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Perry County Promise Zone Community Forum 

What are the strengths of this community?

Strong work ethic

       Good workers

       Good leadership base

Much of the work is completed toward certification as a Work Ready Community

       The demographics of our work force

       We have a younger workforce

       We lead the state in certified work ready employees

We have a strong nonprofit sector

       We have many high performing nonprofits

       We have a highly interconnected nonprofit infrastructur

       We have the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky which is a Perry County - Hazard community Foundation

       We have a Youth Leadership Program

       Appalachian Arts Alliance trying to build a community arts center

This is a community that shows up when something needs to be done and we work together well

     We have many volunteer organizations

Envision Hazard is a downtown revitalization initiative working on downtown walking, biking and river walk with public art spaces and community gardens

Access to a strong community college that is engaged in community life

       Hazard Community and Technical College

The University Center of the Mountains (UCM) is a dynamic consortium of postsecondary educational institutions bringing more Bachelor's and Master's degrees and educational opportunities close to home in southeastern Kentucky.

Access to energy sources

       Natural gas is available in Hazard

       Coal and oil resources

Rich natural resources

       Forest resources

       Rich agricultural areas

       Our renewable resources

We have 2 lakes and 2 state parks that offer many tourism and recreational opportunities (Buckhorn Lake State Park, Carr Fork Lake)

We have a spring and fall two day trail rides that bring thousands to the community from several states

There are many options for adventure tourism

Excellent grasslands on reclaimed mining lands that are perfect for cattle production and the restored elk population

We are the medical hub for this part of Kentucky (ARH and UK Center for Rural Health

       Our hospital has over 300 beds

       We have 150 physicians

       We offer health-related training and degrees

       We have a Hospice Center

       We have a Veterans Nursing Home

       We have a great Senior Citizens Center

We are an Investing in Kentucky's Future community and working on improving children's health with private foundation funding

We have the largest airport in the region and it has the potential to be extend the runway another 2000 ft

       The airport is only one mile from the regional industrial park

There are many regional offices located here (e.g., KRADD, KY River Headwaters, LKLP, EKCEP, KUFC)

       We are the hub for Teleworks USA

       WYMT-TV is located here

Perry County schools have a Farm-to-School program

We have many artists and artisans and an active arts sector

The Challenger Center is in Hazard

We have development sites available from reclaimed mining land

About 90% of the county has access to broadband

We have many high quality child care choices

We are the natural hub for the region

We have several major population centers

We are centrally located with the US


Which of these strengths are shared by other counties in the Promise Zone?

Grasslands suitable for livestock production on reclaimed lands

Cultural history of agricultural production

Timber resources

Beautiful natural environment

Potential for expansion of tourism


What are the challenges you face?

Inadequate infrastructure

       Insufficient water capacity and areas of the county lack access to public water

       Insufficient sewage treatment capacity

       Inadequate storm water management capacity

       Poor roads

       No access to natural gas at the industrial park

We do not have a broadband superhighway for technology jobs although we are 92% Internet capable

Internet access is not county wide and typically not cutting edge wireless access required for technology-oriented industries

The immediate and devastating loss of 2000+ coal mining jobs that everyone realizes will not be coming back. So this is not a cycle but a bottoming out of this sector of our economy

       Jobs are our need at this time in all of the region

Our biggest challenge is working together regionally and being able to think regionally

       Lack of regional planning

       Lack of regional collaboration

       Lack of a regional vision

Attitudes and beliefs of the people

People have lost hope, they don't believe that things will not change, what is the point of working hard to create change

We have done a lot of this work before (e.g, with Foundation for Appalachian KY, HCTC, etc). This could be a weakness because if we spend too much time covering territory we've already discussed, people will be discouraged

Individuals and families have had a significant loss of hope for their personal economic future and the possibilities for economic growth that will enable them to thrive in this community. As a result, more and more people have or are considering leaving Perry County.

Lack of entrepreneurial spirit or even an understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur

            Not enough of a culture of entrepreneurism

Strengthen the K-12 educational system

Find "out-of-the-box" ways to address how weather leads to such inconsistent education. For example, move to year-round school or use the Internet to connect students with teachers

Increase the focus on entrepreneurship and career options in elementary and middle school

Begin teaching foreign languages in elementary school

Enhance the quality of and access to early childhood education

Lack of arts education in schools

There are not enough educated young people to fill jobs to expand the nonprofit capacity for community and economic development

It's not clear that our education system is providing relevant skill development for our youth

There is a lack of emphasis on the arts. We need to build the arts more into

       Community life in general


       K-12 education

There is a real need for public transportation that is affordable and reliable

       Within our county

       Among counties

We need to expand and enhance programs and opportunities for seniors

       We don't have sufficient choice in assisted living

We have limited senior activities, for example, we have no walking trails to allow seniors and others to move through the community

