“Gov. Beshear and I are proud to announce that the 2021 SOAR Summit will be hosted by the City of Corbin at the Corbin Arena on Oct. 13 and 14 of this year,” announced Congressman Hal Rogers on June 2 at Second and Main in Downtown Corbin.
SOAR, which stands for Shaping Our Appalachian Region, was started by former Gov. Steve Beshear and Rogers to champion local projects, programs, and advocacy for the 54 ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission)-mandated counties in Eastern Kentucky, according to the SOAR official website.
After his introduction, Rogers began his announcement by congratulating Corbin on its accomplishments and revitalization efforts.
“Corbin is a special place, and the way your downtown has redeveloped and is welcoming new businesses, and new types of businesses even, is a remarkable story. So, thank you, Mayor, for letting us come into your beautiful city,” said Rogers. “You have thriving restaurants, local businesses filling your storefronts, and you’re giving people exciting new opportunities right here at home.”
Rogers said after the decline of the coal mining industry, himself and other leaders decided to create the Summit to explore the options for what could be done to help the economy and the people soar.
“SOAR is the largest think tank of our generation,” said Rogers.
“In fact, the SOAR Summit has brought together more than 10,000 people since that first one.”
“Gov. Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear, and myself, launched this bi-partisan, non-partisan, organization in the midst of the war on coal. We lost 14,000 jobs in Kentucky in a matter of a few months,” Rogers reflected.
“Here is the thing about Southeastern Kentucky, we don’t quit. We survive,” said Rogers. “That same idea, if we pull ourselves together and then we pull together, there is no end to what we can achieve.”
Gov. Andy Beshear followed up by expanding on the resilience of Southeastern Kentucky through hardships like COVID and natural disasters.
“We deal with natural disasters, with weather, about every week it seems in this area,” said Beshear. “We deal with snow. We deal with ice. We deal with flooding, and sometimes we deal with all three in the span of two weeks. But, what happens every time? We are here for each other.”
Beshear emphasized not only the resilience of Southeastern Kentucky during natural disasters, but also during the pandemic emphasizing the economic recovery of the Commonwealth. “After 15 months trying months, I believe we have 15 great months ahead,” said Beshear. “The concept of SOAR has taken off.”
Beshear described Kentucky as being on the precipice of rapid, positive economic change.
Senate President Robert Stivers announced that Kentucky will soon see a substantial investment in broadband.
“We are going to make this investment because it truly is a game changer in the future, in our society and how we do business,” said Stivers. “It is imperative, and this is something that grew out of the initial SOAR conference was we need to, as Congressman Rogers said, create Silicon Holler. We have, and we are.”
Colby Hall, the Executive Director of SOAR, said that SOAR is so appreciative of the hospitality and attention to detail that Corbin has provided.
Hall said that while many other areas are lamenting the losses from the pandemic, “We are singing a different song in eastern Kentucky.”
He said SOAR was created to be an organization of action. “The SOAR Summit is Central Appalachia’s premiere convening where we gather to talk about ideas, plans, and topics important to helping eastern Kentucky blaze a return to prosperity,” said Hall. “We leave with a renewed since of purpose.”
Broadband connectivity, a 21st century workforce, entrepreneurship in a digital economy, healthy communities, industrial development, regional food systems, and tourism and downtown revitalization are the seven pillars of the SOAR conference.
Hall said the 2021 Summit will focus heavily on broadband connectivity.
Registration for the 2021 SOAR Summit is now open at https://www.soar-ky.org/summit/. The Summit is offering 50 percent off the registration fee until June 11, when people use the promo code CORBIN.
The event will be in both an in-person and live stream format, according to the SOAR website.
Corbin’s goal attendance for the event is 3,000 people.