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SOAR Focus Summit kicks off in Hazard Thursday

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Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 10:59 AM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Day 1 of the first Focused Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Summit is underway in Perry County.

Registration started at 10 a.m. Thursday at the First Federal Center on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College.

SOAR officials welcomed attendees to the summit at 1 p.m.

Hazard-Perry County Economic Development Alliance Director Zach Lawrence said it was an exciting process coordinating with SOAR officials to make this event happen.

”It’s been wonderful to work with the SOAR team and to welcome SOAR and all of our partners and our colleagues from across the region to Hazard and just show off what we’ve done,” he said.

SOAR Executive Director Colby Hall told us that the summit is focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, two areas he believes Hazard is excelling at.

”So, it made a lot of sense for us as we’re rotating throughout the region to come Hazard and have an event focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and we’re doing it,” Hall said. “It’s kind of crazy that it’s already here but we’re off to great start.”

Hall said this is first “Focused” SOAR Summit. typically the event is larger and held once a year. It was most recently held at The Corbin Arena.

Earlier this year, Hall said they tried a focused summit in Ashland, but it still brought a huge crowd and covered many areas of improvement to discuss in the mountains.

“Everybody’s got a part of the rope to pull as we think about how do we create more founders, how do bring more investment to our communities to stimulate job growth and catalyze and really kind of help us get back to where we were before the collapse of coal,” he said.

So, the idea of a summit focused on just one or two topics was born and planned in a short period of time.

AppHarvest Chief Communications Officer Travis Parman delivered a presentation about what has worked for them.

”We credit our success to the Appalachian region. We don’t think anything could have gotten going in any other area of the United States during COVID except this,” he said.

Parman said AppHarvest is expanding from one farm to four farms in a short period of time. He hopes others can follow this level of success.

”It’s amazing when you’re able to articulate that vision, you’re willing to ask for help, how the world will come help you achieve that vision,” he said.

Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Perry was thrilled to have his county chosen for this summit.

”It’s huge. Anytime you can get outsiders to come into your town and see what all is going on you get the chance to showcase the talent, the business and the locals here,” he said.

For many attendees the highlight of Day 1 is a start-up business pitch competition where the winner will receive $10,000 to make their idea a reality.

Here is a link to the agenda for the two-day event.

We will have more coverage of the event this evening on WYMT.

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