Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) held a Grow with Google event on Tuesday, November 12, 2019 at Bit Source's campus in Pikeville.
Bit Source, an East Kentucky partner of SOAR, co-hosted the event while Teleworks USA, the Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED), and Be Boss Online were sponsors. The Southeastern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce provided lunch.
"This event far exceeded our expectations," said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. "To see more than 75 people from all walks of life - small businesses, startups, and non-profits - in one room engaged and committed to better leveraging technology to grow their business is a testament to the narrative we have created through our more than 240 partners."
SOAR's Blueprint for the Future of Appalachia has seven goals. The first is about connectivity and the other six (small business in the digital economy, a 21st century workforce, industrial recruitment, healthy communities, local foods, and regional tourism) are ways the region is using connectivity to create new opportunities.
"Technology has and continues to disrupt poverty across eastern Kentucky," Arnett added. "We have more than 2,500 people working remotely across the region. In the room during this event was a young man who has more than 600,000 subscribers on YouTube. For most businesses, their market does not have to be a storefront. It can be the world, and we have a dedicated team of people assisting small businesses and entrepreneurs in these efforts."
SOAR launched SOAR Innovation earlier this year. The program is a collaboration with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development's KY Innovation Office. Through this program, SOAR has Business and innovation Champions serving Appalachia Kentucky.
Ryan Jones, who leads the innovation team at SOAR, said that events like this are not only informative but also provide an opportunity for the small business community to network and share ideas.
"The Grow with Google event was an opportunity to take the conversation about innovative ways to grow our small businesses to a whole new level," said Jones. "We are so grateful to have a partner like Bit Source that is proof of what is possible when you think outside of the box."
Corissa Saint Laurent, a consultant from Portland, Oregon, facilitated the session. She is a contracted trainer with Google.
At the end of the session, Arnett gave all those in attendance a simple charge: "The best thing you can do is leave here and grow your business."