Governor's Office for Local Development
Governor Ernie Fletcher Recommends ARC Funding for Harlan Tourism Strategic Planning

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, May 03, 2006  
Contact Information:  Samantha Cook
Public Information Officer

             Governor Ernie Fletcher and the Governor’s Office for Local Development (GOLD) today recommended for funding a $100,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant for the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC).  Funds will be used to assist SKCTC with a collaborative effort to facilitate strategic planning for Harlan County tourism.

            “Economic development is not limited to large corporations providing jobs for Kentuckians.  Utilizing our natural endowments here in the state can benefit local communities as well,” said Governor Fletcher.  “The tourism efforts by Harlan County are a great example of how these natural assets can be transformed into economic boosts for a region.”

            ARC funds will be used to assist SKCTC in contracting with a consulting firm in order to complete an assessment of tourism needs and assets via interviews with existing business operators and new entrepreneurs, visitors to the county and county residents.  A web-based survey will be developed to define the scope of the current economic impact of the tourism industry on the county. 

            “Tourism is a growing industry in east Kentucky,” said Senator Daniel Mongiardo (D-Hazard).  Harlan County is seeking to capitalize on its astounding beauty and draw in more visitors to the area.”

            Results obtained from the surveys and interviews will be used to organize a local coalition committed to planning and collaborative problem-solving.  The consultant will also develop a community report that reveals the state of the outdoor tourism industry in the county including strengths, needs, opportunities and weaknesses.  This report will be presented at a community forum. 

            Representative Howard Cornett (R-Whitesburg) noted, “Proper planning will allow Harlan County to maximize its potential in regard to its tourism industry.”

            Harlan County has become a national hotspot for off-road tourism with the successful operation of a new Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) park created by the utilization of abandoned mine land.  This new tourism traffic has sparked a wave of local entrepreneurship.

            Representative Tim Couch (R-Hyden) noted, “The natural amenities have drawn the tourists into Harlan County.  Now, Harlan County will develop the tools necessary to keep the industry flourishing.”

            New campgrounds, All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) repair shops, ATV rental shops and restaurants are opening.  Local officials are concerned that this tourism explosion is occurring in a coal mining county with relatively little experience with managing a tourism-based economy.  The rapid growth of the industry is occurring without much effort at local coordination or planning.

            “The tourism of Harlan County has lead many citizens to open up their own businesses in order to cater to individuals visiting the county,” said Representative Rick Nelson (D-Middlesboro).

            After the assessment of needs and assets is completed and analyzed, a report developed with community-based input will be developed in order to ensure effectively planned asset-based development.

            “Not only will the tourism efforts benefit Harlan County, but surrounding communities as well.  I am pleased to see this funding awarded,” said Representative Brandon Smith (R-Hazard).

            Governor Fletcher is the current ARC States’ Co-Chair.  As states’ co-chair, Governor Fletcher is responsible for representing the 13 ARC governors before Congress and the Bush Administration; serve as a member of various ARC committees; and provide guidance on policy and administrative issues concerning the commission.  

            ARC is a federal-state economic development program used to meet infrastructure needs as well as to support education, workforce development, leadership and civic capacity building, entrepreneurship, asset-based development and affordable and accessible health care. ARC is federally funded and available to Kentucky’s 51 most eastern and south-central counties. Applications for ARC funds are submitted to GOLD.  The funding status of the project is pending approval from the federal level.