists

The arts are trying to be expanded

There are some artistic people trying to open the county up to something other than hunting and fishing (Robert Gipe, Artist Attic)

\Work ethic (4)

Great work ethic, just need training opportunities

Hard-workers - our labor force

Willing to do what other will not (hard labor)

Desire to do a good job

Healthy "work age" people

Peoples' willingness to work

The people are here with knowledge and strength, we're just waiting. Just waiting

Strong will for success

Large family networks

Family oriented (2)

Skilled crafts-based labor force


Serious workforce

A young technical workforce

Availability of a workforce

Natural environment (2)

Beauty of the county (2)

Beautiful landscape

Scenery (2)

Beauty of environment (2)

Beautiful scenery

Regional beauty

The mountains are a great asset

Mountains (4)


We have some of the most pristine drinking water in the country, but the coal companies that surface mine are destroying our drinking water

Water (2)

A willingness to move to alternate fuels

Natural resources - coal, timber, natural

Natural resources (2)

Our natural resources are our biggest asset



Coal was our best resource

Coal mines

Coal, natural gas

Natural gas (2)

Flat land


City water (2)

98% city water is also a large asset




Nursing home

Medical clinic

Ambulance services

The infrastructure to push for the local health care provider (ARH) to provide substance abuse treatment here in Harlan County. There are also a lot of areas where residential treatment could continue long after discharge, many large houses/buildings that are empty

Red Bird Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services (2)

Have a functioning railroad

Our rail road system is an asset


We have tourist attractions such as the zip line

Tourism opportunities

Tourist attractions

Our assets are mostly tourism, but this is a work in progress and the complete answer.

Growing tourism attractions - hiking, fishing, camping, zip line

Some tourism destinations already in place

The tourism that has been bringing in people so far. I know Bell is having some luck but I'm not sure if the other counties have tourism

4 wheeling park - Bell County has a park separate from ours

Black Mountain Recreation Park in Bell County

Several tour destinations including Black Mountain

Off roading

Street bike riding

Mine tours


Working together

Our relationship with Bell County and its ATV Park

Close knit community

Active community organizations

Strong nonprofit organizations

Good organizations

A large number of active churches

We have a good web of social networks

Support from UK and SE CTC

We gain the skills and knowledge of mission workers throughout the year

Red Bird Mission (3)

Red Bird Mission Work Camp

Experienced nonprofit leadership

Active local community organizations

Large presence of UK


Main Street

Mission groups

Cumberland Hope Center

We have a solid education system with high graduation rates

We have some of the highest high school graduation rates in the region. Only second to Pike County in college graduation figures. High 20s according to the 2010 census

Affordable educational opportunities

Affordable education

Our youth post high scores in the state performance tests

Consolidated school systems

Potential for education

College system

We have SE Community and Technical College here

We have a strong technical and college system

Some education institutions

Community college (4)

Educational institutions (community college) all neighboring counties (e.g., Harlan Independent, Harlan County, Southeast community college is shared by other counties in the region

Higher education

Harlan County high school

Good schools and tech centers for vocational training

$500K grant could be leveraged to $1-$3 million

Political strength

Availability of day care for working/college moms or dads

Low crime rate

People talked about great communication in our counties but I disagree with this tremendously. Our county politicians care only about coal

There isn't any strengths. Why? Because those that got their's block any that come in here

What are the challenges this county and the region face?

Young talented and skilled people are leaving due to limited opportunities here

Holding and retrieving our educated young people

Recruiting our youth to come back and work

People leave here and don't come back - nothing here for them

Work force is slowly leaving to find work elsewhere

Retention of potential employers and productive community members is key

Outmigration and an aging population

Nothing to keep our youth here in Appalachia

Geographic isolation

Our geographic location is not always best for large industries

The biggest challenge is our geographic limitation. We really don't have good roads to come in and counties lying close to the interstate are thriving

We are at the end of the earth - takes a while to get anywhere - isolated

Access to rural communities

The need for better roads (3)

Poor road access and so we need to finish building the connector road to US 23

We need to have a 4 lane road within 2 miles of any factory that locates here

Roads (4)

Need better roads (2)


Transportation system is lacking

Need better roads to develop industry

Lack of economic diversity

Industries are limited to a few types and are controlled by a limited number of industries/companies

No economic diversity

Lack of a history of economic diversity

We need more economic development

No economic growth

The largest challenge is economic growth - no jobs, no tax base

Loss of coal jobs

Moving away from coal to alternate fuels

Something to support the economy, new ways of employment. Coal is up and down and tourism will NEVER sustain the economy

Jobs are the biggest challenge for Harlan and surrounding counties

Lack of jobs (5)

Loss of jobs (3)

No job opportunities

No jobs (2)

No jobs for people who want to work

Not enough job opportunities

No enough employment opportunity for general laborers

Our county is in need of jobs

No factories in the area

We need factories


We need factories, factories bring employment, employment brings money, money brings economic strength!

