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Letcher County Promise Zone Community Forum 

What are the assets and strengths of the county and the region?

People are our strength, assets, greatest resource

Hard working people

Hard work

Our workforce

Strong work ethic of community

Strong work ethic

Work ethic (among some)


Entrepreneurial spirit -- crafts co-op, farmer's markets

People (4)

We have a strong and long history of open discussion about issues

Openness of opinions

General acceptance of others

We have a self-sufficient lifestyle

We can improvise when we need to in order to make things happen

Strength of individuality

Resilient people

Natural problem solvers

Drive and commitment towards improvement

Mountain pride

Retiree wisdom

The county and region has many intelligent people

Strong knit community

Highly personal with strong relationships and kinship ties

Family oriented

Tight knit community

A community of creative professionals: arts, writing, graphic design

Media makers/creators/trainers (e.g., Appalshop, NMMT, AMI, etc)

Creativity and talent

Creative people

Creativity and ingenuity

People are motivated to live here

The potential for in-migrants as those who left reach retirement age

Youth/young folks who may have left but want to return

Our youth are our future

Young professionals want to live here

Flow of people in and out with new ideas and energy


Our natural resources (coal, gas, forests, limestone, farmland, surface water)

Land, forests, trails

Natural areas (Bad Branch, Lilley Cornett Woods, US Forest Service, Kingdom Come State Park)

Hiking trails, Bad Branch Falls

Pine Mountain Trail (2)

Horse trails

Outdoor recreation

We have a fantastic natural beauty that can not be found anywhere else.

Scenic beauty

Scenic area

Natural beauty (what's left of it)

Natural beauty - best vistas in KY

Natural beauty and points of interest

Our beautiful mountains

Beautiful views in areas

Beautiful area

Scenery, woods, trails, wildlife

Natural beauty

Bad Br. Falls

Fish Pond Lake

Terrain (Pine Mountain, strip mined land, cliffs, views)

Most recognized geological site

Rock formation

Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain is an asset

Unmined mountain ridge (Pine Mountain) for tourism

Natural resources (timber,,, natural gas, coal, limestone, clean water)

Coal (2)



Mineral resources

Energy resources

Natural resources (gas, coal, timber)

Coal, timber, gas

Diverse natural resources

Potential wind power from the tops of the mountains but this is not in the discussion

Agricultural production,

Our knowledge about the land and agriculture


Technically trained workers

A large proportion of adult males are skilled in trades and crafts from employment in the mines. But not necessarily licensed or certified for similar work outside the mines

People with skilled trades backgrounds

Skilled workforce

Excellent work force

Skilled technical workers

Highly skilled with hands -- crafts, mechanical

Skilled artisans and workers

Skills like plumbing, electricians, construction

Lots of people that want to work and have skills from previously working in the mines

Workforce with mechanical, industrial skills (miners)

Open to new industry

Work forces with hands-on skills


Deep complex history and culture

Places with a long history to attract visitors

Long-standing institutions that preserve our history

Rich history

Historic sites

A coal and railroad museum


Our history

Veterans museum

Strong sense of history


Rich cultural heritage of arts, music, and story-telling

Rich cultural heritage of music, arts, crafts, story-telling

Strong arts community (e.g., Epicenter, galleries)

Art shows


Music traditions with strong community and cultural ties

Musical and artistic talent

Many artists and artisans (Appalshop, AMI, Grow Appalachia, KPI Center Arts Group and other such groups). Perry County has Appalachian Arts Alliance, Harland has Higher Ground (performing arts group) and Black Mountain

Cultural heritage is shared across counties but Letcher County has exemplary arts legacy and supporting organizations like Appalshop, Pin Mountain Settlement School, etc

Our music impact on the world

Culture (music, arts)


While not being anywhere, we are close to everywhere

We are on the state line and so have access to a bigger population than lives here


We have highway access and good county roads

Highway 23 is the main north-south corridor

There is a rail system in the west to accommodate large trucking

Rail access

We are within 8 hour driving time of a large percentage of US population

We have available rail and trucking servings and we will (hopefully) have an airport (a multi-county project with Knott County)


We have industrial land and buildings with good infrastructure available

Vacant buildings available for new uses

Low cost electricity

We have space with infrastructure for incoming industries

Unused land from mining that could be sustainably redeveloped

A lot of useable property for development

Vacant buildings

Better off technologically than other counties (e.g., training available, high speed internet infrastructure)

