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Thomas is first speaker in McBrayer Lecture Series

Morgan, McBrayer, Thomas and RogersTim Thomas, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), was the first speaker of the McBrayer Presidential Lecture Series in Government and Leadership on Tuesday, Oct. 16. Thomas spoke on his vision for the future of Appalachia and the regional economy. 

ARC is a nonprofit regional economic development agency that is a partnership between federal, state and local governments. It provides funding for business development, education, job training and other economic growth initiatives in 13 Appalachian states. 

During the lecture, Thomas said the region faces many economic challenges as coal jobs are declining. He said advancing technology infrastructure and encouraging investment and entrepreneurship are some ways to improve the situation. He discussed efforts to establish high-speed internet throughout the region and how ARC is providing funds for job training and infrastructure while working to encourage investment of venture capital in the region.

“I believe Appalachia needs to do a better job of creating its own entrepreneurs,” Thomas said. “I have confidence in the people of Appalachia. There is a future in Appalachia and it’s your turn to shape it.”

Thomas also touched on the continuing opioid epidemic in the region, highlighting its economic impact. He said he wants to create a recovery infrastructure to help users get treatment and to help them with job placement. 

“The commission hopes to use its resources to address the issue in ways other agencies haven’t,” he said. “Appalachia saw the birth of the opioid crisis and it is my hope it can serve as an example to the rest of the country for how to solve it.” 

Prominent lawmakers attended the event, including U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY 05) and Kentucky House Minority Leader Rep. Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook), as well as other state and local officials. Also in attendance was W. Terry McBrayer, namesake of the lecture series who established the McBrayer Endowment to provide scholarships for MSU students. 

The McBrayer Presidential Lecture Series is named in honor of McBrayer, a 1959 MSU graduate who provided a generous gift to the University that supports the lecture series and student scholarships. McBrayer is a lobbyist, attorney and former politician in Lexington. He is a senior partner and lead lobbyist for the McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland law firm. McBrayer is a native of Greenup County and, in addition to graduating from MSU, he also attended the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. He was elected to the MSU Alumni Hall of Fame in 1966 and was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in 1975. 
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Pictured above from left to right are MSU President Dr. Jay Morgan, W. Terry McBrayer, Tim Thomas and U.S. Senator Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY 05).