Five Original Counties United for Success

FOCUS is a nonprofit organization that works with industry, business, and government officials to improve the economic development of its five-county region. The five counties in FOCUS’ service area include Jackson, Clay, Owsley, Lee, and Leslie.

“Envision Rural”

The Envision Rural tagline is both an invitation and a call to arms.

It is an invitation to those outside the region to imagine what this region could be for them. Our key advantages will help them create the future they’ve always dreamed of.

It is a call to arms for those already living here to see the region not only as it is, but how it could be. To unlock the limitless potential that we know this region has.

“The FOCUS region’s greatest asset is the spirit. Quality people, broadband connectivity, and an organized, supportive community are all part of answers that the new highway 30 has revealed to prospective new industry.“


Where we're going

The mission of FOCUS is to provide leadership and guidance in economic development for these five identified communities in Southeastern Kentucky.


Where We've been

FOCUS grew out of a collaborative group of Jackson County business and government representatives who began meeting in 2015 to look at ways to promote economic development. Eventually, it grew to include five counties. The collaborative applied for a strategic planning grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission in late 2016. Members worked with Dr. Alison Davis, with the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) through much of 2017 to study the region’s economy and develop a strategic plan.


The Boots on the ground

Tal Jones

Economic Development Director

Jones’ name is synonymous with leadership and entrepreneurial growth across Southeastern Kentucky. From his early days as chairperson of the Knox County Board of Education to his most recent role as a Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Business Innovation Champion, Jones has been actively involved in local leadership and economic development for decades.

Jones has 30-plus years of small business ownership – as president of Merit Gas & Oil, Inc. – and says he enjoys meeting and working with other business owners and helping them achieve their dreams.

Jones is an Eastern Kentucky University graduate, where he earned a bachelor of science in biology and chemistry and a master’s degree in geology. He is a Licensed Professional Geologist in Kentucky, is former Chairman, Knox County Board of Education 1998-2006, and previously Vice President, Kentucky Oil & Gas Association. He has been a board member for the Pine Mountain Regional Industrial Development Authority since 2006.

Principal officers

April Renner


Ed Morgan


Donna Hardin


Board of Directors

Scott Jackson




Melissa Williams


Nelson Bobrowski

Partner Organizations

It takes a village

The FOCUS initiative would not be possible without the funding and support of its partner organizations.

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