FRANKFORT– I recently had the honor of attending the Appalachia Rising Conference in Ashland, and I am thrilled to share some exciting updates with you.
First and foremost, a huge shoutout to Kentucky for hosting this year’s ARC conference. The choice of Ashland as the venue for the event was impeccable, showcasing the beauty and potential of our state. Kudos to our Tourism and Convention teams, as well as the Ashland/Boyd County community, who always show out, for the outstanding hospitality and for making this event a resounding success.
Broadband Deployment: A Commitment Fulfilled
In 2021, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted House Bill 320 with bipartisan support, focused on broadband funding. This bill channeled a whopping $250 million toward broadband expansion for the fiscal year 2021-2022. I am proud to have been a staunch advocate for this initiative, working closely with my colleagues to secure these funds in the budget. Our collective efforts are now bearing fruit, and the dream of a connected Appalachia is becoming a reality.
Awards Across the District at ARC:
Boyd and Carter County: The ARC conference witnessed the presentation of over $11 million to Foothills Connect, aiming to provide high-speed internet access to 2,798 homes and businesses in Boyd and Carter counties. This significant award is a testament to the bipartisan agreement we reached in 2021, which allocated $300 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund.
Greenup County: Greenup County was another significant beneficiary at the ARC conference. The county received nearly $4 million in funding, which will be instrumental in various sectors, including road resurfacing, tourism promotion, law enforcement support, park improvements, nonprofit support, and the much-anticipated high-speed internet expansion.
The infusion of funds into broadband deployment is about unlocking the vast potential of our region. With high-speed internet access, we pave the way for robust workforce development. Modern businesses, whether they are tech startups or established industries, rely heavily on connectivity for their day-to-day operations. By providing reliable broadband, we are building a foundation for digital infrastructure that will attract a diverse range of businesses to Appalachia.
Workforce development goes hand in hand with education. With greater broadband access, our students, educators, and professionals can tap into online resources, courses, and training programs. This better equips our workforce with the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow, making our region an attractive destination for businesses looking for a skilled and ready workforce.
A Continued Commitment to EKY Communities:
While we celebrate these strides, our work is far from over. I want to assure you that my commitment to our communities remains. Working in tandem with the legislative and executive branches, I am dedicated to advocating continued investments in our communities. Our people are our greatest asset, and by investing in them, we give them the tools, resources, and opportunities to succeed.
The future of Appalachia is bright, and by fostering collaboration and working together, we can continue to channel investments into projects that uplift our communities, create jobs, and drive economic growth.
The Appalachia Rising Conference in Ashland was a testament to the resilience, strength, and transformation of Appalachia. With 423 counties spanning 13 states, our region is vast, diverse, and resourceful. The recent investments and awards are a significant step toward a stronger, more connected future for all in the region.
For more information on the Kentucky General Assembly, visit the Legislative Record online at www.legislature.ky.gov. If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. To share feedback on an issue, feel free to email me anytime at Robin.Webb@LRC.KY.GOV or call the General Assembly Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. Kentuckians with hearing loss can use Kentucky Relay by dialing 711.