It’s been said that, in a small town, if you don’t know your business, there are plenty of people who will tell you what your business is and should be. Those folks then go on social media and spread rumors that are, for the most part untrue, but the social sheep believe every word.

If you read this column a few weeks ago I spoke about Artificial Intelligence and how dangerous that can be. When a demonstration was done last week, and the AI was dead wrong, one big tech company lost several billion dollars in a day. False information is dangerous and, in that case, very expensive.

Small town news travels fast. In January, Billy Johnson settled a case for $24 million. The driver of the truck in question, immediately after the settlement was reached, stormed out of the courtroom, down the stairs and told all the bailiff’s that he couldn’t believe the settlement was for $24 million. All the bailiffs confirmed and before the ink was dry, the entire town knew of one of the largest settlements in the county.

In other small town news, the University of Pikeville has purchased the building that the News-Express currently occupies on the corner of Caroline and Second Street in Pikeville.

I started negotiations with them a few weeks ago and, almost immediately after I hung up the phone with the first call, I was receiving messages about our building being sold and that we are going out of business. I’m sure a lot of people — like politicians — wish we were going out of business, but much to their dismay,  we are not going out of business and this transition will make us stronger than ever.

The university plans to use this building to house their newly-announced dental school. The university’s past record of educating doctors in the osteopathic school and the optometry school is a testament to their commitment to providing quality health professionals who will be trained to serve rural regions. The mission of the dental school mirrors that model. They will be expecting their first student to start school in early 2025, which is not that far away, so time is of the essence.

This deal is a good deal for the university, as it will enable people to get a good education and choose to stay in this region to serve people while earning a good living. If you couple their efforts with the efforts that companies like Pikeville Medical Center are doing by providing training to high school kids and offering them jobs right out of high school, with the option to continue education locally, the options of younger generations starting families here is tremendous.

In all the markets we serve, Pike County, Floyd County, Mingo County, Johnson County and Perry County, we have great relationships with local schools, businesses and municipalities. This transaction proves that we are willing to sacrifice for the good of future growth for all.

This move initially will be uncomfortable for our organization due to the massive amount of coordination it will take to move. But I have a great staff of people who are capable of doing monumental things. And just for the hell of it, my cardiologist Dr. Ray is on speed dial.

When the dental school is in full swing, it is anticipated that over 250 new students and faculty members will be needed. The economic impact, short- and long-term for the merchants of the city and surrounding area may increase exponentially. The influx of families will need places to eat, dog groomers, day care, chiropractors, haircuts and many more services. It could have a profound financial impact on the area and is another step in the transition away from the mining jobs that were lost. The long-term growth financial and health-wise far outweigh the initial pains in the transition.

Appalachian Newspapers Inc. publishes five newspapers and one regional shopper. Our business will continue, as we will stick to our core values of providing credible local information. We are currently exploring several options and, with a little luck, will be in a new home very soon. And until you read it in these pages, what you hear is not true.

This is a very exciting time for not only the university but also the City of Pikeville and the entire region. And we here at our company and me personally are proud to be part of this transition.

In other rumors, my wife and I celebrated our 32nd anniversary last week. I don’t know how she does it. There are days when I don’t like myself but she keeps me grounded. She has the hardest job in Pike County in my opinion.

Thanks for reading the Floyd Chronicle and Times and don’t believe everything you hear, especially the junk on social media.

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