Limited entrepreneurial capacity

We don't support our entrepreneurs

Need to support our entrepreneurs

Employment with adequate pay

Well paying jobs

Sustainable jobs

Making enough money to support my child without taking precious time away from her

Finding and keeping businesses in the area

Create small businesses

Few local business supporters

Rent is too high at the mall so we can't keep businesses in there

Getting funds to start any type of program

No available small business credit

No low interest loans for businesses

Economic monopoly

We don't have a trained certified economic developer or recruiter

We have not organized the unemployed to be volunteers for the larger community

State regulations on natural gas and who can sell it (must be a public utility) have hampered the development of our natural resource

State and federal governments are killing our county and Eastern KY with regulations on coal and other natural resources

The biggest challenge is Obama shutting down the mines. That is what our county is known for. Take it away and we will be a ghost town

No government support from the federal and state levels to replace the industry they have practically  closed with intense regulation

Absentee landowners

Company control of resources

High cost of living

High gas prices. Gas pricing in Harlan County should be more investigated. Any eye can see this. I want you to drive any county, any direction, any highway in Harlan, one mile past the Harlan line, the gas prices are extremely lower! Why?

High cost of gas

Gas is more expensive here because they have further to bring it (or so they say)

Gas prices

High tax rates (3)

Old housing stock leading to high electric bills and usage

Don't have homes - need more living classes

The drug problem (4)

Crime related to drugs

The impact of the drug problem on families

The drug problem is intergenerational

Bad social services. Children being left in homes when they should be taken away from parents who are addicted to drugs

The drug problem overloads our court system

Harlan County high school is a gateway drug area

Our county faces a big drug problem which is pretty much everywhere though

Drugs are our biggest challenge and the counties around us as well

Prescription drug use

Our county faces a big drug problem which is pretty much everywhere though

Drugs are our biggest challenge and the counties around us as well

Prescription drug use

Drug epidemic

Finding a solution to the drug problem

Drug problem(s) (2)

Drugs (4)

Drug abuse

More people feed off the government rather than work, which normally means they are either drug users or sellers. It's too easy to get prescription drugs. I would love to see things change in the hospitals. If less people get drugs they don't need, they would be harder to get


We need to have the views of all people in the county

We need unity with everyone and every organization focusing on the whole county

We have not encouraged the development of new organizations to help build the community

We need to open up political races

Good ole boy system - rigged elections, no room for new candidates

Running for office -- small town -- same people -- no room for new ideas

Repeatedly electing the same officials

Same people in office every year - nothing changes

Politics - must have a unified view

Politics - need to work for the whole county not just section. One fails we all fail


Corruption in government, ie, county audit

Lack of planning and zoning

Unity (3)

Unity - Stop sitting on our rears and letting everything die

We operate in subsections of the county. We never work as a whole county. Decision-making is our biggest challenge. We operate as tribes instead of a county

Organizations working toward a piece of the program

Our county needs to pull together as one

Too many cities and other duplicated entities

We need new visions and organizations most have been at it in the region for 30 years or more

Hard to unify county leaders

Hard to unify parts of the county -- selfish motives - the small holds priority over the whole

Territoriality in projects

We can't work together for a cause

Infrastructure (2)

Basic infrastructure

Poor infrastructure - water, electricity

Failing infrastructure

Lack of infrastructure

Lack reliable and affordable high speed broadband Internet

Poor quality, inconsistent and expensive cell phone service

Poor digital capacity

Poor cell phone service

Poor cell phone service and internet service

Limited internet access

Need better Internet

Poor phone service

No high speed internet

Cell phone and internet access

Police and paramedic response time

Poor communications for fire, rescue and law enforcement

Lack consistent and reliable communications for police and first responders in isolated areas

Communications among first responders often not reliable once they go into the rural parts of the county

Fire, rescue, police communications

Access to health care - when you leave this area you take your money with you

We have a good education system but it is not competitive with those in urban areas

Life skills classes are not included/required in the high school curriculum

More living classes. Education is based too much on testing and we are not learning how to live on our own, how to get a home, a job or provide for a family. Cooking, building, driving, common sense things are lost to teach the content for state testing

No common sense classes in schools

Still lag in educational attainment

Uneducated school board members -- need doctors and lawyers


Quality education?

