Local Team Visits Prestonsburg For What’s Next EKY?!

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A contingent of Carter Countians were among the regional representatives who recently assembled in Prestonsburg for a community forum asking “What’s Next EKY?!”

Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton, who is a retired Kentucky State Police Trooper, welcomed guests from several counties, along with assistant Stacia Carwell.  Stapleton said the Mountain Arts Center is an absolute anchor for Floyd County’s tourism traffic, adding tremendous resources have gone into development of other assets including the Sugar Camp Trails which have become a magnet for mountain biking enthusiasts.

Stapleton further noted his belief in seeking out small business, with 10 to 15 employees, rather than pursuing larger corporations primarily interested in incentives.

“When they leave, there’s a large vacuum. They take advantage of incentives and leave,” he said, citing the importance of nurturing new ideas and assisting existing small businesses.

Cities such as Prestonsburg and others in Eastern Kentucky have distinct market value, the mayor said.

“I can sell small town America. But, it has got to be clean, safe and happy,” Stapleton said.

Carwell introduced a panel of local business owners including Josh Turner of Sugar Camp Trails, Heather Owens of Mountain Muse and Sheena Maynard of Lou’s Place For Pets. Panelists discussed their own efforts to promote each other’s places, as well as working together to generate a revitalized downtown district with events designed to attract shoppers.

The day’s conversations also included discussions about outdoor adventure tourism, the “CMH23” effort to enhance tourism along U.S. 23 the state’s official “Country Music Highway,” arts and culture and engaging younger people to visit, shop, live and work locally.

Many of the participants ended the session with a tour of the nearby Mountain Arts Center, or a visit to Prestonsburg’s downtown merchants, following a map provided by the local merchants.

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What’s Next EKY?! – “OUR VISION:We aim to create a network of communities and regional partners that can work together to foster thriving rural communities in Appalachian Kentucky and to create a greater impact on the economic development of our region. By sharing ideas, encouraging mutual learning, collaborating on regional projects and initiatives, lifting up successes, and bringing greater resources to our communities, we will establish a stronger and more diverse economy in these mountains we call home.”

For more information about What’s Next EKY?! visit www.whatsnexteky.org or email whatsnexteky@gmail.com or visit the group’s Facebook page.

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