SOMERSET. Ky. — The Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset on Monday night.
Kentucky Highlands, formed during the War on Poverty in 1968 to stimulate job creation and economic investment, has helped create or maintain more than 25,000 jobs in Southeastern and Southern Kentucky.
It is now one of the largest small business development investors in rural America.
“Entrepreneurs in the region now have unprecedented and unparalleled access capital and technical assistance,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands. “KHIC, along with its housing developer, Highlands Housing, is focused on creating energy-efficient housing, which not only makes homes more affordable and safer for families, it improves the environment and provides high-skill jobs for the region.”
In the last 50 years, KHIC has:
- Helped create or maintain more than 25,000 jobs
- Assisted more than 811 businesses with close to $423 million in financing
- Given business owners and budding entrepreneurs unprecedented access to financing through its most recent designations as a Small Business Administration Community Advantage Lender, a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Lender, a Community Facilities Lender, and through the CDFI Bond Fund and Capital Magnet Fund
- Received private funds to increase the amount of investment it provides to small businesses and community facilities from JP Morgan Chase Pro Neighborhoods, the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Program, Bank of America, and Mary Reynolds Babcock and PNC Foundations
- Provided access to technical assistance through the Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center
- Obtained the first rural Promise Zone designations with 92 partner organizations, which have received more than $542 million in funding in the first 5 years of designation
- Obtained one of only three rural federal Empowerment Zones in the nation in 1994, which resulted in $300 million in investments, created almost 3,900 jobs and reduced poverty and unemployment by more than 30-percent during the 10-year period of its existence
- Invested more than $650,000 in 97 small farmers in partnership with the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund throughout the SOAR region
In 2017 alone, companies in which Kentucky Highlands has invested:
- Produced goods and services valued at $405 million
- Paid more than $92.8 million in salaries and wages
“Kentucky Highlands has served as an anchor of hope for the people of southern and eastern Kentucky for a half century,” Congressman Hal Rogers said. “I commend this organization for providing job security in our rural region, vital seed funding for new business owners who have launched their dream companies right here at home, and energy-efficient housing for people who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay their utility bills and mortgage payments. Kentucky Highlands has helped transform this region by improving the quality of life for countless families and shaping a brighter future for the next generation.”
Three business owners who have worked with Kentucky Highlands for many years also discussed how the organization has helped them maintain and increase jobs in the region
Bill Deaton, owner of Senture, which employs 2,500 people and provides 24-hour inbound and outbound contact center support and help desk to clients in the federal, state and commercial sectors, said “Kentucky Highlands has been the greatest supporter of this company as long as I can remember. We’ve borrowed a little over $8 million over the years to help this company grow. I didn’t have $8 million. They did, and it’s reaped a ton of benefits. They’re trying to support the region, and that is the greatest thing that any lender can do. If I had to pick one reason that we’ve been successful, it would be Kentucky Highlands.”
J.C. Egnew, chairman and president of Outdoor Venture Corporation, which employs 229 people and was the first manufacturing plant ever to locate in McCreary County and has worked with KHIC since the company began more than 40 years ago, said “It was probably the most important strategic decision we’ve made in our business is locating here. Kentucky Highlands has been a solid partner. We’ve been through some good times and through some tough times. They never ran from us. We’ve always worked together and worked through it. As long as there’s a will, and you’re doing the right things, it will work out. When they knew we had to make a change, they were with us.”
Jeff Choate, former district judge and founder of Foothills Academy, which provides a safe living and learning environment for 84 boys and 48 girls who have come in contact with the court system, said “If it hadn’t been for Kentucky Highlands, we wouldn’t exist today. They’ve helped us with various funding agencies and a business plan. They’ve been a very big part of making this happen.”