We have a multi-county industrial site in this county


Education resources

We have a community college (3)

School facilities

Good education system (2)

Good school

Community college system

Education (Extension, Southeast CTCS, Montessori, County and city schools)

A college and a new central high school with a vocational center


Much undeveloped land

Undeveloped land

Lots of vertical land

Previously mined lands are not being used for anything so available for many uses

Reclaimed mine land

Land for farming and tourism


Access to high quality health care

Regional Center for Births - but no neo-natal unit

Hospital with medivac

Health clinics

Good health care (3)

Strong health care system

Good medical resources

Medical facilities - hospital, 2 medical clinics

Access to medical school and a major medical center

Health care internet network

We have a good small hospital

We have a medical school one county away

We are a regional draw for obstetrics and gynecology


Downtown Whitesburg

The city is wet

Golf course

Modern library



Strong sense of community

Strong network of community organizations

Civic organizations

New recreation center

Historical Society with excellent genealogical records

Senior citizens center and programs

New Senior Apartment building

People working together


What are the challenges that your county and/or the region face?

Insuring that our children are well educated so that they are competitive

Brain drain

Aging public school building

Lack funding for competitive educational services

Low educational levels

An education system more focused on providing jobs and sports teams than providing high quality education for the 21st century


Our children need more cultural activities

Enhanced vocational training

Few paid youth programs, not much public support for this

Our population is not as well educated as in other parts of the state, and this is unfortunately shared by the surrounding counties


Need a long-term cohesive (within Letcher County and between all counties) plan for a just economic transition

No inclusive process for growing and moving forward as a community

Tourism, especially as related to the arts. We have such talent and tourism money is not used to show that. Need to be more inclusive if more than just one artist. Establish a diversified tourism planning team


A total breakdown in supply chains:

Hotels would come if more tourists, but more tourists are needed to "justify" more hotels. Companies can't get established here because there are no IT services, but the same is true in reverse. Same for food systems - we need more processing, wholesalers, etc. Nearby communities also have this breakdown in supply chains

Lack of proximity to high value markets

Lack of hotel and motel rooms (if tourists come, where will they stay?)

No place to stay downtown -- no hotel

Not capitalizing on assets such as technology hub, scenery and hiking

The supply chain for agriculture is shrinking


Lack of broadband Internet access (even though ours is better than many other counties in the region)

Our broadband Internet access is not affordable for all of our residents

Cell phone access is limited geographically

Broadband internet is insufficient and not affordable

Need for more accessible high speed Internet and fiber optics

Lack of access to modern, fast and affordable Internet access

Lack of high speed, affordable broadband

Lack of broadband for rural areas

Lack of wide spread broadband

Lack of broadband (2)

Another weakness is the lack of true broadband Internet for many in the region


We have failed the people by not creating a more diverse economy to ensure jobs for our citizens

The county and region's economy is undiversified and too dependent on coal

Biggest challenge is that people here have known nothing but coal and still cling to the belief that it will be back to save us, when the reality is that most of the economically mineable coal is gone and we cannot compete with the Powder Ridge Basin

Undiversified economic base

No long term sustainable and diversified jobs

Lack of industry

No diversity in our economy

Lack of support for small business development and growth (TA)

No access to business-to-business services

A limited number of mentors for small business development

Lack of jobs is the biggest challenge

Lack of jobs (2)

High unemployment

No jobs comparable to what coal jobs pay


The downside of the widespread electrician and plumbing skills is that it makes it hard to establish a business to provide those services

No jobs

Lack of manufacturing jobs

Lack of jobs, especially jobs for college graduates

Need more living wage jobs

Lack of good paying jobs/careers

In need of good paying jobs



Lack of financial wealth - wealthy has been extracted over 100s of years

Much of the wealth and wages still leaves the region through businesses that aren't locally owned


Too many folks wanting a hand-out


Lack of venture capital

Lack of funding for development

A lack of resources for the community to build from

Limited access to ways to reach the communities' real potential


No venture capital

Lack of funds for development

Lack of venture capital to spark small business development

No access to venture capital


Lack of basic infrastructure (water and sewers)

No landfill (3)

Trash -- the attitude of throwing trash out

Lack of sewers and water (2)

Roads and transportation access

No major interstate access

No east or west arteries

2 hours to interstate

Lack of necessary conveniences (water, proper sanitation, roads, etc)

Lack of infrastructure to our mountain top removal sites

Transportation -- poor roads, no major airport, no interstate highway, now waterways for barges

Natural gas is not available to residential or business users

No rail line

No bus line

No solar or wind generated power


A culture of low expectations

Sense of fatalism

Fatalism of nothing good happens here

Fatalism (2)


Unwillingness to think outside the box. Get creative and try something new!

