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Rural Blog: Technology and digital design start-up finds success in heart of Kentucky coalfield

A technology and digital-design firm in southeastern Kentucky offers hope for helping Central Appalachia revitalize its economy after the loss of coal jobs, Alexis Stephens reports for PolicyLink.

In Letcher County, where 33 percent of residents live below the federal poverty level and only 12 percent of adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree, Mountain Tech Media is providing a service that can reach far beyond the county.

Letcher County, Kentucky (Wikipedia map)

“The 12-person company provides a wide variety of branding, marketing, and strategizing services to both small and large businesses in the region, including video and audio productions, web design, app development, graphic design and illustration, and social media management,” Stephens writes.

Jeremy McQueen, CEO and co-founder of Mountain Tech Media, told her, “We’re thinking about ways to move forward in a post-coal economy. I think we are helping folks in our region find the branding and the reach that they’re looking for without trying to hire some ad agency in a larger city.”

One thing that’s unique about Mountain Tech Media is its a worker cooperative model, “giving team members equity in the company and involving them in the governance of the business,” Stephens writes. “So far, Mountain Tech Media has contracted with 34 organizations and contributed an estimated $200,000 to the regional economy through their work. Founded in 2015, it surpassed its first-year projections in just the first six months of 2016 and surpassed its three-year projections in the span of a single year. The group is well on its way to exceeding its projections for 2017.”

Mountain Tech Media is another offspring of Appalshop, “a grassroots arts and culture organization based in Letcher County since 1969,” Stephens writes.

“In 2014, Appalshop’s leadership partnered with Lafayette College’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project and researchers from Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life to launch the pilot program for a national initiative for community revitalization and economic development based in creative placemaking and placekeeping.” Appalshop has worked with several companies in the region and has started a tech and media certificate program in conjunction with Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.`

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