Alltech announced a job-creation competition Tuesday for business students at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and University of Pikeville, with a $20,000 prize for the winning school.
Pearse Lyons, president and founder of the Nicholasville-based animal nutrition company, said the business plan competition is focused on fostering innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development in nine Eastern Kentucky counties: Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin and Pike.
"It's time to balance the scales and cultivate a Kentucky that leads the nation not just in college sports but in employment as well," Lyons said, noting that many of the targeted counties have unemployment rates twice the national average.
"With its hardworking people, vibrant culture, picturesque landscape and abundance of natural resources, Kentucky is ripe for the right idea," Lyons said. "What we need is innovation and inspiration — sparks that will kindle the economic flame."
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Lyons announced the competition during a free seminar on entrepreneurship in the state that he and veteran Kentucky entrepreneur Jim Host put on at Lexington Center. It attracted a capacity crowd of more than 400 people, including many Central Kentucky business leaders.
The seminar was held in conjunction with Alltech's 28th annual International Symposium, which each spring brings a couple thousand of the company's customers here from all over the world.
Officials at each university will choose a competition team from among students pursuing a master's in business administration and some undergraduates. The competition will run from November through January 2013, when students will present their final plans to a panel of business leaders, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.
The winning plan will be the one that best fosters economic development in the nine-county region and appeals to investors interested in funding it. The winning team will receive $20,000 from Alltech for their university's business school.