Infrastructure, tourism and jobs were the theme for this week’s SOAR summit.

Thank God it’s an election year and the candidates running have the ability to tout that they have secured funding for projects in the region to revitalize our local economy. There should be an election every year.

At the SOAR Summit held last week, the announcements made by U.S Congressman Hal Rogers and Gov. Matt Bevin were that this region will be the recipient of over $34 million for economic development funds that include repairing or expanding infrastructure, tourism and healthcare. All of these will create desperately-needed jobs.

Congressman Rogers stated that, with the help of Senator McConnell, they were able to secure $34.4 million for the region. The largest recipient was Pikeville Medical Center, which received $4.78 million for its proposed children’s hospital. Last year, PMC stated they were going to build a children’s hospital. Friday, Congressman Rogers announced the grant money for the hospital was secured.

The new children’s hospital will be the first and only children’s facility in the region and will create more than 200 new jobs, according to Rogers.

Gov. Bevin announced other grants related to infrastructure, jobs and job training and tourism.

Perry County will get some money for their drone port program, and HCTC gets funding to develop industrial education. Johnson County received grants for eKAMI to continue its developmental training. Paintsville is getting $4 million to enhance their water and sewer facilities that will expand their services creating more opportunity for growth.

Floyd County and Prestonsburg will benefit by getting grant money for Southern Water for meters. The city will get money for expanded tourism opportunities that include the development of trails and vacant historic sites.

Other projects around the region include money for the Easy Kentucky Business Park for build-ready sites for manufacturing companies, more than $3 million for a state-of-the-art shooting and archery park in Letcher County. Knott County will be able to expand its water service and Martin will get desperately needed funds to fix their water mess. There were adventure tourism announcements made for Harlan, Knott and Breathitt counties as well.

While SOAR may not be directly responsible for securing the funds, they were instrumental in working with local lawmakers and governments to push for the money, which falls into their mission.

The most important thing is that this was all made possible because people dropped their own personal agendas and worked together as a team. Politicians reached across party lines, counties and cities worked with each other to help obtain grant money that will benefit everyone in the region. Healthcare, education and tourism will create jobs.

Now that we have this money, it’s up to us to ensure that our elected officials use it wisely. Every penny needs to be put to its intended use. If these plans are properly implemented without bias or personal gain, this region will be diversified and once again soar.

Thanks for reading the News-Express.