More than 25,000 jobs created or maintained; $423 million in direct financing

 SOMERSET –Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset on Monday, October 22, 2018.

Kentucky Highlands, formed during the War on Poverty in 1968 to stimulate job creation and economic investment, has helped create or maintain more than 25,000 jobs in Southeastern and Southern Kentucky.

It is now one of the largest small business development investors in rural America.

“Entrepreneurs in the region now have unprecedented and unparalleled access capital and technical assistance,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands. “KHIC, along with its housing developer, Highlands Housing, is focused on creating energy-efficient housing, which not only makes homes more affordable and safer for families, it improves the environment and provides high-skill jobs for the region.”

In the last 50 years, KHIC has:

  • Helped create or maintain more than 25,000 jobs;
  • Assisted more than 811 businesseswith close to $423 million in financing;
  • Given business owners and budding entrepreneurs unprecedented access to financing through its most recent designations as a Small Business Administration Community Advantage Lender, a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Lender, a Community Facilities Lender, and through the CDFI Bond Fund and Capital Magnet Fund;
  • Received private funds to increase the amount of investment it provides to small businesses and community facilities from JP Morgan Chase Pro Neighborhoods, the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Program, Bank of America, and Mary Reynolds Babcock and PNC Foundations;
  • Provided access to technical assistance through the Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center;
  • Obtained the first rural Promise Zone designations with 92 partner organizations, which have received more than $542 million in funding in the first 5 years of designation;
  • Obtained one of only three rural federal Empowerment Zones in the nation in 1994, which resulted in $300 million in investments, created almost 3,900 jobs and reduced poverty and unemployment by more than 30-percent during the 10-year period of its existence;
  • Invested more than $650,000 in 97 small farmers in partnership with the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund throughout the SOAR region;
  • In 2017 alone, companies in which Kentucky Highlands has invested:

o   Produced goods and services valued at $405 million; and

o   Paid more than $92.8 million in salaries and wages.

“Kentucky Highlands has served as an anchor of hope for the people of southern and eastern Kentucky for a half century,” Congressman Hal Rogers said. “I commend this organization for providing job security in our rural region, vital seed funding for new business owners who have launched their dream companies right here at home, and energy-efficient housing for people who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay their utility bills and mortgage payments. Kentucky Highlands has helped transform this region by improving the quality of life for countless families and shaping a brighter future for the next generation.”

Three business owners who have worked with Kentucky Highlands for many years also discussed how the organization has helped them maintain and increase jobs in the region:

Bill Deaton, owner of Senture, which employs 2,500 people and provides 24-hour inbound and outbound contact center support and help desk to clients in the federal, state and commercial sectors: “Kentucky Highlands has been the greatest supporter of this company as long as I can remember. We’ve borrowed a little over $8 million over the years to help this company grow. I didn’t have $8 million. They did, and it’s reaped a ton of benefits. They’re trying to support the region, and that is the greatest thing that any lender can do. If I had to pick one reason that we’ve been successful, it would be Kentucky Highlands.”

J.C. Egnew, chairman and president of Outdoor Venture Corporation, which employs 229 people and was the first manufacturing plant ever to locate in McCreary County and has worked with KHIC since the company began more than 40 years ago said: “It was probably the most important strategic decision we’ve made in our business is locating here. Kentucky Highlands has been a solid partner. We’ve been through some good times and through some tough times. They never ran from us. We’ve always worked together and worked through it. As long as there’s a will, and you’re doing the right things, it will work out. When they knew we had to make a change, they were with us.”

Jeff Choate, former district judge and founder of Foothills Academy, which provides a safe living and learning environment for 84 boys and 48 girls who have come in contact with the court system, said: “If it hadn’t been for Kentucky Highlands, we wouldn’t exist today. They’ve helped us with various funding agencies and a business plan. They’ve been a very big part of making this happen.”

(Photo: President & CEO Jerry Rickett and Chairman of the Board Bill Singleton are presented award celebrating KHIC’s 50th Anniversary by Congressman Hal Rogers)

After an in-depth field study, landscape design students from the University of Kentucky discussed their analysis of downtown Manchester, Kentucky in a recent meeting. Their study included recommendations for building restoration, traffic flows, parking and community gathering locations. Downtown revitalization has been shown to spark renewed interest in civic engagement, promote small businesses and improve the quality of life for citizens.

