When it comes to innovation, the Big Sandy region is gaining national attention for its collaboration in community, workforce and economic development. Just weeks after the SOAR Innovation Summit, our college is entrenched in a variety of projects that promote innovation and job creation.

And it couldnt come at a more opportune time.

At Big Sandy Community and Technical College, we are building a team of entrepreneurial leaders and thinkers. What does that mean? That means we are focused on the future, thinking innovatively and entrepreneurially, acting progressively and proactively, and seeking opportunities before they become obvious to others.

Thats why we continue to build partnerships with organizations such as SOAR, One East Kentucky, the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), the Big Sandy Area Development District, our local and regional chambers of commerce, and business and industry and elected officials at the local, state and federal levels. These relationships have created meaningful dialogue and allowed us to understand the challenges and opportunities that lie in front of us.

Our most valuable natural resource is our people. It was our workforce that fueled the industrial revolution of this country in the mining industry. Its that same passion, loyalty, work ethic and commitment to faith, family and community that will serve as a catalyst of new and innovative investments in eastern Kentucky.

During the SOAR Innovation Summit, EKCEP announced a new partnership with us, SOAR and Interapt, a Louisville-based technology firm to begin the TechHire Eastern Kentucky (TEKY) program on our Mayo campus in Paintsville. This partnership will allow eligible participants to earn paid training as computer coders and transition to positions with Interapt.

As the regions first choice in higher education, it is imperative we are actively engaged in community, workforce and economic development. If we aspire to truly transform our region one student, one person, one opportunity at a time, it will take a spirit of collaboration, one that promotes a spirit of unity and a unified approach. We must not focus our attention on who gets the credit but rather on the significant positive outcomes we realize together and how far we move the needle of transformation.

In the coming months, Big Sandy Community and Technical College will break ground on the states first Advanced Technology Center. Located on our Pikeville campus, the facility will be the states first fiber-to-the-desk facility and will house our state-of-the-art fiber optics training program and be home to our Broadband Technology associate degree program, just the third program of its kind in the United States. This project would not be possible without the collaboration of the University of Pikeville, City of Pikeville, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Department of Local Government and the United States Economic Development Agency.

This facility will serve as a hub for high-wage, high-speed jobs across the southeastern United States and a constant reminder of the possibilities that await throughout the mountains and valleys to compete and thrive in a global economy.

So, lets remain positive, solutions focused and inspired by the passion we all share for a better Eastern Kentucky.

Dr. Devin Stephenson is president/CEO of Big Sandy Community and Technical College and the SOAR liaison for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System