SLADE, Ky. (AP) — Sitting at a state resort in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, officials highlighted the need for more money to market the area to tourists as a way to restart the community's economy in the wake of thousands of job losses from the declining coal industry.
The recommendation is just one of hundreds of ideas listed in a 377-page report released Tuesday that had input from more than 2,500 people across 53 counties. The report is part of the Shaping our Appalachian Region, the high-profile effort from Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers to figure out how to diversify the area's economy after more than a century of depending on the coal industry.
"Tourism will be one of the linchpins to diversifying this economy in eastern Kentucky," Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said.
Leaders touted the areas attractions, including mountains in the east, lakes in the south and country music scattered throughout. They bemoaned the lack of funds to promote the area, noting that leaders in the area don't talk to each other.
"Virtually every county has one festival during the course of the year that nobody knows what it is," said Phil Osborne, chairman of the group's tourism, arts and heritage committee.
Bob Stewart, secretary of the state's Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said Kentucky normally spends about $3 million each year to promote tourism — a sum he says neighboring states easily outspend every year. To make a difference, he said the state needs a marketing campaign of at least $10 million per year.