Substandard schools

More training opportunities for low income persons

Make it easier for people to go back to school

People living in county for cheap taxes and sending kids to city schools without paying their way

Little early childhood education

There are not enough places for the youth to hang out and keep them off the streets and into bad habits

Re-connecting to our youth. Give them something to do before they get on the streets

Trustworthy child care

Not enough things for our youth to do. We have a few places they can go but the capacity of these buildings is an issue

No places to go and have a good time

We need leadership training to expand the pool of community leaders

We need training on team work

We need to get people to work together for example, on collaborative grant-writing


Loss of hope (3)

Restoring hope in all citizens

People don't believe in the possibility of change

Fear of leaving to see what is out there. Not everyone will stay here

Resistance to change (2)

Close mindedness

Environmental degradation

Environmental destruction

County only moist not fully wet

"dry" counties - no alcohol sales

County moist

Lack of diversity

What is your vision for the future of this community and the region?

In 20 years I'd want Harlan County to be flourishing with plenty of job opportunities

Small town atmosphere with unemployment rate around 2-3%

Unemployment rate cut in half

Sustainable economy

Greater tax base

A place where our children can come back and live. Where there is opportunity.

More job growth so our young people don’t have to leave our area

Jobs for our people so the young people don’t have to leave

More jobs/opportunities for youth

More jobs so the young generations won't have to leave this area

Booming businesses where our kids can live

More job opportunities for our young people as they graduate from school. Hope that they would be able to come back and find jobs in this area

More jobs that require higher education

I would love for more job opportunities to be available

Coal mining diminished

I would like to have more jobs in this region, more opportunity to be here. Most people want to leave because they can't get a job or can only get a job making minimum wage.

Job growth

Jobs are our biggest need at the moment

More jobs (5)

Plenty of jobs

The more jobs we can produce in Harlan, the more money will flow.

We would have more entrepreneurs

Filled with small high tech service businesses

Tech jobs

Technology based economy

Some type of industry where people can stay here and make a living

Small factories that are beyond coal

Manufacturing and fabrication businesses

Small scale factories

Four wheeling factory

Factories of any kind

Vehicle factories

Vehicle plants

Vehicle parts factory

ATV factory for parts

Komatsu plant

Sherwin Williams Paint factory

Utilize CSX railroad to move products for new industries

I would like to see factories and places to work

In 20 years I would like this region to be a place where I can work and live and raise my kids. But now you have to move your families because many are out of work. I would want this county to be different by getting bigger businesses and other things to do for the children

Better than it is today with jobs so that people don't have to move away for any job that could be done here

Jobs that would provide a good living for families

More good paying jobs

End the brain drain - quit exporting our greatest resource our best and brightest young people by providing equivalent opportunities for employment income

I would like to see our county be able to have jobs to support our people of the county

Not as dependent on public assistance

People affording food and health care without government assistance

Less food stamps, less social security. Make people actually work

We would have a bigger variety of shopping centers and restaurants

We need more businesses

Many small businesses

More restaurants like Outback, Long Horn, Applebees, etc

A few nice restaurants with good food (making a difference with the Portal)

Bars, restaurants for people to gather


Connected local economies

Focused, intensive agriculture

There would be more intensive agriculture, some of it using greenhouses

Farmer's markets and CSAs (community supported agriculture)

We will have fully developed our tourism potential

We will have non-seasonal tourism

A growing tourism base attracting people through the seasons and visitors with varied interests

Healthy tourism opportunities

Tourism development

More hotels (2)

Tourism locations closer to one another

A clean beautiful county that offers a variety of outdoor activities that people would come here for with places to stay, arts and crafts and entertainment

Tourism destination that we can share with the world our heritage culture, trails and culinary experiences

Water park like the one at Williamsburg

Hub of tourism

Black bear preserve

Sustainable tourism

Retreat center

We would be a retreat to learn how to live simply and self-sufficiently

We would be emphasizing the arts

Small concert venue  - an example is the orange peel in Ashville NC

Arts and theater

Creative class of people who can survive on their art and skills

The arts

More higher education opportunities

Areas of education centers

We need to make it easier for college students to get in the programs that they strive for. If we don't do this, 20 years, 15 years, and even in 10 years, this town will founder

Better ways to afford college

People supporting instead of bashing the county school system

A new education system that doesn't pour everyone into higher learning but that allows an intercommunication between levels of workers

We would have better housing overall

There would be cooperative projects to do energy audits of homes and businesses and then retro-fit them to reduce energy use and save consumer dollars

We would have completed renovations and remodeling of existing buildings and residences


