The head of the Pikeville-based Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has been named executive director of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative, according to a news release.
Jared Arnett will switch to his new position on Nov. 1, Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers said in the news release.
Beshear and Rogers started the initiative, known as SOAR, last year in an effort to come up with a plan to diversify the economy of Eastern Kentucky, which has been hurt by a sharp drop in coal jobs the last two years.
Arnett headed one of several working groups that held meetings throughout the summer to gather ideas from residents and recommend the most promising to the SOAR executive committee.
In his new role, Arnett will help develop a 2015 program of work for SOAR and oversee putting it in place, according to the news release.
He also will work with the executive committee to host a second regional summit early next year. An estimated 1,700 people attended the first summit as part of the initiative in Pikeville in December 2013
Arnett is a native of Salyersville who holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Morehead State University. He helped transform the Pike County Chamber of Commerce into a regional group in 2011. It has since grown to include more than 500 businesses, according to the news release.
Rogers said Arnett knows the needs of Eastern Kentucky well and has worked to promote regionalism, job creation and strategic planning, while Beshear called him a "relentless innovator" with a deep commitment to pushing progress in Eastern Kentucky.
Justin Maxson, president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development and a member of a SOAR committee designed to consider long-term strategies for Eastern Kentucky, said Arnett is a good choice to lead SOAR.
"He understands the region has both assets and real challenges and is willing to name the hard things," Maxson said. "We need his optimism, realism and continued willingness to push through difficult politics."
Rogers said at a recent meeting that 100 people applied for the job.