For a quarter of a century, Eastern Kentuckians have gathered to discuss progress in their region. Today and Tomorrow (Friday), they gather in Prestonsburg. This year’s East Kentucky Leadership Conference will compare the economies of two Appalachian states. East Kentucky Leadership Foundation Director Bill Weinberg says studies show 70 percent of east Kentucky’s counties are distressed while only four percent are distressed in Appalachian Virginia. The longtime east Kentucky activist says Virginia might have better education and infrastructure, but, in some ways, the differences are minimal.
“There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the economic characteristics of Appalachia Virginia and Appalachian Kentucky..they have coal just like we do,” said Weinberg.
Weinberg believes a comparative study of the two states is critical to determine where to focus energies in Kentucky. He says attendees will also meet the director of the new Central Appalachian Institute for Research and Development. The institute hopes to improve the region’s post secondary education.
State and local officials will participate in the conference in Prestonsburg.. Denise Thomas with the Big Sandy Development District is one of the conference organizers and says everyone has a place at the discussion table.
“Well it gives everyone an opportunity to participate in the discussion about the issues that affect us as eastern Kentuckians..and making plans for how we can address those and improve the quality of life in our region,” added Thomas.
The sessions Friday will focus on issues like economic development, energy, and drug rehabilitation.