Their work was made possible by an ARC Power grant obtained by CEDIK as the lead entity.

For more information on the project, visit:

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation has long been a champion for small businesses and entrepreneurship throughout eastern Kentucky. In support of those efforts, Kentucky Highlands recently worked with the South Central Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to locate an office in the Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center.

Kevin Norvell, South Central SBDC director spoke to the benefits this location can bring to area businesses, “Being located in the Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center in London is a wonderful opportunity for the South Central SBDC and the clients we serve. We are very excited about the potential to collaborate with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation to serve entrepreneurs and existing businesses throughout the region.”
Mr. Norvell describes the services his office can provide, “The South Central SBDC provides consulting and training services that help existing business owners and potential entrepreneurs succeed. Our services include: one-on-one management consultations, training workshops, market research, loan packaging help, assistance with financial projections and information needed to make informed business decisions.”
For more information on the South Central SBDC or to schedule a meeting with them, visit

Technology allows Kentuckians to showcase their products to the world and brings the world marketplace to Kentucky products – if they have high-speed Internet access.

Creating a homegrown entrepreneurial culture can’t exist without it. That’s why the British government has declared that its citizens and businesses will have a legal right to high-speed broadband by 2020.
And that’s why the Letcher County Broadband Board is focused on overcoming barriers to achieve that essential service for its citizens. Their efforts already have garnered national interest from media organizations such as NPR and Vice News.

Currently, a large part of the county does not have that access, which means people must drive to the McDonald’s in Whitesburg to complete basic tasks such as playing a video or downloading photos.
“We wanted to bring a much-needed utility to people,” said Harry Collins, a teacher and executive director of the broadband board. “It’s just as important as a water or sewer connection. We also believe it is the answer to the economic doldrums our region has been experiencing with fewer coal jobs.”
Collins cited examples such as the hundreds of jobs provided through Kentucky Teleworks as well as home-based businesses selling arts and crafts through websites such as Etsy.
After much research about how to bring that broadband to the home, the board realized the expense would be too great to run fiber to every home. But it would not be dissuaded from its goal.
The board is going to issue an RFP to develop an alternative to installing fiber at $65,000 per mile. For one-tenth of the cost, it hopes to create a fixed wireless transmitter solution without running lines.
In the meantime, a local cable provider ran 25 mg service to the Campbell’s Branch/Linefork Community Center in Hallie. The site, which was an abandoned school, still had old networking capabilities in place.

The board conducted a survey and discovered that citizens needed education about the possibilities of what the Internet could do for them. This site and some assistance from Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation is helping Letcher County prepare for that future.
Through a grant project with financing from the Small Business Administration and USDA, Kentucky Highlands is creating something called K-hubs throughout the region, including one in Letcher County.
These gathering spots have high-quality equipment for videoconferencing and training.
K-hubs use information technology to increase collaboration, increase the number of recipients of technical assistance and reduce the isolation that rural entrepreneurs often experience.

In Letcher County, about 100 participants have learned about the “Internet of Things” and other tools to help them run their own business. Collins expects interest to increase even more when they get closer to achieving high-speed Internet.

“Instead of dial-up service, people will have access to high-speed service in their home,” Collins said. “It opens that home up – and that person – to make economic strides by connecting to the world.”

Collins also is one of several hundred eChampions in the Kentucky Highlands service area. The eChampions initiative provides training and information about resources that enable them to work with entrepreneurs in their own communities, offering them advice and connecting them with organizations that provide technical assistance to existing businesses and people that want to start businesses. It is funded through a USDA Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant. The Kentucky Innovation Network offices in London and Pikeville have also provided technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Campbell’s Branch/Linefork community and other parts of Letcher County.

For many counties in the region, out-migration is a problem. Owsley County is hoping that nurturing local entrepreneurs will not only create more businesses, it will create more employment and people will come back to the county.

That’s where initiatives like the Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities (E2C) come in. People want to start businesses but need direction and resources to get started as well as assistance to keep from getting discouraged once they are up and running.

As part of the E2C program, the Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center (KHIC Center) participated in a roundtable/workshop meeting in Booneville last month along with the Owsley County E2C Committee, the Owsley County Action Team and the Kentucky Innovation Network Richmond Office.