We have high obesity and smoking/tobacco use rates

       Very little enforcement of tobacco use prohibitions in schools

       Poor health especially related to obesity

We have a "stale" downtown - we need a more vibrant "micropolitan" district

       Deterioration of downtown business district

As a community, we need to have more of the dominant US culture here in this community so that residents, especially our youth, can feel that they have access to what others do in major metropolitan areas but still have the unique quality of life in this community

Lack of affordable housing for both low and moderate income families

       Financing (public and private) for housing is a challenge

Lack of capacity to apply and compete for a broad array of federal grants

Our desire to develop trail systems often run into resistance from the Forest Service and other federal agencies that are not willing to allow us access to their lands

If you go on to the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet's website it has misleading information about Perry County and its assets for economic development. For example, it says that we are 100+ miles from the nearest airport with regularly scheduled passenger flights. This is true, but it ignores the fact that we have the only airport in the region with a 5000 ft runway that has 1000 ft lanes and has the potential to be expanded to a 7000 ft runway. When the state posts the wrong information about your community, how can we hope to attract new industries and businesses?

Lack of or loss of green spaces

Need beautification of downtown and other areas of the community


Which of these challenges are shared by other counties in the Promise Zone?

Improvement of K-12 education to include:

       Enhancing the quality of and access to early childhood education

       Increase the focus on entrepreneurship and career options in elementary and middle school

       Increase the emphasis on the arts

Internet access that is affordable and equal to the highest speed/quality available in urban areas

Loss of coal mining jobs and the subsequent loss of hope

Greatest obstacle is skepticism that anything can be done to improve our situation


When you think about the future, what opportunities are there for more economic and community development? What would you want the region to be like in 20 years?

Strong system of localized agriculture

       We will have sustainable communities

       We will have a local agricultural base

       Thriving organic/natural food products available from local producers

       We will have increased the number of farmers and food processors to meet local demand

We have excellent grasslands on remediated mountain top removal tracts that are perfect for the production of hormone free cattle

We have vacant facilities that would be perfect for growing algae and some other specialty crops

We are well situated for expanding vineyards and wine production

Bee production

We have existing large food users (jail, hospital, schools, nursing home) that could purchase locally grown foods for their institutional populations

       Expand farm-to-school programs throughout all the schools of the Promise Zone

       We will have converted coal fields to agricultural areas




Expansion of trail systems for different users (hikers, horse back riders, ATVs) and interconnection of trails across the counties in the Promise Zone

       Capitalize on our nature beauty and natural resources to offer:

       River trails

       Bike tours

       Horse trails

Increase road interconnectivity among all the counties of the Promise Zone. In particular, real development will depend on:

       Connecting Hazard with Hyden and Harlan with a well designed multi-lane road

       Making KY 15 into a four lane road

       Increasing north-south interconnectivity within the region

A world championship golf course and conference center in Hazard would significantly broaden tourism and event opportunities

       Golf course

There will be jobs and other opportunities for those wanting to stay in the area

       Low unemployment

       Good paying jobs

       Our people will have good jobs

       We would have a stable manufacturing base with some national connections

       We will have improved small business opportunities

       We will have support for entrepreneurial talent

       Gourmet restaurants

       Boutique shopping

Our people will have nice homes

       Good mid priced housing for rent and ownership      

A strong educational system creating strong young leaders

Decent education. Perry County schools do not meet Kentucky standards for proficiency

We need to be much more effective in marketing/promoting the assets and resources of our county. Perry County and Hazard are the best kept tourism secret in the eastern US --- as is the rest of this region

We would be the type of community that others want to move to

       We would be similar to western North Carolina

We would have retirement amenities we do not currently have

Good health - people would be coming here to retire for health retreats (instead of running away from the cancer rates!)

We would be a healthy community

Downtown redevelopment to utilize existing building and other local assets

       Beautification of downtown area with flowers and in other ways

There would be public/private investments in the community


If these are the opportunities you see, what has kept you from pursuing them?

Lack of money -- financial resources has limited our choices and actions

       Lack of capital

       We have a limited tax base

       High cost of improvement to our transportation system

We have needed more private investment (return on investment from those out of the area - transfer of wealth)

Lack of regional planning and cooperation

       No city, county or regional plan

       There is no regional ecotourism plan to capture these opportunities

We have not been effective in attracting new businesses and industries because we don't do a good job nurturing the ones who are already here. This means we can't build a critical mass of industries or businesses that can be mutually sustaining

       We haven't invested in growing our own businesses by developing entrepreneurs

       We are missing a critical mass of business

       Lack of entrepreneurial training

Even when we have businesses here, we often aren't willing to buy local or to support each other by buying goods and services from our own

Lack of aggressive, progressive, transparent political leadership

We don't necessarily see and/or value our own assets

The loss of hope undermines efforts to change our situation and to encourage people to develop their own talents into new economic opportunities here

We can't ignore the impact of drug abuse on our community and our economy

We have had no job diversification

       We have depended on our natural resources to supply us with jobs

       Myopic focus on child care

No highway system (4 lanes or better)

We are Scotch-Irish which means we are stubborn and loyal but hard working


Please indicate which elementary school is nearest to where you live?

