UPDATE 12/9/13 @ 5:15 p.m.
PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) – More than 1,000 people attended the SOAR Summit in Pikeville, aiming to help Kentucky’s economy grow and become stronger and more diversified.
Nick Mullins, a fourth-generation coal miner from Clintwood, Va., said he moved his family to Berea, Ky. in 2010 after they lost their home in a fire.
“We realized that maybe the mountains that we called home for nearly ten generations just [weren’t] the place to raise our kids any longer,” Mullins said. “There wasn't enough economic development going on at the time and there was going to be poor choices for our children's outlook.”
Mullins now attends Berea College and is looking for a new career. He was among the people at the summit looking forward to an economic transition for Kentucky.
“It’s going to take money to develop our infrastructure and get ready for a diversification of our industry and economic development,” Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne Rutherford said. “See if we can't give people hope here in the future, and we’re losing people by the droves.”
Part of the solution, leaders say, is developing new jobs and businesses, keeping young people in the Appalachian region and even tourism.
“A lot of cultural [resources] and a lot of history,” Elaine Wilson, Kentucky’s director of adventure tourism, said. “Help them to really get ready to become a destination.”
Mullins said he is hopeful about the future and wants to see communities resurface from the mountains.
“A return back to the basic communities that Appalachia was most prided in having, a real love for the mountains,” Mullins said. “Within that community [we] can rebuild economics as well, through hopefully local entrepreneurship, as well as seeking out other industries to come in.”
A speaker from Minnesota at the summit addressed the job loss from coal mines, noting that region of Minnesota has dealt with job loss from iron mines. Some leaders said they hope to channel some of those ideas into this area.
The SOAR Summit is taking place Monday at the East Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville.
SOAR stands for Shaping Our Appalachian Region.
Governor Steve Beshear, Congressman Hal Rodgers and several others are involved in the summit, including more than 1,000 people who signed up to attend.
According to Gov. Steve Beshear's Office, the goal is to address many challenges that Appalachian residents face, including declining coal jobs, need for education, job creation and infrastructure.
"The EPA has put our coal mines out of business. We had probably 1,400 that makes $85,000 a year that has no job today. That's the reason SOAR is here today," said Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford.
NewsChannel3's Olivia Fecteau is at the summit and will have more tonight at 5:30 and 6.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.