9:14pm

Thu January 9, 2014
All Politics are Local

Federal Promise Zone Created For Appalachian Kentucky

Southeast Kentucky Representative Hal Rogers broke with the Commonwealth's other congressional Republicans in endorsing the Obama Administration's "Promise Zones."
Southeast Kentucky Representative Hal Rogers broke with the Commonwealth's other congressional Republicans in endorsing the Obama Administration's "Promise Zones."
Eastern Kentucky has just one of five communities across the US included in the first phase of an initiative the Obama Administration hopes will spur economic growth. So-called Promise Zones are intended to give depressed communities a leg up in securing federal dollars. According to U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation won out in part because it’s spread across eight counties in central Appalachia.  

“They have sought and obtained private sector investment to create a loan fund that will help create new business opportunities. They also recognize the importance of skills development and skills development through a commitment to education. And they’re willing to hold themselves accountable to results,” said Vilsack.

Administration officials say Eastern Kentucky stood out because it's already doing “impressive work.” Republican Congressman Hal Rogers represents the district and welcomes the federal assistance.“These areas are some of the worst if not the worst economic zones we have. In my district the coal demise has been dramatic. Thousands of miners now laid off in that whole area of East Kentucky,” said Rogers.Other Kentucky lawmakers aren’t as rosy. Both of the state’s Republican senators attended the event where President Obama announced the winners. But Senator Rand Paul says tax relief would go further than a government grant. GOP Congressman Ed Whitfield says other administration policies are hurting the region's coal economy.“Unfortunately we wouldn’t need as much economic assistance if he would not have such extreme policies on the way energy is produced in America, so that we literally cannot build a new coal plant in this country because of his polices.”Still, Rogers lauds the announcement.“The aid from federal agencies is welcome and will be useful I think.”The administration says it’s still waiting for Congress to pass legislation to ease the tax burden in these Promise Zones.