Eastern Kentucky and the Central Appalachian region are full of assets. Beautiful and rugged terrain, rich history and culture, diverse and valuable hardwood forests, and skilled people are important parts of the region's identity.
While these and other positives define much of who we are, we face long-term and growing challenges.
Coal production in eastern Kentucky is at its lowest level since the 1960s, and the future of the coal industry continues to look gloomy. Lack of job opportunities across the region is an old and growing challenge. Environmental problems—water quality and forest health in particular—remain major problems. Too many young people are forced to leave and not return. Drug abuse impacts too many families.
Many people recognize that we are in a critical time. Today's changing economic realities combined with long-term challenges have combined to create new urgency. Fortunately, there is a growing effort across the region to create a new way forward toward a brighter Appalachian future. We call this intentional effort Appalachian Transition.
This transition will take a strong and growing vision of an Appalachian future, one that results in real economic opportunities and a higher quality of life. We believe a more diverse and bottom-up economy—one that is more locally owned, based on our assets, driven by thousands of entrepreneurs and that benefits our residents broadly—is possible. Locally owned and operated enterprises can be at the heart of it, providing more decent jobs through sectors like energy efficiency, local foods, sustainable forestry, tourism and healthcare. We believe our natural assets—our forests, mountains, air and water—need to be better protected and can play an important role in this new economy. We believe a strong economy that works better for people in need requires effective local government and good state policy, honest leadership and real public input. We see a region built on the best of its past, that can see a better future ahead and is willing to do the hard work to get there.
These pages aim to share ideas and lift up examples of what it will take to move us toward a brighter Appalachian future.