Big Ideas Being Tossed Around in Appalachia
HAZARD, Ky. – With Eastern Kentuckians looking for ways to re-energize their region, collaborative efforts are popping up – including the "Big Ideas Fest for Appalachia," on Friday in Hazard.
Organizers say the focus is on growing and diversifying the economy through innovation and collaboration.
Natasha Watts, who teaches visual communications at Hazard Community and Technical College, is on the event's opening panel. Her main message: When it comes to the "tech world," there are many paths people can take to be employable in Appalachia.
"We can't tap just one part of that tech market. We have to think about that tech market as much larger, because the tech market is much larger," Watts explained. "When we think of technology, we think of this inanimate object that's just a computer – but it expands a lot more than what we're thinking about."
Watts said, for example, while coding often is mentioned as a tech job in the region, there also is a huge demand for content providers.
Organizer Ron Daley, strategic partner lead for the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, said the idea for the event came from students. Daley said he's seen proof that young people in the area have creative business ideas.
"To be honest, I hear better ideas from our youth than I do from adults," said Daley. "We're talking about, in our region, trying to come up with a new economy – and we need to make sure that our youth are part of those conversations."
Watts agrees, and complimented teens and young adults in Appalachia as "big dreamers" who have not met as many dead-end roads.
"Young people do have great ideas, and adults are those people who can help them push that through," she said. "I think we don't listen to them enough."
The Big Ideas Fest runs from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Fri., Sept. 16, at the First Federal Center at Hazard Community and Technical College.