The meeting was organized by Glenn Baker, community education director, Owsley County Community Education, with full support from the Owsley County Action Team.
“The workshop was fantastic,” Baker said. “The visiting technical assistance providers were able meet individually with each of three local enterprises and share with them specific information they need to succeed as well as offer immediate feedback regarding each business owner’s ideas about how best to move their small business forward.”
The Owsley County entrepreneurs ranged from the co-owners of a bed and breakfast, the owner of a monogrammed apparel company who would like to expand online, and two social entrepreneurs from a Booneville community-based organization that has a black-box theater and is interested in purchasing the old theater to show movies and stage productions.

Melissa Conn, director of the KHIC Center, which is the London office of the Kentucky Innovation Network, spoke to the entrepreneurs. She is a certified facilitator of the Ice House entrepreneurial training program and brought copies of the book, Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur, for all of the meeting participants as well as several students. Those students are participating in the Kentucky Lieutenant Governor’s Entrepreneurship Challenge, an annual competition for high-schoolers.

Other speakers were Zachary Stanifer, a KHIC loan officer; Kristel Smith, director of the Kentucky Innovation Network’s Richmond office; and Robert Donnan, who is the Kentucky Coordinator working on the seven-county Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities. The larger initiative is hosted by the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, working in a special partnership with The Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College.

“Repeatedly throughout the meeting, these entrepreneurs said they wanted to stay in Owsley County because of a love for the community,” Conn said. “I believe that in some of the smallest communities we serve, we find the biggest pockets of hope.”

CrossFit HardCharger – located on Dormitory Street in London, KY – is a personal fitness center that offers personal training and nutritional services to their members. The gym is owned and operated by Jacob Floyd, a Laurel County resident.

Born and raised in London, Kentucky, Jacob Floyd played football at North Laurel High School as well as University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky. He left college to serve in the Marine Corps Infantry from 2005 to 2009. Jacob deployed to Iraq twice during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After completing his four years in the Marine Corps, Jacob was discharged honorably and attended Western Kentucky University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Biology. While living in Bowling Green, Jacob discovered CrossFit and the amazing community it offers its members, and began dreaming of starting his own CrossFit business. That dream became a reality when he opened CrossFit HardCharger in London last year.

CrossFit HardCharger’s mission is to create a positive influence in its community and help its members live life to the fullest and never quit. When members join CrossFit Hardcharger, they become part of a community that trains together, pushing each other to achieve goals, and celebrates everyone’s accomplishments. The training is suitable for anyone looking to improve their health, regardless of their size or fitness level. CrossFit Level 1 coaches guide each member through every workout, ensuring safe and proper movements to prevent injury.

The Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center in London helped Jacob with his business plan and financial projections, and helped him apply for financing from Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.

Over the decades, there have been countless conferences and meetings focused on bringing more jobs to the Appalachian region of Kentucky. This past fall, the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone and SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) decided to take a new approach: If faith can move mountains, then why can’t it create jobs?

That question led to the organization of a faith-based economic development summit, “Jobs Wanted: Faithful Investing in Appalachia’s People.”

More than 200 people attended the conference in Hazard to find out how faith-based organizations can connect with entrepreneurs, financial institutions and job seekers to make a difference in Eastern Kentucky.

“They have a heart for it,” said Sandi Curd, program coordinator for the Promise Zone. “They’re already serving the population with the most needs. Many of our best leaders are in these organizations. We want to expand their work in for example food pantries to empowerment building like growing food to sustainable like selling surplus food at the farmers market.”

One organization that led a panel discussion at the summit has already figured out how to turn ministry into job creation is Meridzo Center, which is a client of the Kentucky Innovation Network London office.

Meridzo shared its successes, including how it expanded its ministries to include a development corporation focused on creating jobs. Not only does Meridzo have several sites for religious retreats, it has a coffee shop, fitness center and has expanded into mushroom growing and dulcimer making.

“This summit was greatly needed,” said Lonnie Riley, the pastor who is the executive director for Meridzo Center and also serves on the Promise Zone Board of Directors. “It raised awareness of how all segments of society can work together. We are sometimes overlooked because of our religious affiliation, but we are supplying jobs and attracting visitors to the region, which puts new dollars directly into the community.”

Together, the four organizations represented at the convening have created more than a hundred jobs and attract thousands of visitors each year through attractions like Meridzo’s retreat centers, the Laurel County African American Heritage Center and various area settlement schools.

