As Governor Steve Beshear prepares to leave office, Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers says he hopes the next governor will work with him to improve eastern Kentucky.
Rogers and Beshear, while of different political parties, have worked closely over the years on an effort they call Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) which looks at initiatives to move eastern Kentucky’s economy forward as the decline of the coal industry has taken its toll on the region.
Ahead of the 2015 governor’s race, where Republican Matt Bevin defeated Democrat Jack Conway, the Kentucky Chamber’s Bottom Line sat down with Rogers to discuss the transition.
Rogers told Bottom Line he had spoken with Bevin before of the election and Beshear has talked to Conway about the partnership and what it would look like moving forward.
Because of those talks, Rogers said he was confident that SOAR would continue under a new administration.
“That’s critical. That’s crucial. Because the state controls so much of what we have done and can do and are doing. So yes, I would hope that we’d have that support,” Rogers told the Chamber.
In previous interviews about SOAR, Bevin said he would “absolutely” continue the work being done to address the issues in the region.
“I am very sympathetic to this because it is something I am also empathetic to. I am very committed to this region and I will continue to work for broadening the opportunities through the SOAR summit and beyond in looking for ways that we can make this an environment where people are incented to actually create opportunity,” Bevin said.
One of the initiatives created through SOAR by Rogers and Beshear is a public-private partnership to develop a fiber infrastructure in order to expand broadband access in the region and across the state.
The Bottom Line has interviews on the project—called Kentucky Wired—and will be posting details within the coming weeks.