FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear last week took another step in growing Kentucky’s startup ecosystem, announcing KY Innovation – the commonwealth’s office for entrepreneurial and small business support – has authorized an additional $2.6 million in funding to six public-private partnerships focusing on key regions throughout the state.
Known as the Regional Innovation for Startups and Entrepreneurs (RISE) program, the six partnerships are entrepreneur-led organizations dedicated to serve all of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Through a public-bid process, KY Innovation established the partnership offices in Pikeville, Covington, Paducah, Lexington, Bowling Green and Louisville.
Through RISE and other efforts by KY Innovation within the Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky leaders look to develop the commonwealth’s reputation and role as a key destination for entrepreneurs seeking to grow or scale a business.
“There is no more important a time than now for the state to reinvest in resources that help our entrepreneurs, innovators, small businesses and startups,” Beshear said. “We know these people and their businesses represent a critical part of Kentucky’s economic backbone. Through KY Innovation, RISE and an abundance of partners, we aim to ensure they grow, create jobs and become successful beacons in their communities, across the state and beyond.”
For the benefit of entrepreneurs, RISE uses a regional strategy to unite each area’s most powerful economic drivers, prioritize commercialization and promote rapid scaling.
“KY Innovation’s mission is to enable a sustainable, active and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout the commonwealth that is designed to identify, develop, retain and attract talented entrepreneurs utilizing a #teamkentucky approach that focuses on inclusivity, connectivity, positivity and a give-before-you-get culture,” said Anthony Ellis, acting executive director of KY Innovation. “By putting entrepreneurs first, these public-private partnerships will provide them with key resources from partners, including colleges and universities, investors, mentors, business leaders, local governments, service providers and the greater entrepreneurial community,”
The RISE locations are:
Bowling Green – CRICC
“The Central Region Innovation and Commercialization Center (CRICC) in Bowling Green is excited to be added to the statewide RISE program. We look forward to collaborating with Western Kentucky University, partners and stakeholders everywhere to enhance our region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in direct support of the creation, recruitment, growth and retention of companies with new opportunities and excellent jobs,” said Jeff Hook, CRICC executive director and director of WKU’s Center for Research & Development and Small Business Accelerator.
Pikeville – SOAR
“We are excited to partner with the Cabinet for Economic Development and KY Innovation to provide services to entrepreneurs in 40 counties in Appalachia Kentucky,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region Inc. (SOAR).
“Our efforts specifically focus on tech-enabled small businesses and entrepreneurs and startups whose ideas leverage technology to reach customers beyond where an idea or business is planted. In Appalachia Kentucky, we are uniquely positioned and connected to be active participants in the digital economy, and we believe that creating a culture of entrepreneurship within this space plays an important role in the future we are shaping throughout our region. We are grateful to Governor Beshear and his administration for their support of our efforts.”
Lexington – Awesome Inc.
“On behalf of the Lexington region, I’m excited about the administration’s investment in entrepreneurship and technology. I often say our dream is to see Kentucky as excited about startups as they are about basketball and horses. To that end, I’m thankful for the Lexington team of advocates, including KY Innovation and a vast team of partners, stakeholders and participants. RISE support allows our region to bolster existing programs and launch new ones so that we can make Lexington a home for innovative companies,” said Brian Raney, co-founder and CEO of Awesome Inc. in Lexington.
Paducah – GroWEST KY
“We are extremely excited to be working with KY Innovation and the Cabinet for Economic Development in supporting our GroWEST KY – through Sprocket Inc. – entrepreneurial ecosystem building in West Kentucky. Together with our partners around the commonwealth we look forward to great new companies being launched to make our commonwealth the place to start and grow game-changing companies!” said Ray Hagerman, GroWEST chairman and president of the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corp.
Covington – Blue North
“To be awarded a RISE grant three consecutive times demonstrates the impact we are having in the region,” said Blue North Executive Director Brit Fitzpatrick. “This funding will build on the momentum we’ve already established in strengthening and providing support for the Northern Kentucky entrepreneur ecosystem, especially in this time of uncertainty. The RISE grant is key to our long-term organizational development for sustainability and continued service to startups and small businesses alike.”
Louisville – Amplify
“We’re excited to continue supercharging the entrepreneurial spark in the greater Louisville region,” said Larry Horn, Amplify executive director. “Our founder-first mindset and initiatives are designed to not only support our local entrepreneurs and small businesses, but will serve to validate the importance of small businesses and entrepreneurs in our economy.”
KY Innovation and the Cabinet for Economic Development rely in large part on partners throughout the Commonwealth and support from the Kentucky General Assembly to continue building the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Sen. Mike Wilson, of Bowling Green, welcomed the RISE announcements.
“The statewide nature of RISE brings key resources to entrepreneurs and innovative small businesses regardless of their location,” Sen. Wilson said. “In a state as diverse as ours, this commitment is both an important factor for success and an opportunity for a wide range of innovators and startups to move ahead in creating the businesses that will enliven and sustain our communities and state for years to come.”
Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, is the chair of the House Standing Committee on Appropriations and Revenue.
“With these six RISE locations, Kentucky is investing in partnerships that bring to the table our most knowledgeable, experienced and connected people and resources in the entrepreneurial system,” Rep. Rudy said. “In short, this signals Kentucky takes seriously its imperative to build, support and attract innovative startups. I applaud this step forward and anticipate a new level of entrepreneurial success statewide in the future.”