Lexington startups flourishing

February 11, 2013 

  • At issue: Jan. 27 editorial, "Best way for Lexington to create jobs? Grow them from small businesses"

I want to thank the Herald-Leader for its insightful editorial urging the administration of Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, Commerce Lexington and other community economic development leaders "to work hard on both nurturing small business and finding ways to measure their success."

We are in total agreement with the paper's position that "while attracting jobs is critical ... growing jobs locally has the potential for even greater long-term return to the community."

To that end, Commerce Lexington Inc., LFUCG and the University of Kentucky formed the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership in 2007. The BBDP is an internationally recognized one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and small business owners receive much-needed assistance, nurturing and encouragement from BBDP partners.

These partners include Commerce Lexington Inc., UK's Innovation and Commercialization Center, (part of the statewide Innovation Network sponsored by the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet), UK's Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, the Bluegrass Small Business Development Center and LFUCG, which provides annual financial support and leadership. Each BBDP partner plays a key role in supporting Lexington entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The BBDP works daily with university and community entrepreneurs and Lexington small businesses in vetting new ideas/products/services and in preparing business plans and strategy. It also works diligently to identify the appropriate financial resources to support these early-stage companies, as well as assists these companies in pursuing resources from federal, state and private sources, such as:

■ Small Business Administration (loan and federal SBIR/STTR grant programs).

■ Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet (state SBIR/STTR matching and small business loan programs and other incentives).

■ Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (Kentucky Enterprise Fund's grant/investments programs).

■ Private sources such as the Bluegrass Angels and other regional seed and angel investment funds.

The BBDP also financially sponsors and works with other great organizations and initiatives that are part of the growing entrepreneurial landscape in the Bluegrass. Examples include the Lexington Venture Club, In2Lex, Start-Up Advantage, RunJumpDev and Awesome Inc.

The BBDP also organizes and sponsors events that include workshops and activities aimed at educating, nurturing and encouraging entrepreneurs and small businesses, such as Geeks Night Out, the 5Across Pitch Competition, the Venture Challenge, Awesome Inc.'s Accelerator Program, Lexington Start-Up Weekend, Game Jam and MobileX conference.

It should be noted that both examples of entrepreneurial companies cited in the editorial, Crowded and TerraCast Technologies, have participated in some of these initiatives and/or benefited from the assistance of the BBDP partners, resulting in early funding and other support for these companies.

Another great example of small business support came in November, when the UK ICC and Bluegrass SBDC organized and produced Lexington's second annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, which saw more than 400 participants attending events and workshops focused on entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses. It should be noted that GEW kicked off with the announcement of the relocation of five startups to Lexington from Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Illinois.

The decision of each of these companies to relocate to Lexington was due to the strength of Lexington's entrepreneurial community, potential collaboration with UK researchers, and essential local and state incentives that support early-stage companies.

One measure of the success of the BBDP's efforts is demonstrated in the results of the Lexington Venture Club's annual survey of startups and early-stage companies. Based on the self-reported results, it is very clear that homegrown entrepreneurs and business are growing and flourishing.

Yes, these ventures have many challenges (and opportunities) ahead of them, but rest assured that the BBDP will continue its efforts to support local entrepreneurs and small businesses.

I applaud the editorial board's recent focus on local entrepreneurs in terms of encouraging local job growth. We ask that the paper continue by increasing its coverage of such issues, which in turn also nurtures and recognizes the success of the entire entrepreneurial community.


At issue: Jan. 27 editorial, "Best way for Lexington to create jobs? Grow them from small businesses"

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