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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

Third Round of Promise Zone Announced

Obama Administration Names Final Round of Promise Zone Communities


Nine new Promise Zones join 13 others to expand economic opportunity in distressed areas.

The Obama Administration today named the final nine Promise Zones across the country – high poverty areas in select urban, rural and tribal communities. Through the Promise Zone Initiative, the Federal government will work strategically with local leaders to boost economic activity and job growth, improve educational opportunities, reduce crime and leverage private investment to improve the quality of life in these vulnerable areas.

  1. Atlanta, Georgia
  2. Nashville, Tennessee
  3. Evansville, Indiana
  4. South Los Angeles, California
  5. San Diego, California
  6. Southwest Florida Regional Planning Commission
  7. Spokane Tribe of Indians, Washington
  8. Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Rolette County, North Dakota
  9. Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro traveled to Atlanta to make the announcement while U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new Promise Zone in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico on Friday.  In addition, a host of other senior Administration officials made individual announcements in the other Promise Zones.

“Promise Zones bring the power of partnership to a whole new level as we seek to bring opportunity to neighborhoods long locked out of their area’s prosperity,” said HUD Secretary Castro. “As a former mayor from a city that includes a Promise Zone, I know just how powerful these collaborations are when it comes to building stronger, economically vital neighborhoods.”

“Rural and Tribal areas face unique challenges and we are ready to take on those challenges with creative solutions that strengthen communities,” said USDA Secretary Vilsack. “The Promise Zone initiative delivers proven results by encouraging collaboration between the federal government, community organizations, the private sector and state and local governments. Through these partnerships, we are supporting jobs and economic opportunities that enable rural areas to thrive.”

Background on Promise Zones:

Today’s newly designated Promise Zones join 13 others that President Obama designated in 2014 and 2015. These Promise Zones include targeted neighborhoods in the following communities:

  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Southeastern Kentucky Highlands
  • the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Camden, New Jersey
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Sacramento, California
  • St. Louis/St. Louis County, Missouri
  • Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota
  • The South Carolina Low Country

Work is well underway in these communities and demonstrating results. For example:

  • In Indianapolis, the IndyEast Promise Zone has already secured nearly $10 million in federal grants across seven different agencies. This support has helped create 110 jobs, provide life-changing workforce training to hundreds of formerly incarcerated individuals, and develop a new energy efficient apartment building for low-income senior citizens.
  • In North Minneapolis, USDA awarded Appetite for Change (a locally-led organization) a Community Food Project grant to help continue and expand programs that are changing the way food is produced, marketed, distributed and consumed in North Minneapolis. This project has served over 1,000 community members, with 24 youth employed and trained and 15 jobs created, aiding 53 community-owned food business start-ups.
  • In San Antonio, the Promise Zone to Work Initiative was launched and has since provided free job training certifications in nursing, construction, manufacturing, information technology, and heavy equipment for 106 residents. This effort is contributing to an overall decline in the unemployment rate; over the last four years, unemployment in the Promise Zone declined from 15 percent to 11 percent.
  • In Southeastern KY, a new educational framework and support from AmeriCorps VISTA members helped lift the graduation rate at Leslie County High School from 67 to 98 percent.
  • Choctaw Nation: secured $21 million in New Markets Tax Credits to build an environmentally sustainable steel manufacturing facility in the Promise Zone. The mill will support approximately 300 new jobs in the region.

Today’s Promise Zone communities were selected from 82 applications from 38 states and Puerto Rico. Each urban, rural, and tribal Promise Zone applicant was asked to put together a clear description of how the Promise Zone designation would accelerate and strengthen the community’s own efforts at comprehensive community revitalization. Each Promise Zone will be coordinated by a lead community based organization in partnership with the Obama Administration. HUD will be the federal lead for the 14 urban designees, while USDA will serve as the lead federal partner to the tribal and rural Promise Zones.

All Promise Zones will receive priority access to federal investments that further their strategic plans, federal staff on the ground to help them navigate federal resources, and five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to recruit and manage volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the Promise Zone initiatives.

Join the mailing list to receive announcements and to follow the progress of the Promise Zones.

Herald Leader Article on Promise Zone Tax Credit Bill

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/article67878807.html#storylink=cpy


A proposal introduced Wednesday in Congress would boost efforts to create jobs in an eight-county area of southeast Kentucky where the economy has been rattled by a sharp drop in coal employment.

The bill, if passed, would create tax credits for hiring workers and speed up tax deprecation on certain business items in the counties designated as a federal Promise Zone.

The counties are Harlan, Bell, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and much of Whitley.

Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers introduced the legislation with three other members of the House, one a Republican and two Democrats.

President Barack Obama designated the counties in Kentucky as a Promise Zone in January 2014. It was among the first five zones established under one of the administration’s key efforts to improve conditions in high-poverty areas.

The designation did not set aside specific funding, but gives the areas priority in getting federal money for education, job training, housing and other needs.

Many federal agencies award grants competitively. The Promise Zone designation means projects in the Kentucky counties get bonus points in the evaluation process.

Obama also proposed tax credits for the zones, but Congress did not approve that.

The Promise Zone designation has figured in tens of millions in funding so far, but hasn’t had as much punch as hoped without tax credits.

The White House proposed such credits to provide an incentive for businesses to set up shop and expand, said Jerry Rickett, president and chief executive officer of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.

“I believe that the unavailability of tax credits has limited our Promise Zone counties in that regard,” Rickett said Wednesday.

Business tax credits worked to boost jobs in three Kentucky counties under an earlier federal program called the empowerment zone program, Rickett said. That program covered Jackson and Clinton counties and part of Wayne County.

The communities “were able to attract significant outside business locations and the expansion of existing businesses” because of tax credits under the program, Rickett said.

Kentucky Highlands managed the empowerment zone, and is coordinating the Promise Zone program.

Greg Drury, owner of The Portal, a pizza restaurant in Harlan, said tax credits would help him expand his business.

Drury’s idea is so set up a shop in Harlan to make ingredients such as dough and sauces for the local restaurant and one he owns in Richmond, as well as for others he wants to open in Eastern Kentucky.

The Harlan restaurant employs about 15 people, but creating a supply facility in town would create additional jobs, Drury said.

“It would be extremely beneficial for us if we could get those tax credits,” Drury said.

Rogers introduced the bill with U.S. Reps. John B. Larson of Connecticut and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, both Democrats, and Republican Joe Wilson of South Carolina.

The bill would “encourage new businesses to establish roots in the coalfields where they will find some of the hardest working, dedicated workforces in the country,” Rogers said in a news release.

Republican Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced a similar tax-credit bill earlier, but the Senate did not approve it.

Under the bill introduced Wednesday, employers would get tax credits of up to 20 percent on the first $15,000 of qualifying employees’ wages. The bill also would allow first-year depreciation of 100 percent of the adjusted basis of certain property.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/article67878807.html#storylink=cpy



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