Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Today, John McCain will continue his "It's Time for Action Tour" by traveling to Inez, Kentucky. On the third day of his tour, John McCain is visiting communities that have been forgotten and left behind but where hope, innovation and local solutions are helping to lift these communities up.

Inez, Kentucky:

In Inez, Senator McCain will participate in a town hall meeting at the Old Martin County Courthouse where he will give remarks on how he believes government can help lift up communities, like Inez. He will speak about how government can help break down the geographic barriers that have historically isolated some of America's most impoverished communities by ensuring they have access to 21st century information technology. He will also speak about the importance of private/public partnerships in bringing new industries to these communities and making sure that the educational opportunities available in every American community are of the highest quality. Senator McCain will then take a brief tour of the Martin County Economic Development Corporation Business Incubator construction site with the Mayor of Inez, Terry Fraley, and other local leaders. The Incubator is completely funded by coal severance tax money and is an example of the kind of innovative, local private/public partnership that Senator McCain believes will help revitalize communities like Inez.

Eastern Kentucky has been a stopping point for Presidents and presidential candidates seeking to bring economic relief to the region for nearly forty-four years. On April 24, 1964, President Johnson visited Inez and on the front porch of the Fletcher family's tar-papered house launched his War on Poverty. He said his administration had "declared war on poverty in all of its forms, in all of its causes, and we intend to drive it underground and win that war." In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy took a two-day, 200-mile antipoverty tour of eastern Kentucky to visit with families and hold community hearings to assess how the War on Poverty legislation had improved the lives of those it was intended to help. In 1999, President Clinton visited eastern Kentucky on his four-day tour of chronically poor regions to persuade Congress to create new markets in America and give incentives to businesses who invest in these new mark ets in order to help communities that had not experienced the economic prosperity of the 1990s. And in July 2007, John Edwards brought his "two Americas" message to eastern Kentucky, where he wrapped up his three-day poverty tour.

Yet, according to a case study prepared for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, it remains one of the poorest communities in Appalachia. There have been a number of improvements, including two new four-lane roads in and out of Inez and enhanced water and sewage systems. But many of the challenges eastern Kentucky faced in 1964 remain - a limited availability of good full-time jobs, a lack of economic diversity, a ready and able workforce (44% of males over 16 suffered from a disability and nearly half the population over 25 lacks a high school diploma), isolation and multigenerational poverty.

Inez, the county seat of Martin County, is located in the mountainous region of far eastern Kentucky. Infrastructure development is costly and difficult in Martin County because of the lack of flat land and the many streams and tributaries that leave low lying areas prone to flooding. The increase in coal consumption and production during the 1970s helped lift Inez and Martin County out of poverty. Between 1970 and 1980 the poverty rate declined from 56% to 27%. But the near collapse of the coal industry and the national recession during the 1980s reversed this economic prosperity and the poverty rate increased to 37%. The economies of Inez and Martin County still rely heavily on coal production. In 2004, 40.5% of all wage income in Martin County was from mine employment but both production and the number of jobs has steadily declined.

Inez is the hometown of Republican National Committee Chairman, Mike Duncan, who has been a leader in stemming the exodus of the smart and ambitious from Appalachia. Through his mentoring program, now in its 28th year, he encourages students to stay in eastern Kentucky to help lift their impoverished region up after finishing their education.

Inez's population is 453 (2006 census estimates). At the time of the 2000 census, there were 466 people living in Inez. 98% of which were Caucasian and 1.7% self-identified as being of two or more races. The median family income was $25,938 and about 37.0% of families lived below the poverty line at the time of the census. The February 2008 unemployment rate for Martin County is 8.5%.

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