I have the coolest job in East Kentucky: as the head of the local Kentucky Innovation Network office, located at Morehead State University, I get paid to help the most innovative entrepreneurs in Appalachia.
Consider my schedule over the past week:
Monday: I began my week with SOAR- Shaping Our Appalachia Region. I’ve been asked to head one of our working groups- Leadership and Youth Development. Monday I sat in a room as I heard the Governor of Kentucky and the Congressman who sits atop the U.S. House Appropriations Committee talk about a better future for East Kentucky. I watched them name an executive committee that included some of the most talented folks in our region. Digging out of the hole that poverty created and the war on coal exacerbated will be hard work for East Kentucky, but could you really ask for a better team of movers and shakers to back you up??
Tuesday, I drove to Louisville to be a part of Moonshine University! I was part of a group of East Kentucky folk who hailed from Floyd, Martin, Lawrence, Pike, Morgan, Wolfe and beyond; all of whom came to Louisville to learn about (legally!) making and selling moonshine. Most of the folks in attendance were folks I recruited to be a part of that class. I’m confident a few will eventually open a distillery.
On Wednesday I had the privilege of going to a local school and talking entrepreneurship to a group of eager young students. I stressed to them that they should be less concerned with “getting a good job” and more focused on “making jobs”. They got it!
Thursday, I drove to Frankfort where I spoke in front of the state’s economic development board (The Chair of that board is a Pike County businesswoman named Hale). I got to close the deal on a very lengthy, team effort (led by a Floyd County boy named Travers) and receive funding for a business incubator in Morehead. The primary businesses we’ll be going after: Designers of orbital satellites, including the inventor of the so called “cube sat”, a technology that’s taking the space community by storm. These folks are already teaching or taking classes at Morehead State University. Several are from East Kentucky. Our goal is to get them to be more entrepreneurial.
Friday, I visited a drug recovery center in Jackson County managed by an entrepreneur from Inez. That place was scheduled to close this time last year; my client salvaged it, thanks in part to some contacts we helped him make.
Saturday, I was part of the entrepreneur academy that launched at Alice Lloyd College. It’s aimed at giving young professionals more entrepreneurial skills.
By positioning ourselves at the crucible of entrepreneurial activity in the region and making judicious assists where we can, the network is making a difference. Now, we just need more of it. If you’d like to learn more, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johnathan Gay is the Director of the Kentucky Innovation Network office at Morehead State University.