Renovated housing

Homes that are energy efficient

We would have nice senior retirement facilities

More services for senior citizens – retirement villages, housing

Senior retirement communities

Retirement places

Greatly improved infrastructure - roads, cell, cable

We would have safer roads

We would have better roads and access throughout the county

Better roads for more jobs

Better roads

Roads to be fixed in Harlan County

Safer traveling - roads

Improved road maintenance and access

We would have reliable and affordable cell phone service throughout the county

Public services being able to communicate with each other anywhere in the region

Cell phone service (2)

Community owned energy sources that are renewable and sustainable

Renewable energy in use

Access to appropriate health care


Domestic abuse homes

We would be a healthier county with a wellness center

Decrease in the drug problem

Clean up the drug problem

Less drugs

No drugs

Drug free

No more drug problems

Rehab facility in the county

A local substance abuse center

There would be more things for kids to do

Recreation center (2)

New recreation center

A nice recreational center

YMCA for recreation and wellness facilities

Work out facilities

Community centers

We need more activities to do for entertainment

Skating rink inside one of the old school gymnasiums

More activities for all the people


We want Harlan County to be a place that people not only stay in but return too and be proud of

Retain and increase our population

A place to live that we are proud of and want to return to

Communities where people want to move into instead of out of

Greater influx of people

At least 40% of our population returned to us

People will stay and choose to return because they are proud of the community

People would want to be able to live and work here

Population increased

More second and third generation family members staying in the area

I would like to see my children want to live here

Child care would be available to everyone

Better child care

More affordable child care

I want it to be nicer. Clean-ups needed

Better use of land and empty buildings

Nicer buildings

If older buildings that are falling down cannot be fixed, tear them down for safety and aesthetic reasons

Some renovations - a lot of areas are old and worn. We don't want to be too much of a history lesson

A cleaner area

No trash on the roads and in our rivers

No sewage

County working together

Work together as a whole

A united county

To bring in more jobs, our county needs to work with other counties as a regional infrastructure

I would just like to see my hometown still be here

More trees

What are obstacles the region and your county have to overcome to move forward?

Lower educational levels

We need infrastructure

Lack of advanced technologies



Transportation is limited

The need for better roads and easier access

Roads! (3)

No good roads

Bad roads

Need roads

Transportation - no roads bring no people in

Lack of funds

Funding – Harlan County has always been left out by the state and federal government compared to neighboring counties

Find a source of revenue to replace lost coal severance money. Look at natural gas severance tax

Lack of money and resources

Poverty (4)

The drug problem (3)

The drug issue needs to decline

Drugs (8)

Parents destroying their children's lives because of drugs

Sheriff's office doing better job at drug round-ups

Harsher punishment for crimes

The economy (2)

More jobs need to become available

Finding jobs, making jobs

Lack of jobs

Low employment

Coal dependence

Discovering  the different occupations we can do here besides coal mining

Move beyond the idea that coal is the only way to make money or that it is all this region can do

Everyone wants to put their eggs in the tourism basket just like they had coal in the past. How can this be an answer for this county? It cannot employ enough people at a decent wage to support families


Limited financial institutions

Lack of communication- No wi-fi access


Not working together

We have to learn to work together and eliminate geographical district and county lines. Regionalization is inevitable if we are to compete with the rest of the nation and the world

We need to kick "greed" to the side and release some of this political and capitalized funding to create a better future for us and our children. Look at Pikeville, they did it and they grew!

Change the mindset of our people and our elected officials. Start looking out for the people that put them in office and not just themselves and future elections

Lack of togetherness we have "little cities within the county"

Develop a strong code of ethics for government officials

Government corruption

Just like tonight's meeting, people are put off by not being invited to participate

Lack of public invitation

Need political support from our county

Politics, politics, politics!

The same people in office year after year (no progress being made)

We jave to vote out the old ideas and bring in new resources and not coal's

Loss of hope (2)

Entitlement attitude of people

An "I don't care" attitude among the mountain people

Resistance to change.

Close mindedness

Many areas of "historical significance" everyone wants to keep, but they are broken down shells now. It's time to change

Build better buildings and tear down the eyesores

Keeping people here

Loss of work force and forward thinking people

People moving away

I have a 7 month old son and we are trying to decide if me, my fiancé and son want to stay here

The stereotype of what our county has always been that the people throughout the state and nation envision

Eastern Kentucky does not include us - we are southeastern KY

Our history

It seems like our area is forgotten or written off. Even at the state level, our area is seen as remote and was only recognized in the past because of our coal -- coal severance tax. Now that Is gone and we feel like our voices are heard even less.


Better activities for children and teenagers



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