“The summit provided another opportunity to break down silos in eastern Kentucky,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “One group who knows what to do but doesn’t have the network to accomplish it; and the other who has the network but is not always informed on how they can help. This was a great step in the right direction in understanding that there is a very human, spiritual side to the work that we do in Appalachia Kentucky.”

LONDON, KY – Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation today announced the expansion of its partnership with the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund and Grow Appalachia for the SOAR Small Production Loan Fund.

A new $200,000 grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund will provide $175,000 to KHIC to recapitalize the loan fund and $25,000 for Grow Appalachia to provide technical assistance.

The loan fund, which helps small producers grow nutritional foods so they can move into commercial production, was initially established in 2015 through a $200,000 grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund.

Original estimates projected that it would take two years to fully invest the original $200,000. However, demand was so great and the proposals from farmers in the SOAR region were so strong that all the funds were loaned in eight months.

“The Kentucky Highlands loan program continues to have a positive and lasting impact on the growth and development of eastern Kentucky,” said Warren Beeler, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. “This loan program is a sustainable source of financing that will directly benefit local producers for years to come. The members of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board are proud to partner with such an innovative organization like Kentucky Highlands to support the expanded growth and diversification of eastern Kentucky agriculture.”

There have been 24 loans in 18 counties to date with the average loan amount of $7,234. Recipients range in age from 26 to 67.

“The loan was critical to the start-up of our business,” said Benny Brown, founder of Paq-Mule Innovations, LLC in Clinton County. “We used the funds to develop prototypes and apply for patents on the equipment we developed. We now have started a manufacturing company that is producing products to improve safety and sanitation for Kentucky poultry farmers.”

Loans have helped farmers grow organic produce and herbs for market; establish farm-to-table dinners; construct high tunnel greenhouses; develop prototype equipment for the poultry industry, and generally increase the size and scope of their operations.

“The loan fund not only provides favorable loan terms for growers but also uses the repayment of the initial loans to sustain the program for other growers,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of KHIC. “Thanks to the support from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund board, we are building a sustainable loan fund that will support and educate growers to develop a strong local food system in the 54-county SOAR region.”

Grow Appalachia helps participants with their specific goals and needs as gardeners and food producers, including help for growers to market their products.


“Grow Appalachia at Berea College is proud to be a continuing partner with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund in the SOAR Small Production Loan Fund,” said David Cooke, director of Grow Appalachia. “By providing low-cost loans and solid technical advice, we are helping secure the future of Kentucky’s small farmers.”

Here’s how the loan fund works:

  • Almost all food-related producers, such as fruit and vegetable growers, beekeepers, gardeners of herbs and even farm markets, are eligible to participate in the program.
  • The maximum loan is $7,500 with a fixed interest rate of 1 percent and no closing fees. Typically, the terms of the loan will be five years, with interest-only due the first year.
  • The loans are fully collateralized.
  • Grow Appalachia is available to provide technical support for each family and in some cases, help construct high-tunnel greenhouses and supply seed and soil amendments.

Growers who are interested in learning more can visit or contact David Cooke at Grow Appalachia – (859) 985-3941,; Edgar Davis at KHIC – (606) 864-5175,; or Michael Hayes at KHIC – (606) 864-5175,

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC) Founded in 1968, KHIC is a leading catalyst for community and economic development activities in southern and eastern Kentucky. Since 1968, KHIC has made hundreds of commercial loans, farm loans and equity investments, together totaling more than $350 million. KHIC is the project manager for the SOAR Small Production Loan Fund and will oversee program investments.

Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, in statute, is administered by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board. The mission of the board is to invest these funds in innovative proposals that increase net farm income and affect tobacco farmers, tobacco-impacted communities and agriculture across the state by stimulating markets for Kentucky agricultural products. This includes finding new ways to add value to Kentucky agricultural products and exploring new opportunities that will benefit Kentucky farms now and in the future.

Grow Appalachia was created in 2009 through funding from John Paul Dejoria of JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation. Grow Appalachia emphasizes food production in order to introduce as much low-cost, fresh, healthy food as possible to the region. The basic goal is to help as many families grow as much food as possible for both personal use and commercial sale. Grow Appalachia is the contact for growers participating in this project.

