Representatives from the Appalachian Regional Commission were in Harlan on Thursday to commemorate a $500,000 grant the ARC has awarded the Clover Fork Clinic.
ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl said the grant will allow the clinic to build a larger facility in Harlan.
“They came to ARC for financial support,” said Gohl. “We were able to provide about $500,000 to help them develop the sight.”
Gohl said the construction of the new building is taking place on the old hospital sight in downtown Harlan.
“Today we had the opportunity to meet with the director and to talk with him about what the plans are,” said Gohl.
According to a press release, the new clinic will replace a smaller facility and will have the capacity to serve at least 3,700 patients a year.
After touring the site of the new clinic at 209 East Mound Street, the ARC representatives made their way to the Cumberland campus of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College for a round table discussion concerning the role of the community college in developing an entrepreneurial economic climate.
Gohl, along with SKCTC President Lynn Moore and Gohl’s chief of staff Guy Paul Land, met with local concerned residents including Roy Silver, Robert Gipe, Lynch Mayor Johnny Adams and others.
Silver mentioned there are some problems that need to be addressed in order to create an environment suitable to entrepreneurial pursuits.
“Like other places, we need a lot of help with infrastructure, just basic water and sewer assistance to get our systems up to speed so that we can sustain ourselves,” said Silver, who is city manager for Benham and also a sociologist at SKCTC.
Silver said the history of Harlan is in some ways no different than others.
“There are counties littered with monuments to recruiting — biscuit factories, sock factories — at low wage. They stay for a couple of years and get their incentive monies from the state and the feds and disappear,” said Silver.
Silver stated that a goal must be set to create employment that pays a living wage.
“A family living wage,” said Silver. “That could sustain a family and not the same old any old job will do. Any old job may be better than no job, but it’s not the solution.”
The panel also discussed the need to get the community involved with advancing the county as well as having a clear vision of how to proceed.
Land suggested taking stock of the counties assets to help determine an economic direction.
After the meeting, Moore summed up the day’s activities.
“These are our ARC partners,” said Moore. “This is a direct result of the SOAR initiative.”
Moore said the discussions are designed to highlight the needs of southeast Kentucky.
Moore said there was a similar round table discussion two weeks after the SOAR Conference, but she could not attend due to weather conditions, but she did participate via conference call.
Moore invited the ARC representatives to Harlan after having a hard time hearing the conference call due to a bad connection.
“Having them come today and speak from the heart about what we have to do so they can partner with us — they’re not in the position to do the work for us,” said Moore.
Land pointed out after the meeting it is important to figure out the communities’ assets.
“So that they have a good sense of what they’re walking in with, and begin thinking ‘how do we take those assets and make them the foundation for a more diverse, stronger economy,” said Land.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510, ext. 113, firstname.lastname@example.org