Morehead State University President Wayne D. Andrews told the luncheon meeting of the Morehead-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce Thursday that he is both optimistic and realistic about the mission of the group hoping to reshape the economy of East Kentucky.
He is a member of the planning committee of SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) which sponsored a public forum last month in Pikeville.
Andrews was joined at the Chamber meeting by three other MSU representatives who participated in the forum.
They were Jami Hornbuckle, assistant vice president for marketing and communications; Andrew Abbott, SGA president; and Dr. Bob Albert, dean of College of Business and Public Affairs.
Each person reported briefly on their perspectives of the summit meeting devoted to fostering ideas for job creation and retention, tourism, education, infrastructure, diversifying the regional economy, healthcare, and other improvements.
Andrews began his remarks by singing, “Keep On the Sunny Side”, a song popularized by the Carter Family. The song speaks of the two sides of life, the troubles and the successes.
“I left the SOAR meeting feeling both optimistic and realistic,” said Andrews. "People came there because there was a lack of jobs and everyone is looking to change that.”
The summit allowed people from different backgrounds to share problems and ideas about jobs and other elements of life in Appalachia.
“Those who assembled with us understood the challenges that are facing us,” he said. “They know that the help needs to be localized instead of coming from the outside.”
A report is due at the end of the month from Chuck Fluharty, president of the Rural Policy Research Institute, to assist leaders in analyzing the information. The firm was hired by state government.
Gov. Steve Beshear said his priorities for the region are expanding broadband access and four-laning the rest of the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway.
“These people have my pledge to assist them in any way possible,” Andrews said. “We all have a role to play in this because we are all Kentuckians.”
Hornbuckle reported on options for branding the area to outside employers and tourists. Abbott, who lives in Perry County, talked about developing young leaders who won’t migrate away from the area.
Albert said the development of entrepreneurial education, starting in middle school, could eventually lead to the encouragement of more start-up businesses.