MACED releases new report; calls for creation of economic development planning body

In a report released today, the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) calls for the creation of the Appalachian Planning and Development Fund (ADPF), a planning body that would create and develop an economic development plan for eastern Kentucky and oversee effective and efficient disbursement of coal severance tax dollars in the region.

"Now is a critical time for eastern Kentucky to develop a comprehensive plan to diversify the region’s economy and create a robust economic future,” the report reads. “To generate the best ideas for economic transition, to promote coordination among efforts throughout the region and to ensure broad participations among the region’s people and communities, the state should develop . . .  the APDF.”

The report says the APDF would:

  • Build on the region’s assets, help communities engage in their own planning and guide severance tax and other expenditures
  • Provide a structure for exploring development strategies that have worked elsewhere and those already working in the region, and promote those strategies
  • Make decisions based on input from a diverse set of voices in eastern Kentucky
  • Better guide coal severance spending, as well as those dollars deposited into a permanent fund

Eastern Kentuckian’s economic opportunities have been at the mercy of those holding the purse strings for decades, enduring the promise of jobs and prosperity for the region with incoming industries and factories, only to watch mere years later as those industries and factories leave town when tax incentives dry up. It’s time that eastern Kentuckians have a say in how their economic future is going to look, and creating the APDF is a great way to allow for that.

A protion of coal severance dollars – 25 percent reccommended in the report – would be used to create the APDF and help it operate. The APDF would also provide oversight in coal severance money spending, which could help prevent such blatant misuse of the funds as when $2.5 million in severance money was given to renovate Rupp Arena – the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball arena in Lexington.

Appalachia’s economic transition won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy. There is nothing we can do in one fell swoop to replace the nearly 6,000 coal jobs that have been lost in the last 14 month. But, we can put certain measures in place today – like a coal-severance permanent fund and the Appalachian Planning and Development Fund – that will provide sustainable benefit for the region’s future.

We have to start somewhere, and investing in planning for the future we want to see in Appalachia is a worthy place to begin.