A regional development facility meant to boost the economy in south-central and Eastern Kentucky marked its 15th anniversary Friday.
The Center for Rural Development in Somerset houses or provides a range of programs, including initiatives focusing on economic and tourism development; combating drug abuse; cleaning up the environment; improving education; and training students in leadership and entrepreneurship.
The center also provides videoconferencing services and data-hosting and other services for higher-education institutions. It includes meeting rooms, convention space and a 760-seat theater.
U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers, a Republican who represents the 5th District, pushed for development of the center and got federal money to help build the $15.5 million facility. Rogers also started several of the programs housed at the center. The center was conceived as a tool to improve the quality of life in the 42 counties it serves, said speakers at an anniversary event on Friday.
When he took office in 1981, Rogers said, the district faced a range of problems, including a low percentage of high-school graduates, a lack of jobs and little cooperation among counties to try to boost the economy.
The center, the programs it houses and the volunteers they bring together have helped tackle the region's needs, Rogers said.
"This place is a place that leads our young people to realize their future without having to leave home to find it," he said.
Nearly 400 people attended the event, officials with the center said.