How it’s working
Communities in Eastern Kentucky know best what the gaps are in their local economy. From the beginning, the Mountain Association has listened to communities to understand what they think would help further their progress towards an economy that is more diverse and sustainable.
We have often designed unique and place-based interventions in economic sectors that work to fill gaps and demonstrate what’s possible in the region’s new economy. These interventions are built using community knowledge, our own expertise, and learning from our regional and national partners about what’s working in other places.
We have focused our demonstrations on key economic sectors and specific places. Our sector work includes deep engagement in energy, tourism through our Airbnb trainings, regional creative placemaking, and network building. Our place-based work has primarily focused on Hazard, Kentucky.
This collaborative work in Hazard provides a clear illustration of why developing projects and programs that demonstrate the new economy is so important to our work. After we opened our Hazard office in 2011, we realized there were key missing pieces for the entrepreneurs we sought to serve. They needed encouragement from the community; access to physical space in which to locate their businesses; and, they needed to see that starting a business was possible and could be successful in Hazard. We saw opportunities to address these needs by investing time and resources into community development strategies.
Working with other community partners, we supported the creation of InVision Hazard, a citizen-led coalition focused on revitalizing Hazard’s downtown and giving voice to local residents’ visions for the future. In the years since, Hazard has made huge strides in its revitalization because of the work of Invision.
For example, the City of Hazard re-instituted its Code Enforcement Board, hired a local architect as a permitting and zoning officer, and implemented a property tax penalty on vacant and blighted buildings, which created a registry and enforcement protocols to address out-of-use buildings for the first time. Our investment in Hazard has also provided key capacity and capital for community projects, from local foods to creative placemaking and downtown revitalization.
Over the next five years, we will continue deep investment in Hazard by collaborating with long-established and emerging local groups on new projects that are promising opportunities for building a vibrant economy in Hazard. Our core programs of energy, lending and small business support services will continue to be the main tools we use to leverage opportunities and advance demonstrations of what’s possible there.
Our ability as a CDFI to leverage capital to finance these demonstrations allows us to bring ambition and scale to projects and programs we develop. We can use our strengths and unique capacities as an organization to engage with local partners, helping foster innovative ideas that will support community revitalization work and demonstrate tangible and visible change and possibilities that could be replicated in other communities.