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Regionalism...East KY vs. West KY- Trend Continues in 2015

During the 20th century, from 1970 through 1980, regionalism in Kentucky was about a system of state and regional growth strategies designed to max access and coordination to federal funds. Kentucky was divided into 15 associations of counties called Area Development Districts.

When Ronald Reagan became President in 1980, a new federal policy to cut aid programs. Bush, from 2001 through 2008 continued cutting aid to states and counties. His policy was funding overseas wars. Rise of the Tea Party in 2008, along with a very dysfunctional Congress has now set in motion the end game for Area Development District regionalism.

Now, in the 15th year of the 21st Century, a new brand or concept of regionalism is taking shape in Kentucky. This new perspective towards economic development leaves behind the emphasis of federal-state-regional-local strata for a compressed regional-state-private model.

Three recent events illustrate this. (A) State Auditor findings that the Central Kentucky Bluegrass ADD was almost a defunct organization that bordered on misuse of federal funds. This insight into how the Department for Local Government and the ADD's operate will be the beginning point for the end of the ADD Regionalism Era by 2017.

(B) Sub-state regionalism where whole sections of Kentucky are grouped to build strength and common policy core programs have now emerged. All of the Eastern Kentucky counties have now entered into their Save Our Appalachian Region or S.O.A.R. The kickoff conference to launch SOAR was on September 9, 2014. Over 1,500 leaders from throughout Eastern Kentucky met in Pikeville for the day to discuss how to make the region grow. The very next day, at Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky 167 leaders from all of West Kentucky met to plan out a new regional strategy. It was a functional disaster.

(C ) Governor Beshear just announced a 300 million dollar initiative for bring broadband access into Kentucky. Most of the early years of this program will be spent in Eastern Kentucky. This is an early major success for the S.O.A.R. development model. West Kentucky loses, again on new regional infrastructure programs.

In the 2016 and 2017 Kentucky State Budget of the next governor will move to embrace this new form of regionalism as a way to reinvent regional economic development strategies. By then, there will be 3 to 5 sections of Kentucky for regional development: East, Central, Northern, South Central and West. Unless new leadership emerges, West Kentucky will once again come in last for state monies on jobs and quality of life.

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