FRENCHBURG Ky. – Joshua Ball, associate executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), was the keynote speaker at the Frenchburg/Menifee County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet at the Clark Energy Building on Thursday, April 19.

Ball framed his remarks around one central theme: “To believe in the hope of a brighter tomorrow, we must seize the opportunities of today.”

Menifee County was recently awarded an Opportunity Zone distinction from the state, and he encouraged those in attendance to work together, communicate, and collaborate to bring new opportunities to Menifee County.

“You are the backbone of this community,” Ball told those in attendance. “You are business owners, business leaders, and citizens who are active and care deeply about your community. You’ve weathered the storms and remained committed to your community.”

Ball spoke of SOAR’s work in community and economic development.  He also highlighted the seven goals of the organization’s Regional Blueprint for a 21st Century Appalachia.  Those goals are: broadband, workforce development, creating new business and expanding existing businesses, healthy communities, industrial recruitment, local and regional foods, and tourism.

“This plan is your plan,” Ball told attendees. “The people of Appalachia Kentucky have identified these goals, and we are working everyday to see that these goals are achieved.  We can’t do this without you.  We are here to support your work and to promote an attitude of collaboration and innovation.”

Ball stressed the importance of SOAR’s work with aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“I’m sure there are small business owners in Frenchburg and Menifee County that have a dream to grow their business, build capacity, and hire more employees,” Ball said. “I encourage you to do that.  You are the fabric of this community, and your place here, no matter how small your business may be, is important to the future of this region.”

Ball concluded his remarks by thanking the Menifee County High School Culinary Arts program students.  They prepared the meal for the banquet.

“I’m so glad you are doing things to involve your youth,” he added. “They need a seat at the table.  After all, they are the future of the region, and I am convinced every day that the future of Appalachia is as bright as ever.”

For more information on SOAR, visit