Four inducted into state entrepreneur hall of fame

Rick Corman stood next to a line of locomotives next to the US 27 bypass in Nicholasville in April 2004.
Rick Corman stood next to a line of locomotives next to the US 27 bypass in Nicholasville in April 2004. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Four state businessmen were inducted into the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame on Wednesday in Louisville. The 2013 class is George Fischer, Carol Martin "Bill" Gatton, Billy Harper and the late R.J. Corman.

The hall of fame, established in 2010, celebrates the state's most successful entrepreneurs to raise awareness of entrepreneurship and its impact in Kentucky and to encourage others to pursue similar ambitious endeavors.

Fischer founded the MetriData Co., a leader in proprietary education, in the 1970s. He and his sons launched Servend International Inc., which became a top manufacturer of ice and beverage dispensing systems. He served on Gov. John Y. Brown Jr.'s executive cabinet and is a former chairman of the University of Louisville board of trustees and Junior Achievement.

Corman started a backhoe business in the 1970s and eventually turned it into his eponymous Nicholasville-based railroad and construction company. It now employs 1,200 people in 24 states. He died in August at age 58.

Harper, founder of Harper Industries, has more than 40 years of executive leadership experience in construction. He has served on many boards, including the Governor's Scholars Program, and has been chairman of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Gatton worked for a trust company in Lexington until he started a successful car dealership in Owensboro in 1959. In 1975, he and four friends bought the Owensboro National Bank and formed a holding company, which grew from a single bank to 17 banks with $3 billion in assets by the time it was sold to BB&T in 2001. He founded the Bill Gatton Foundation in 1985, which supports the University of Kentucky Gatton College of Business and Economics and the Gatton Academy of Math and Science at Western Kentucky University.