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Shaping Our Appalachian Region organization launches statewide search for next executive director


Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), a nonprofit and non-partisan organization that champions the future of Appalachia, is launching a statewide search for its next executive director.

Jared Arnett, the founding executive director of SOAR, has announced his intentions to leave his position at the end of his current contract (October of 2020). After leading the organization for nearly six years, he is departing to be more involved in Mountain Music Exchange, LLC, a business he co-founded before working at SOAR, and New Beginnings Fellowship Church, where he serves as pastor. Arnett will remain in his position until his successor is named and has committed to being a continuing resource to ensure a smooth transition.

Kimberly McCann, chair of the SOAR Executive Board, said the SOAR Personnel Committee, chaired by Jim Host, has partnered with the Kentucky Chamber to lead in the search for the next Executive Director. She expressed her appreciation for Arnett’s steady leadership and work growing SOAR from an initiative into a nonprofit organization that wakes up every day working to improve Appalachia Kentucky.

Jared Arnett

“I am excited to be entering a new chapter at SOAR and working with the new executive director. While Jared is transitioning, we have no doubt that he will remain engaged in the work of SOAR and its impact across Appalachia Kentucky,” McCann said. “Jared is not leaving the region, and has told the Board he plans to continue to support the mission of SOAR.

“Jared has been dedicated to SOAR for six years and through his leadership, the organization has a strong team in place and an executive board committed to the work of creating a better future in Appalachia. This should permit a new Executive Director to engage in the position very quickly.”

“My work at SOAR has never been a job for me, it’s been a calling,” said Arnett. “It has been an honor to get to be part of a movement of people who are doing what everyone thought was impossible in our end of the state: working together. While I am making a personal transition, I remain committed to being a part of the movement to create a future in Appalachia Kentucky as an entrepreneur, pastor, and Appalachian optimist.

“I am confident now, more than ever, that our future hinges on our ability to work together to leverage connectivity for economic growth and SOAR will continue to play a critical role on both of those fronts.”

SOAR was launched in 2013 through the leadership of Congressman Hal Rogers and then-Gov. Steve Beshear at a time when the region, specifically the coal-producing counties, were reeling from the loss of more than 10,000 jobs. It gathered input from thousands of citizens and in 2015 published the Blueprint for the Future of Appalachia.

The blueprint is an innovative approach to rural development and is built on the foundation and critical importance of leveraging internet connectivity to put 30,000 additional people to work in Appalachia Kentucky. SOAR exists to make sure this blueprint does not sit on a shelf.

The organization supports a formalized network of over 250 partners to be a catalyst for moving the blueprint forward through convenings, communications, and consulting. SOAR has been recognized nationally as a best-practice model on innovative rural development and is currently co-chaired by Gov. Andy Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers.

Some of SOAR’s accomplishments under Arnett’s leadership include:

• Building and Maintaining Consensus around the Blueprint for the Future of Appalachia.
• Establishing the SOAR Summit as the largest annual convening on the future of Appalachia.
• Advocating for KentuckyWired throughout the region and working with stakeholders on last-mile broadband buildout strategies.
• Supporting Remote Work efforts, specifically with Teleworks USA and Digital Careers Now. Teleworks USA has created more than 3,000 jobs since 2015. Digital Careers Now has created over 300 jobs.
• Creation of SOAR Innovation, a partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation office, to support entrepreneurs and startups throughout 40 counties in Appalachia Kentucky.
• Launch of the StartUp Appalachia Pitch Competition.
• Launch of www.Thereisafuture.org and various enhancements of communications platforms that reach more than 2 million people annually.
• Support of AppHarvest and its investment in Morehead to build a more than 2.5 million square-foot high-tech greenhouse and create more than 280 jobs.
• Support of tech start-ups like Bit Source.

Find more about SOAR’s impact here: www.soar-ky.org/impact.

-To view a detailed job description and application information click here.
-Letters of interest must be accompanied by a resume and received by Candy Keeton (ckeeton@kychamber.com) before close of business, Aug. 14.
-Interviews will be conducted by the Personnel Committee of the SOAR Executive Board.
-A selection is expected by Sept. 30.

From Shaping Our Appalachian Region

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