Appalachia's Bright Future | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Release Date: 
Monday, March 25, 2013
Press Contact: 
Jerry Hardt
Communications Director

Appalachia's Bright Future
April conference to focus creating economic opportunities

Eastern Kentucky’s economy is changing fast, and a group of folks in the region believe they can help move it in a positive direction.

They’ll come together for three days to focus on the challenges and opportunities facing eastern Kentucky, and ways to shape a just transition for the region, at the Appalachia’s Bright Future: A Conversation on Shaping a Just Transition conference taking place April 19-21 in Harlan.

“The world we’ve known is changing. It’s changing fast, and we have to change, too,” said Carl Shoupe, a retired coal miner who lives in Harlan County. “I do believe that we can have a bright future here in Kentucky, including in eastern Kentucky. We can create new jobs, we can have safe energy, and we can live in healthy communities.”

Those ideas were echoed by Letcher County resident Elizabeth Sanders, who said, “More and more, people are recognizing that we need to transition. But we don’t want any transition. We want a just transition – one that is equitable to all.

“The debate we need is bigger than jobs. It’s about the kind of jobs we want and deserve. We need to think longer term and make economic decisions that are good for our land and our people,” she added. “It’s clear to most people that rapid economic transition is already underway in eastern Kentucky. In this moment of rapid change, we have an opportunity, if we pull together, to build a bright future.”

The conference program will highlight positive examples of economic transition from eastern Kentucky and other Central Appalachian communities. Panels will include guests from places that have been through major economic upheaval, including Wales, the north Atlantic, the Pacific Northwest, and rural Pennsylvania.

The program will engage participants in many ways, including through art, music and theater as well as more traditional conference formats. Additional program details can be found at

More than a dozen workshops will focus on promising pathways for job creation and community development in areas like renewable energy, land and stream restoration, arts and culture, broadband internet access, sustainable forestry, and energy efficient affordable housing.

Additional workshops will explore what a just transition in eastern Kentucky means, and what it will take, from the perspective of journalists, workers, and young people in the region.

This event is open to all people who are interested in shaping a bright future in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia. Registration fees are on a sliding scale of $5 to $100, which covers the cost of all conference programs and several meals.

“I’m excited about speakers from other parts of the world and the United States, who have had some of these same challenges, coming and participating in the conference,” said Shoupe. “We’ll be able to get some ideas that will help us go forward and diversify our economy. It’s going to be a great opportunity to see how much eastern Kentucky has to offer.”