CKY Market Review: Partnership helps companies of all sizes connect to Lexington’s resources

STARTUP SUCCESS FlyWire Cameras CEO Jacob Isaac-Lowry, above, pitched his company in 2018 at TechStars Demo Day in Denver. FlyWire, a Lexington startup, offers innovative video monitoring solutions to document the impact and sustainability of commercial fisheries throughout the world. (Commerce Lexington)

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 for assisting businesses. They work with companies of all sizes, from small startups to Fortune 500 corporations, connecting them to the resources available to them throughout the city and state.

Commerce 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, represented by the mayor’s office, provides seamless connections to businesses needing information and services from local government. 

Two of the UK partners are the Bluegrass Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC). 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 OTC helps startup entrepreneurs with goals ranging from ideation to establishing product-market fit, and securing intellectual property and funding.

One BBDP success story is FlyWire Cameras, a Lexington startup that is enabling fisheries worldwide to operate sustainably using cost-effective, verifiable data that is collected with its patented technology solutions. 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 evaluation process, each BBDP partner played an integral role in assisting this budding startup.

Commerce Lexington’s economic development team assisted with their site selection process for their new location as they relocated from Hawaii. They assisted FlyWire in applying for the Lexington Jobs Fund, a local incentive program, that enabled the company to make the move to Lexington. In 2018, as the company continued to grow, Commerce Lexington assisted them in finding real estate for their growth.

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 University of Kentucky, FlyWire has received coaching, support with both Small Business Administration Research and investment-based fundraising opportunities, and the company has exhibited at several local startup events.

The BBDP provides consistent service to clients, knowing when a company should receive assistance from another partner. Beyond assisting individual companies, the BBDP organizes and sponsors entrepreneurial initiatives
such as SPARK networking meetups,
5 Across pitch competitions, the Awesome Fellowship and Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).

Lexington’s GEW was a part of a worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators. As a prelude to GEW, the BBDP showed the impact of the entrepreneurial community on the regional economy by announcing over 100 local companies raised more than $107.5 million in capital funds and created 287 new jobs in fiscal year 2018. The 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Week will be held Nov. 18-24.

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