SOAR Associate Executive Director visits Red River Gorge region

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BEATTYVILLE, Ky. – Joshua Ball, associate executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) visited Lee, Powell, Wolfe, Morgan and Menifee counties on September 14-15.

Ball spent time meeting with community and elected leaders, as well as visiting with entrepreneurs across the region.

“The people of Lee, Powell, Wolfe, Morgan, and Menifee counties exemplify the faith and grit needed to build a new economy in Appalachia Kentucky,” said Ball. “What I am seeing is a groundswell of support from sectors that are tied to SOAR’s Regional Blueprint.  The people of this region are learning that the solutions we seek are found within ourselves and our desire to create a thriving Appalachia Kentucky.”

Ball said some of the innovation taking place in Beattyville (Lee County) and the surrounding area are models for other communities to follow.

“The Art Factory is a perfect example of incubating and promoting entrepreneurship,” said Ball. “This building is home to several businesses including a coffee and sandwich shop, a newspaper, a photography studio and a tattoo studio. It’s a thriving part of the downtown landscape in Beattyville, and is providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into a reality.”

Beattyville is also home to a Teleworks USA hub, which has created more than 100 jobs since it opened last year. 

“What Teleworks USA and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program is doing in communities like Beattyville is truly transformational,” added Ball. “Companies from all across the globe are investing in the talents of the people in eastern Kentucky, and they are able to work from home or from one of their hubs located throughout the region.”

Dustin Cornett and his wife, Mai, are the owners of the Chocolat Inn, located just outside of Beattyville in Lee County.  Cornett, who was born in eastern Kentucky, lived in Japan where he met his wife, Mai. Both avid travelers, they planned on moving to the west coast.

But the mountains called Dustin and Mai home.

“Mai fell in love with [Beattyville],” said Dustin. “So we moved here and decided to invest in the region.”

The Chocolat Inn makes gourmet chocolates from the cocoa bean.  Their rooms are themes from places they have visited across the globe.

Ball also met with Ian Teal, an entrepreneur in Lee, Wolfe and Powell counties.  He is the owner of Thrillsville, as well as cabins in and around the Red River Gorge.

“Ian’s love for this region started when he was a boy scout and he would visit here on trips,” said Ball. “His investments have helped to turn Natural Bridge State Resort Park and the Red River Gorge into world-class destinations for outdoor enthusiasts.”

Ball spoke to the Lee County Fiscal Court on September 14 and met with Menifee County Judge-Executive Rick Stiltner and West Liberty Mayor Mark Walter on September 15.

“These meetings allowed me the opportunity to listen about the challenges and the opportunities taking place in their respective communities,” said Ball. “We talked about SOAR’s Regional Blueprint and how we could work together to implement the Blueprint and bring opportunities to their citizens.”

SOAR’s Regional Blueprint has seven goals ties to community and economic development:

The Regional Blueprint outlines seven goals:

· Increase the availability of affordable, high-speed broadband, through fiber, to businesses and residents; and increase adoption rates throughout the SOAR region;

· Develop our regional workforce to be competitive in the digital economy and emerging industries;

· To create more and expand existing small businesses within the region by taking full advantage of the digital economy;

· To reduce the physical and economic impact of obesity, diabetes and substance abuse;

· Increase the amount of industrial employment, which includes manufacturing, natural resources, processing, and distribution by expanding existing companies and attracting new ones;

· Create a local foods movement by connecting local producers to markets for their product both within and outside the region; and

· Establish Kentucky’s Appalachian region as a tourism destination.

For more information on SOAR, visit