Loux speaks to leaders at Strengthening Economies in Utah forum
RICHFIELD, Utah – Kevin Loux, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), was a featured presenter at the Strengthening Economies in Utah forum on October 18-20. The three-day event was presented by the National Association of Counties and the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation.
The forum was open to county and elected officials; regional development organization staff; workforce development professionals; non-profit and philanthropic leaders; business owners; and representatives from secondary and post-secondary institutions.
Loux’s presentation was entitled: "Building More Innovative Economies: Lessons Learned from Appalachian Coal Country." During his presentation, he highlighted some of the work SOAR had been a part of to diversify the economy in Appalachia Kentucky’s coal region through technology.
He highlighted the success of numerous programs, including the Teleworks USA program. The initiative, which is part of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), has created more than 1,200 jobs telework (work-from-home) since 2015. He also talked about SOAR’s work in last-mile broadband efforts. This project is a collaboration with the Center for Rural Development; county and municipal governments and local broadband providers.
“Economic Diversification is not an accident, but a result of community commitment to persevering despite challenges,” said Kevin Loux, Director of Strategic Partnerships at SOAR. “Broadband is a burgeoning fourth-utility and communities leveraging this asset will see an even greater return on investment than previous economic development infrastructure investments such as highways or water.”
Loux also spoke of SOAR’s Regional Blueprint, a comprehensive plan to build a 21st Century Appalachia. The Blueprint was created through a collaboration of 10 working groups, listening sessions, and the input of over 3,000 citizens in Appalachia Kentucky.
The Blueprint has seven goals that encompass a vision of transformation across the region. They include:
- Increase the availability of affordable, high-speed broadband, through fiber, to businesses and residents; and increase adoption rates throughout the SOAR region;
- Develop our regional workforce to be competitive in the digital economy and emerging industries;
- Create more and expand existing small businesses within the region by taking full advantage of the digital economy;
- Reduce the physical and economic impact of obesity, diabetes and substance abuse;
- Increase the amount of industrial employment, which includes manufacturing, natural resources, processing, and distribution by expanding existing companies and attracting new ones;
- Create a local foods movement by connecting local producers to markets for their product both within and outside the region; and
- Establish Kentucky’s Appalachian region as a tourism destination.
“Kevin’s work on developing and cultivating strategic partnerships have been beneficial to so many communities throughout Appalachia Kentucky,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “His work has connected resources and ideas, and that have turned into collaboration and action on many different fronts.”