Ameeting was held recently at the Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency to discuss the recent promise zone designation of Bell County and seven other surrounding counties.
The meeting was moderated by Lori Garkovich from the University of Kentucky, who is partnering with Kentucky Highlands to help in the planning steps for the promise zone counties.
Garkovich, who holds a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, will help draft a regional community plan for the promise zone region.
During the meeting, Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock explained the designation will help the region have an advantage on certain grant applications not available in the past.
“There are a lot of grants being formulated right now in the community through various groups, and we’re going to see if they’re keeping their promise when it’s time for those to be awarded,” said Brock. “I’m cautiously optimistic about this promise zone designation.”
Brock also explained there is no new money for the eight designated counties. He said, at this point, there is no added incentive for the business sector to move to the area as a result of the designation.
Brock added that in October, the U.S. Congress will have an opportunity to set money aside for the promise zones in the next budget.
“We hope that there will be measures that will incentivize industry to come to the promise zone, much like they did with the enterprise zone,” said Brock.
Those in attendance did work in small groups to talk about the strengths and challenges of Bell County.
Some of the strengths mentioned included geological terrain, U.S. 25E, low cost of living, available real estate, natural resource base, access to health care (two hospitals in the area), a community college and a state and national park.
Some of the challenges mentioned included a stereotypical image from the outside looking in, lack of knowledge about the county and region, geographical distance between the other seven promise zone counties and several others.
Anthony Cloud can be contacted at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN.