Recap: 2016 SOAR Innovation Summit

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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Hundreds of people from across the country packed the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville Monday for the Shaping Our Appalachian Region - or SOAR - Innovation Summit.

Community leaders and others with an interest in the future of the region gathered to highlight what is being done to diversify Eastern Kentucky's economy and also find ways to implement new ideas.

"It's amazing what's going on," said Rep. Hal Rogers, who serves as SOAR co-chair. "There's ideas bubbling up all over the place. People are absolutely doing things. SOAR gives us the umbrella to talk about our region and the things we can do across county lines."

Monday marked the third SOAR Summit. I was attended by more than one thousand people.

"History looks back on the people who, in hindsight, were visionaries," Gov. Matt Bevin said. "And what's the primary difference between somebody who is a visionary and somebody who is just a dreamer? It's action. And now is the time for action."

SOAR leaders believe the initiative has produced positive results since its inception in 2013 - a fact on display at Monday's summit.

"It says that this is a priority," said Earl Gohl with the Appalachian Regional Commission. "It says that this is a crucial time, and it says we are all very dedicated to moving forward."

Some believe expanded broadband access is key to enhancing Eastern Kentucky's economy.

"Coal was the commodity of the last couple of centuries, broadband is the commodity now," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said. "If you do not have access to broadband, you don't have access to the 21st century."

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