April 28, 2004 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Thanks to a $1.28 million grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, 19 counties in northeastern Kentucky soon will benefit from a University of Kentucky College of Agriculture program designed to spur entrepreneurship as a means of boosting economic growth in the region.

These 19 counties are considered tobacco-dependent and need an atmosphere that fosters creativity as farmers and others in the community strive to find supplemental income and new business opportunities.

“The Kentucky Coaching and Leadership Institute is designed to stimulate entrepreneurship in19 tobacco-dependent counties of northeastern Kentucky,” said Ron Hustedde, Extension professor for the UK College of Agriculture’s department of community and leadership development. “We are in a process of recruiting nominees for the leadership institute. We’re calling them coaches, but they could also be called entrepreneurship advocates. They could be bankers, accountants, Extension agents, pastors, and teachers - anyone who feels connected to the community and really wants to see something happen. The coaches will be people who believe in their community and its dreams.”

Hustedde said they want to create a climate where dreams about starting a new business or expanding existing businesses can come to fruition.

Thirty candidates will be chosen by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board to attend nine seminars over a 16-month period. Between each seminar, coaches will have homework to complete in the region. They will be taught how to identify and understand the assets and weaknesses of their county’s economy and its relation to the global economy. 

They will learn how to expand creativity and imagination of businesses and civic leaders. They also will learn how to network with regional, state, national and international players to help local entrepreneurs find financing, marketing, promotional and other resources. Perhaps the most important thing they will gain from the seminars is how to build a local culture that supports entrepreneurs.

The leadership institute is the second phase of a broader entrepreneurship focus.

“This is the second phase of the project really,” said Eric Scorsone, rural economic development specialist in UK’s department of agricultural economics. “The first year was spent researching the region and finding out how much entrepreneurship is already out there. We found the region has a below-average entrepreneurship level. There are some significant barriers and we’re hoping that this program will help overcome some of them.”

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. believes UK should be doing more for the economic development of Kentucky’s rural, tobacco-dependant counties.

“UK should be helping the state meet the challenges that we face,” Todd said. “The people of Kentucky have looked to the university for education, for entertainment through the sports programs, and for employment. But they haven’t really looked to us to drive the economy. I think those in agriculture have seen us more as a flare in that environment that some others have, but I do believe it’s an area we have to push. I believe that our land grant mission is something that we have to feel very deeply. We have to get out there and get our hands dirty and do research that will make a difference in the lives of people.”

Candidates chosen for the Kentucky Coaching and Leadership Institute will receive a fellowship valued at about $18,000 to cover seminar and international travel expenses. 

“There is an international component to the institute in either rural Scotland or rural, eastern Canada because there has been so much work in entrepreneurship in those areas,” Hustedde said. “We want the Fellows to better understand global markets and that’s why it’s also important for them to travel outside the U.S. By the time they graduate, they’ll have at least one entrepreneur by their side and a representative from a community group that has been helped by the coach.”

Candidate application forms are due by June 1. The final selection of candidates will be made by July 15 and the first seminar begins in September 2004. Nomination forms are available on the Web at http://www.uky.edu/Ag/KECI. To find out more about the program, contact Hustedde at (859) 257-3186 or e-mail rhusted@uky.edu.


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Ron Hustedde 859-257-5961