Bluegrass Market Review | Local leaders partnering with universities and private sector to spur economic growth

Dignitaries cut the ribbon to MosquitoMate’s new production facility in Lexington.
Dignitaries cut the ribbon to MosquitoMate’s new production facility in Lexington.

The Bluegrass Business Development Partnership is a “one-stop shop” to provide assistance and resources to businesses in the Central Kentucky region. The BBDP is a collaboration among the City of Lexington, the University of Kentucky and Commerce Lexington Inc. Each BBDP partner brings a variety of strengths to the table in assisting businesses from small startups to large Fortune 500 corporations to connect them to resources throughout the state.

mrbg-cover300Commerce Lexington’s economic development team provides assistance to businesses in specific sectors that are interested in locating to Lexington, expanding in Lexington or are a startup in the early stages. The City of Lexington is represented by the Mayor’s office and provides seamless connections and pathways for businesses needing information and services from local government. 

Two of the UK partners are the Bluegrass Small Business Development Center and the Kentucky Innovation Network (Lexington Office). The SBDC provides business advising services to existing and startup businesses, including strategic business planning, financial analysis, capital formation, and market research and analysis. The Kentucky Innovation Network helps startup entrepreneurs with goals ranging from clarifying ideation, to establishing product-market fit, securing intellectual property and funding.

One BBDP success story is MosquitoMate, a biotech company founded on technology developed at UK. MosquitoMate produces a chemical-free, non-GMO pesticide that is based on the manufacturing and release of male mosquitoes to combat the mosquito population. Each BBDP partner played an integral role in assisting this budding startup.

As a spinout company of the university, the BBDP partners from UK have had an essential role with MosquitoMate’s development. SBDC has provided assistance with grant requests from the state and federal government, cultivated strategic partners and provided advisory services for the business.

A longtime client of the Kentucky Innovation Office and the UK Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, MosquitoMate received assistance in developing its commercialization plan as well as funding requests from the state’s Commercialization Fund, Enterprise Fund and SBIR/STTR Matching Funds programs.          

With this support, MosquitoMate transitioned from research and development to a commercialized product. Commerce Lexington Inc.’s economic development team assisted with its selection process for expansion. They introduced the company to service providers for marketing and commercializing its product. Dr. Stephen Dobson, president of MosquitoMate, was invited to speak at the chamber’s 2016 (Washington) DC Fly In, emphasizing the importance of the university and federally funded research.

Beyond assisting individual companies, the BBDP is active in organizing and sponsoring entrepreneurial initiatives such as SPARK; 5Across pitch competitions; the Awesome Fellowship; the RunJumpDev gaming development collaboration; and Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).

Lexington’s GEW was a part of a worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators, whose startups bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. During last year’s GEW, BBDP showed the impact of the entrepreneurial community on the regional economy by announcing that 137 companies raised more than $65.3 million in capital funds, produced revenues exceeding $177 million and created 307 new jobs in fiscal year 2016. The 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Week will be held Nov. 13-19. l

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