Need more innovation and opportunities so folks who want to stay can!

Resistance to new ideas

Some don't want progress

Some are territorial not for regionalism or work together

Unwillingness to consider other views or opposing positions

A lack of opportunities both economic and socially to make members of communities feel empowered

Same old leadership = same old results

Tunnel vision

Tunnel vision focus on coal as the only source of economic growth

Resistance to renewable energy, sustainability etc based on pro-coal attitudes

Groups within our area fighting against anything coal related. We see what their agenda has already done

Loss of hope

Unwillingness to "bite the bullet" for the community good

Low expectations


The image or stereotypes of the region (2)

Poor community self-image

The perception that the region can't graduate high school students who can go on to become professionals

Perception problem goes both ways -- local attitudes about "outsiders" - Pine Mt. Trail Conference didn't want "hippies" hiking in Letcher County

Suspicion of "outsiders"

Negative self image

Questionable work ethic

Perception problems

Being the whipping boy for the rest of the state and nation



Washington DC

Priority #1 - we want our local voice to be heard. The problem is we have a group of outsiders speaking for us

Local politics - Tourism money being funneled into the pockets of one instead of spread to the many

Public art projects have not been offered to artists to bid on. All public arts projects have been given directly to one artist with no open bids

Entrenched political power

Political corruption and cronyism

Government interference and regulations

War on coal

Corruption and territorialism


Lack of strategic cooperation between city and county governments

The challenge is working together

Lack of government working with non-governmental organizations

Jealousy and sectionalism

Limited or no city/county government partnerships


Lack of shopping areas

People shop in other areas so our money leaks from the county

Lack of many of the consumer conveniences available elsewhere

Lack of needed shopping opportunities

Lack of a retail structure


Outward migration

Loss of population through out-migration has reduced our tax base

Not losing our citizens to other areas

Population is shrinking

Decrease in population


Lack of quality affordable housing

We have some of the highest electricity rates in the region because of poor housing quality

Not enough quality housing

Low quality housing

High land prices

Low quality housing stock - leaky which causes high electric bills that people can't afford


Poor health (2)

High levels of cancer, asthma, and obesity

Unhealthy population

Our hospital is over shadowed by those in Perry and Pike counties


Addiction (drugs and alcohol) problems (2)

Lack of specialized health services

Drugs and lack of counseling

Youth who are addicted to drugs or unwilling to work

Addiction (2)

Addiction problems (2)

Drug problem (2)


Polluted water

Devastated land

Land that is useable for economic growth is a big challenge. Most of the land in this area is in the flood plain or on the side of a hill. The reclaimed land is not fit for construction


Lack of a university

Lack of high quality early education

Lack things for families to do


Imagine it is 10 years from now. Describe how you hope the county and region will be different.

This will be a placer where people want to visit and live

This will be a place where everyone (income, class, race, age) is valued and respected and included

Young people will be staying here or coming back after college and building homes

A lower rate of outward migration

Highly regarded as a destination for families

A good place to retire

Tourists coming to see scenery, music, and hear history that mattered to America

This will be a place I can brag about and be proud of

This will be a place to raise a family and have a high wage job

A place where people feel at home and they don't want to leave. A place where there are jobs that give people meaningful livelihoods, doing things that are fulfilling. Where we have good health and clean water and our families and communities are healthy. A place where the wealth stays here in the region and provides full live through strong community and cultural centers and events. Where we are less worried and have art and joy in our lives.



More interested in regional economies creating supply chains for agriculture, energy, etc.

Letcher County and the Promise Zone will be an example of economic revival for the country

This will be a region where there are many different meaningful jobs and businesses, not just one mono-industry

Kentucky will have embraced the highlands instead of shunning it

A diverse economy regionally

This will be a region with ample tourism attractions, first-class health care and an educated work force

A place where people can choose to stay and raise family without worrying about whether there are jobs available


Letcher County fully embraced economic and community development from the ground up, supporting a new ecosystem of cooperative businesses and ensuring that the needs and expertise of community members are fundamental to planning

This will be like an economy that is built on a variety of small to medium locally-owned businesses that help us provide for ourselves

A more diverse economy

This will be an economy built on a variety of small and medium locally owned businesses

