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Bluegrass Business Development Partnership: The place where business gets done

Partnership connects Lexington’s many support programs to those growing jobs
FlyWire Cameras offers innovative video monitoring solutions to document the impact and sustainability of commercial fisheries throughout the world, such as fisheries operating in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

The Bluegrass Business Development Partnership is a “one-stop shop” to provide assistance and resources to existing and prospective businesses in the Central Kentucky region. The BBDP is a collaboration of the City of Lexington, the University of Kentucky (UK), and Commerce Lexington Inc. Each partner in the BBDP brings a variety of strengths to the table when assisting businesses. They work with companies, ranging from small startups to large Fortune 500 corporations, by connecting them to the resources available to them throughout the state.

Commerce Lexington Inc.’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, represented by the Mayor’s office, 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 (SBDC) and the Lexington Innovation 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 Lexington Innovation Office helps startup entrepreneurs with goals ranging from ideation, to establishing product-market fit, securing intellectual property and funding.

One BBDP success story is FlyWire Cameras, which is a technology solutions company that engineers and manufactures the world’s smallest, high-definition, wearable camera. The company was founded in 2014 in Hawaii by Sarah Alessi and Jacob Isaac-Lowry, who is a Lexington native. Due to the high cost of doing business in Hawaii, FlyWire Cameras began the site selection process and considered relocating the company to Lexington. Throughout the process, each BBDP partner played an integral role in assisting this budding startup.

Commerce Lexington Inc.’s economic development team assisted with their site selection process for their new location in Lexington as they relocated from Hawaii. They assisted them in applying for the Lexington Jobs Fund, a local incentive program created by Mayor Jim Gray in 2014, that enabled the company to make the move to Lexington.

From the beginning of the process and throughout the last four years, FlyWire Cameras has met with the Bluegrass SBDC and Commerce Lexington’s Community and Minority Business Development division, which collaborate on financing opportunities such as the Access Loan Program. The Bluegrass SBDC assisted FlyWire with the development of a comprehensive business plan and financial projections to support an Access Loan Program funding request.

A longtime client of the Lexington Innovation Office and the UK Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, FlyWire has received coaching, support with both SBIR and investment based fundraising opportunities, and has exhibited at several local startup events.

BBDP provides seamless service to our clients knowing when a company should receive assistance from another partner. Beyond assisting individual companies, the BBDP has been 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 improve human welfare. As a prelude to GEW, the BBDP showed the impact of the entrepreneurial community on the regional economy by announcing that 113 local companies raised more than $57.1 million in capital funds, produced revenues exceeding $192 million and created 270 new jobs in fiscal year 2017. The 2018 GEW is Nov. 12-18.