SOAR leaders kick off 2016 summit in Pikeville

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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Leaders kicked off the 2016 SOAR Innovation Summit Monday morning, outlining the challenges still facing Eastern Kentucky and what it will take to solve them.

Congressman and SOAR Co-Chair Hal Rogers says there is no silver bullet that will solve all of the problems facing Central Appalachia, and challenged everyone involved with SOAR to redouble their efforts to shape the region.

"It takes all of us working together, from tourism, agriculture, economic development, healthcare, education, everywhere in between," Rogers said.

This is the first SOAR summit with Governor Matt Bevin serving as co-chair.

His remarks included another call to scale back the state broadband initiative and have it focus first on Eastern Kentucky.

"Reality is we started to broaden it, so now we were going to cover everything and we were going to wire the whole state," Bevin said, "and while that's admirable, if you try to be everything to everybody, you end up being nothing to anybody."

The governor also announced a $15 million endowment, using coal severance and other funding, to fund economic development projects in coal country.

SOAR Executive Director Jared Arnett says the goal is to see Eastern Kentucky connected on several fronts.

"We want to be connected to the global economy through technology, but we also want communities, county judges, mayors connected to each other," said Arnett.

SOAR can't do everything, Arnett said, adding it is a place where new ideas are embraced and people commit as a group to find ways to get them done.

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