A booming economy with many thriving, locally owned businesses

Viable and vibrant economy

Localized diversified economy

Diversified economy

New economy that is not dependent on coal

I would like to see a diversified economy

Diverse economy (2)

We would have a diverse economy that does not depend on any single industry

Combination of industry, tourism, and sustainable jobs (medical and small business)

Business incubators will help people to establish their own businesses

Persons of all ages and interest will have access to the knowledge and resources to open new businesses

Small business assistance should include loans as well as "outside the box" assistance. For example, space or timesharing among small businesses so that Here Comes the Bread which is only open week days till noon, would share space with other aspiring bakers needing facilities who would be open afternoons and weekends.

Small business community

Community based co-ops supplying our needs and our neighbors (i.e., food, building materials, energy, technology) using a state of the art rail system to bring in tourists and move goods

More retail businesses

More businesses

More business-to-business within region activity

More shopping

We will be a technology hub for all of the central Appalachian region

Technology hub (2)

Technology hub training folks for gaming, networking, marketing and computer science

There will be more access to technology resources such as the Internet

Wind power and distributed solar power

Jobs in manufacturing, shipping and energy renewal

Available jobs will have increased

Industry -

Many more opportunities in various fields and areas

Better jobs


Job opportunities so people could move back here

More opportunities for our people

Poverty levels greatly reduced

Plenty of good jobs with good pay

Satisfying, rewarding and adequately paid work available for all with women paid equally with men

Jobs that make it possible for people to stay here

More agricultural and forest-based production activities on reclaimed lands

Gourmet foods and gifts based on local foods (e.g., kudzu tea and kudzu woven baskets)

As new economic development took hold, EKY throttled down its coal production, meaning that the value of our metallurgical goal increases dramatically for the markets that depend on it

Lots of people employed in agriculture, forestry and renewable energy on reclaimed mined land

Sustainable agriculture

Capital to start successful small businesses

Federal prison with multiple service providers from the community

We will have small towns busting with specialized shops

Still a strong community with cultural ties

Dispersed commercial centers for basics (milk and bread)

Year round farmers market

More variety of businesses in our downtown areas


Youth will have more opportunities for employment

There will by youth employment opportunities

Jobs available for our children

Youth will have more opportunities for internships

Young people staying here and with access to knowledge

Better economic opportunity for our children

Jobs for college kids

More youth employment

Young people being trained up earlier in business development


More cultural activities (2)

Arts, dance classes etc.



Art as part of the local economy

Cultural center

Cultural activities

Better craft market and traditional art training with producers co-ops


A fully developed and coordinated tourism infrastructure will provide a full range of services to visitors

Hotels and bed & breakfasts will be spread throughout the region providing overnight accommodations for visitors

Hotels (2)

Tourism based on the many different arts and crafts produced in the region along with the natural beauty of the area

Adventure tourism (2)


Places for people to stay

Not Gatlinburg - stay simple and easy

Walking/biking trails

Tourist attractions - theaters, galleries, music venues


There will be a diverse range of activities available for persons of all ages

A physically and mentally healthier county and region

Walking and biking paths within our counties and connecting them

Bike and walking paths paralleling all roads

Lots of outdoor activities for locals and tourists

Varied activities for young people

Bike trails


Creative energy efficient housing of all types will be available

More good quality and affordable housing

New housing developments


A multigenerational population

Strong communities with large families

30% of the population will be 4 or younger

Accessible and affordable child care

Better services for our senior citizens

Assisted living facility

Younger population

People of all ages live here

A large population of people the ages of 1-40 years old


Infrastructure problems solved

Improve infrastructure

There will be public transportation available within the counties and within the region

A bus service runs up and down Hwy 23 and back and forth along Hwy 15

A tunnel through Pine Mountain providing more intra-regional access

Letcher County's general aviation airport will have grown large enough to handle commercial traffic

Public transportation

Transportation access to other areas

Roads widened

Electric trolley system (rubber tire vehicles) along all main roads


Like to be better connected to other areas


Clean and environmentally friendly

The county and the region will be cleaner

Recycling is something every household does and pick-up is free

Streams repaired

People would have stopped littering everywhere

Rivers clean, drinkable and useable for recreation

Land restored, reforested and improved for farming

Green and clean


Maintain our scenic beauty


We will have a strong education system - pre-K through college

There will be more access to a 4 year college education either physically or on-line within all the counties

Affordable colleges

A higher rate of high school graduation

A top-rated educational system

Better education system

Vocational School with numerous choices

Ability to get Bachelors degrees


We will have honest, open conversations and a willingness to try new things

We will act and not just talk

The county and the region will be more open to outsiders

This will be a place where our leaders listen to the people and now what might fatten their wallets or their eqos

Open and democratic government at all levels


Population above average in health

Drug abuse epidemic would be over

More healthy

Expanded health services

Drug treatment facility

Less or no drug addiction

Healthy community

Healthier community

Drug Free!

