Program promotes and recognizes individuals who exemplify entrepreneurial spirit
SOMERSET, Ky. (Sept. 8, 2014) — Entrepreneurs who’ve launched Southeast Kentucky’s first residential cleaning service, an affordable housing subdivision for low-income residents, an environmental regulatory compliance consultant who expertise on endangered bats, and a coal-themed pizza restaurant each earned Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards today for their industriousness, vision and perseverance.
Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson announced this year’s EIEA winners at a luncheon held at The Center for Rural Development, a sponsor of the awards along with EKU, Southeast Kentucky Economic Development, and Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp.
Winners and finalists were recognized in four 2014 EIEA categories:
• Young entrepreneur: Shane Hamilton, owner, Service Maids Inc., a professional residential cleaning service based in Garrett, Ky. Hamilton started the business at age 19 from money he saved from selling items at flea markets and festivals and from rebuilding dirt bikes.
Other finalists were Robert Hicks, managing director, Indiview Media LLC, Somerset; and Jordan Meece, owner Aqua 41, Liberty, Ky.
• Start-Up Business: Greg Drury, owner, Harlan’s Coal Fired Pizza (dba The Portal), a nostalgic, vintage-themed restaurant in Harlan, Ky. The first time restaurateur was looking for a new business venture in 2012 when he decided to open The Portal in downtown Harlan paying tribute to the rich local coal production heritage.
Other finalists were Ronald and Caira Aldridge, owners, In-Range Archery, Richmond, Ky.; and Brian McElroy, owner, Russell County Farm Store LLC, Russell Springs, Ky.
• For Profit Small Business: Mark Gumbert, CEO/Principal Biologist, Copperhead Environmental Consulting Inc., a consulting firm specializing in environmental regulatory compliance and ecological inventories based in Paint Lick, Ky. The Garrard County firm is on the cutting edge of endangered bat research and is the only known company to successfully track complete migration movements of bats by plane.
Other finalists were Brok Ping, real estate developer, Stonebrook Development, Somerset; and Kelly Upchurch, president and CEO, American Health Management Inc., Richmond.
• Not-For-Profit Entity: Cassie Hudson, executive director, Partnership Housing Inc., Booneville, Ky. The Owsley County nonprofit assists low-income families and individuals in purchasing, building or repairing homes utilizing funds from various financial institutions and lenders.
Other finalists were Adrienne Bush, executive director, Hazard-Perry County Community Ministries, Hazard, Ky.; and Thomas Manning-Beavin, president, Southern Tier Housing Cooperation, London, Ky.
Benson said since moving to Kentucky more than a year ago to take the helm of EKU he has been impressed with the character of the region’s residents who, as Alex de Tocqueville noted in his famed book about early America, are “good people” who want to accomplish things and help others.
Speaking to an audience of more than 150,Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center for Rural Development, said entrepreneurship is more important than ever for the region as the coal mining industry continues to shed its well paying jobs.
The EIEA program promotes and recognizes individuals who exemplify entrepreneurial spirit by creating and managing successful business ventures or non-profit organizations in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.
“The ingenuity and drive of our local business owners have resulted in good jobs, successful operations, and greater opportunities for the people of Southern and Eastern Kentucky, and I commend all of this years award winners and finalists,” said U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, Ky-5th District, a longtime supporter of the EIEA program. “Out region is more poinsed than ever before for growth and diversity. The SOAR initiative has prompted healthy discussion across county lines about business recruitment and development to help shape our future, and it’s our entrepreneurs who are leading the way.”