SOAR leadership announced

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Associated Press

Posted on March 25, 2014 at 2:02 PM

HAZARD, Ky. (AP) — Officials have announced the leaders of an initiative to expand and diversify the economy in eastern Kentucky.

The committee overseeing the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative will have 15 members with experience in education, business and other fields. It will be co-chaired by Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers.

Beshear and Rogers said during the announcement on Monday that it was important to have a structure that will guide the initiative. The Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1msnLNS) reports they said goals over the next few months include hiring a permanent executive director and holding public meetings to come up with more ideas to boost the economy.

They also announced the leaders of 10 workgroups that will help develop strategies in areas such as agriculture, business recruitment and tourism.

"We're gearing up to create quality jobs," Rogers said at a news conference in Hazard. "When you're talking about the future of our region, we want action."

Although many in the region are suffering financially, leaders say there are reasons for hope and opportunities for improvement.

"I see us overcoming a lot of hurdles over the next several years to come," said Pikeville city manager Donovan Blackburn, who will be managing director of the initiative.

Along with several "listening sessions," leaders plan to hold a summit meeting on the initiative in November.

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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