No "Friends of Coal" propaganda

Less immoral activity (gay-lesbian infiltration to our county)


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

Different groups refusing to work together within the county and different counties in the region refusing to work together to create regional draws and tourism opportunities

Government agencies fighting for the same incentives instead of working together

Stand together and stand strong

We have to move beyond political posturing to work together and move our county forward

No unity for a forward plan

Lack of unity of purpose

Lack of follow through and action

Think tank meetings but no action

Even though we get together and brainstorm ideas and seem to agree on what is needed, there has been and in some cases, still is a problem with folks from the different communities in the county coming together on projects


Don't reinvent the wheel - Many summits and listening sessions have been held in the region soliciting citizen input (e.g., Letcher Action Team, MACED, KFTC

Local elite has decided the county's priorities without any planning or little community input

Factionalism between towns

The push toward regionalism has come at the expense of Letcher County, with everything - resources and money - going to Hazard or Pikeville


Greed is holding us back

Unwilling local leaders and politicians who won't try innovative ideals and allow growth due to a fear of losing control or their power over the community


We have not been an inviting community so that people want to come into this area to invest in development

Make ourselves accessible to the needs of businesses

Openness to new people and new ideas

Resistance to change


Stereotypes and preconceived notions about our region

The negative stigma of mountain top removal -- we have much needed land because of it. Once again, outsiders speaking for us

Unprogressive attitudes


Lack of funding (2)

Financial help

No incentives for starting a business

Lack of incentives for renewable energy and sustainable agriculture

Lack of venture capital

Need to provide more incentives to our local entrepreneurs instead trying to send those  incentives out of region

Lack of availability of money to make a difference with enough flexibility to be effective for our needs


Lack of a plan and no shared vision

Lack of sustained, local and inclusive planning

More flow of information and ideas from existing NGOs like MACED and KFTC with existing political power. Let's stop re-inventing the wheel. Everything done tonight has been done 5 times before by KFTC and MACED and NOTHING happened

Stop complaining and start making things happen

Need to engage regular citizens

Lack of vision AND the persistence to implement it

We do not focus on our assets, instead ask others to bring their businesses and their jobs


An unwillingness and an inability to confront those who have held power for many, many years

Infrequently acknowledge or addressed, the power and financial imbalance with the owners of our extractive industries along with public and private grant funders. Many private funders built their endowments with extractive dollars from this same area during boom times.

Poor discussion/analysis/vocabulary of conflict of interest in terms of the unavoidable forces it brings to bear for economic change even when it is acknowledged

No discussion of the land ownership issues (outside corporate landholders, heirships, etc)

Land not available as being held by only a few


Breaking out of the status quo

Local politics

Don't duplicate efforts -- It is important to coordinate with SOAR. SOAR work groups are based on citizen input and cover major development areas



A general feeling of lack of empowerment


A lack of engagement of young people

An oligarchy -- not necessarily government vs democracy

The same suspects are involved in everything


Same old leadership and no youth involvement


Poor infrastructure

Poor roads (2)

Need better roads

Need access to interstate highway

Infrastructure (water, sewer, broadband, cannery, slaughterhouse)

We have enough roads and don't need an airport


More broadband for rural unserved residential areas

Need broadband internet


Drug problems

Widespread drug abuse among all ages


Lack of industry

No jobs for the community or graduating students

Lack of job opportunities (2)

Population flight

Not enough networking among our businesses

Can't get tourists because we have no place for them to stay. No one will build a hotel because we don't have enough tourists. So it is a catch 22


Which elementary school do you live nearest to?

1     Arlie Boggs Elementary

       Calvary Christian

5     Cowan Elementary

8     Letcher Elementary

4     Martha Jane Potter Elementary

6     West Whitesburg Elementary

5     Jenkins Independent

1     Carr Creek Elementary

4     No answer

34   Total


What is your age group?

       Under 18


12   25-44

5     45-54

6     55-64

7     65+

4     No answer

34   Total



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