       AB Combs Elementary

1      Buckhorn School

1      Chavies Elementary

2      East Perry Elementary

       Leatherwood Elementary

1      RW Combs Elementary

       Robinson Elementary

       Viper Elementary

       Willard Elementary

4      Hazard City schools

What is your age group?

       Under 18

1      18-24

1      25-44

3      45-54

3      55-64

2      65+


Action Strategies for the Region

Most important would be a north-south connector which could be an enhanced 421.

Should 4-lane 421 through Harlan to US 23

From Perry County, a 421 connector should come east of Hyden not through Hyden

Job creation - important to bring a business here to show that change is possible

Policy at the state level requires loans to businesses for being established or expanded be paid off. The challenge is: What is the state willing to do?

Is it willing to give a discount on repayment of loans for every x number of years that the business remains or adds new employees?

Is the state willing to wave for a period of time the requirement for community wage rates on state funded projects to enable EKY businesses to be more competitive

What is the state of Kentucky willing to invest in developing jobs in EKY?

Establish a state funded enterprise zone for the 8 Promise Zone counties to provide incentives to keep businesses in the region once their tax breaks end

For this to succeed, it is critical to identify WHY these firms are leaving after their state tax incentives end

Provide incentives for the development of the over 2 million acres of abandoned mining lands as orchards, vineyards, other commercial products (e.g., paw paws) grazing lands, and for tourism development

Jobs Program for short term public works projects to do critical infrastructure improvements and address the substandard housing in the region

For example, expand the current energy audits for homeowners that is a partnership with EKY Power to include KU and AEP

     Short-term hires to complete the renovation of housing to reduce energy use

     Train these short-term hires to develop their skills for long-term employment

Identify and analyze the factors making the Promise Zone not competitive with other regions and resolve those that can be affected by state policy

Have the Promise Zone local, state and federal legislators visit Washington to demand an update of the flood zone maps to reflect the effect of the construction of Buckhorn and Carr Fork Dams


The cost of flood insurance is now so high and growing that individuals are abandoning their homes or businesses or being forced to leave because they cannot afford the cost of flood insurance

Industrial quality broad band for the region


Action strategies for Perry County

Short term projects (0-24 months to initiate implementation or completion)

Leave on the lights at the blue basketball courts until 9PM so youth and adults can play in the evenings

Pull together all the existing data, studies, and strategic plans related to Perry County and combine the information related to:



       Actions related to the 3 legged stool essential to diversifying our economy




       Existing data

            Survey of 100 EKY employers on EKY concentrated employment

            Hazard Community and Technical College

            P-16 (Focus on Work Ready Communities

The Farmer's Market accept EBT cards to enable low income families to access locally grown foods

Have Farmer's Markets at different locations and on different days to increase geographic access to locally grown foods

Implement the existing business plan and architectural design for the renovation of the proposed Arts Alliance Building in downtown Hazard and implement arts-based activities in the summer of 2015

       Roof stabilized

       Fa├žade improvements

Develop a Perry County Welcome area to be located near the Wal-Mart and elementary school by seeking donations of the design, the materials and the labor required to construct. Do this as an old-fashioned barn raising activity

Implement the plans for the Hazard downtown River Walk

Establish a youth entrepreneurship program as a partnership of schools and Chamber and Hazard Community and Technical College that provides both training and a co-op market for youth businesses

Establish a scholarship fund for low income youth to participate in non-school and school sports programs in collaboration with the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky

Establish a safe place for youth to hang out after school in consultation with youth as to an appropriate site and the characteristics of the site

Assure the $115 million funding for KY 15 improvements that are already in the road budget

The new water plant has been designed, sited, and everything else required to begin building this critical facility

Mid to Long-term projects (24-60 months to begin implementing or to complete)

Small Business Center Innovations and entrepreneurial education to help local people start and expand their small businesses

Identify commercial property owners (public or private) who are willing to offer free rent for one year to those who want to start a business in order to reduce the financial threshold for a successful business

In Pikeville, they established a coffee shop this way by offering an individual a location downtown for $1 for 5 years

Build a Community Wellness Center which already has:

       A site selected

       Focus groups with youth and adults as to what they would like to see in such a facility

       Completed feasibility study

       Construction plan

Establish a commercial processing facility combined with a community meeting room

Assist schools in becoming the site for wrap around community services

Establish boat dock access to Buckhorn Lake and build 20 cabins with boat docks

Build a ramp off the Hal Rogers Parkway to provide access to the golf course

Improve access to the airport and extend the runways to permit more commercial flights

We need to identify ways to take advantage of the 3 buildings available for new industries -- Hardwood flooring building, Hannah GilJo Company, Trus Joist bldg -- and discover those industries that would benefit the most from access to such buildings

AEP-KY Power service areas coming back to the Coalfields Industrial Park to invest to make it more competitive

Natural Gas processing plant at Coalfields Industrial Park

Explore option of utilizing the Begley Property as the site for a senior continuous care community and professional multi-family and single-family residences



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