Promise Zone marks one-year anniversary More than $109 million in funding announced

 Special to the Mountain Advocate

In its first year, Kentucky’s Promise Zone has hired a coordinator, created a strategic plan, established six working committees and conducted meetings in each of the eight Southeastern Kentucky counties in the zone.

In addition, programs in Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley – which comprise the federal Promise Zone — have attracted more than $109 million in funding. Investments already are being made in areas such as education; medical facilities; college and career readiness; online information technology degree and certificate programs; workforce training; health and anti-drug initiatives; and housing and energy-efficiency projects.

“With input and effort from the entire community, we are well on our way to creating and implementing a sustainable, measurable strategy for the future,” said Jerry Rickett, president & CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation. “Our growing number of strong partnerships is a reflection of the commitment and an indication of our likelihood of success.”

KHIC is coordinating and managing the process, but there are 42 Promise Zone partners — ranging from the private sector to local governments to nonprofit organizations.

In January 2014, President Obama identified Eastern Kentucky as one of the first five, and only rural, Promise Zone communities. The Promise Zone Initiative empowers federal agencies to partner with local communities and businesses in creating jobs, increasing economic security, expanding educational opportunities, building private investment, and improving public safety. USDA is the lead implementing federal agency for the Kentucky Promise Zone.