To Help Rural Communities Attract/Retain Future Leaders

May 16, 2016

LONDON, KY – As a component of their “Next Generation: The Future of Rural Arts and Culture Placemaking” initiative, Art of the Rural (AOTR) and the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) today announced the formation of a Kentucky working group to help rural communities attract and retain the next generation of leaders. It also named co-chairs of the effort.

Lori Meadows, executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council; and Sandi Curd, Promise Zone coordinator for Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, will serve as the co-chairs of the Kentucky Regional Network Working Group. The initiative is part of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town “knowledge building” grant.

Curd and Meadows will be taking this initiative forward along with diverse and experienced working group team members from across Kentucky’s regions and sectors. Working Group members are Sarah Allan, Jessica Bellamy, Joe Berry, Aleta Botts, Brandon Coan, Ron Daley, Allison Davis, Katherine Frank, Alexander Gibson, Hilda Legg, Timothy McNeilly, Gerry Roll, Rita Smart, Brandon Smith, Regina Stivers, and Debbie Zuerner-Johnson. For a complete list of Working Group member affiliations, please see the roster below.

Kentucky’s Next Generation Working Group has defined creative placemaking as “any artistic, food, crafts, small business/entrepreneurial activity or endeavor that tells a community’s unique story — both past and present — to pull people together, create a sense of place, strengthen the health and improve the quality of life for everyone in that community.” The goal of the initiative is to help rural communities attract and retain the next generation of leaders.

Designed and facilitated by Art of the Rural and the Rural Policy Research Institute, the initiative engages artists, organizations and communities across the public and private sector to collaborate, share innovative strategies and research, and elevate emerging leaders in the field.

The first public meeting will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 20 in Whitesburg.

“These Kentucky partnerships and the national efforts of Art of the Rural and the Rural Policy Research Institute unite strong public policy perspectives with robust arts and culture innovations taking place across America,” said Matthew Fluharty, executive director of Art of the Rural. “The next generation of rural citizens and leaders demand resilient, inclusive and creative places. We find the pathways to that future in the space where these fields converge.”

The working group team members are from across Kentucky’s regions and sectors. (See below for a complete list.)

“Kentucky has a strong creative industry that is growing,” Meadows said. “The Next Generation initiative will bring diverse sectors together to share best practices and develop innovative ways to address challenges. Kentucky’s emerging leaders will use this integration to engage stakeholders, mobilize opportunities and leverage investment to further creative placemaking in the Commonwealth.”

Curd added: “Kentuckians are known for having a strong sense of place. We have a deep connection to our hometowns. This effort will create successful strategies for making communities leverage their strengths in a way that appeals to these future leaders.”

May 20 meeting

Hosted at Appalshop in Whitesburg from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 20, the Next Generation Kentucky Convening will be the first opportunity for the newly established Regional Network Working Group to connect emerging innovators with established leadership, and create opportunities for cross-sector collaboration across regions of the Commonwealth.

Together, they will debut their newly created definition of creative placemaking that is specific to Kentucky. The vision for this convening is to exchange best practices; advance institutional, public and private support for creative placemaking in Kentucky; and begin to inform state leverage for such work. Participants will have opportunities to engage with sub-committees of the Working Group, as well connect with rural creative placemaking exemplars in eastern Kentucky, many of whom have attracted significant federal and philanthropic investment for the Commonwealth.

It is open to the public. Registration is free, but space is limited. Please register by May 16 at: support may be available to help with mileage expenses.

“Appalshop is excited to bring this network together in eastern Kentucky, where innovative creative placemaking projects are revitalizing communities that are struggling economically as a result of a declining coal industry,” said Appalshop Executive Director Alex Gibson. “We’re designing this event as a place for leaders from across the state to come together, learn about, and collaborate on new approaches to community development in order to move our Commonwealth forward.”

For additional information about the National Next Generation Initiative, visit the website as Next Generation, email, and follow Next Generation on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about the Kentucky Network, visit:

PINEVILLE, KY – A USDA loan, along with strong partnerships among Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, First State Financial and Pineville Community Hospital, have saved more than 300 jobs and created 12 new jobs at the hospital.

Local, state and federal officials celebrated this achievement today as they announced a $3.1 million USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan as well as $3 million line of credit from First State Financial.

“Pineville Community Hospital has been providing critical health-care services and jobs in southeastern Kentucky for nearly 80 years, and today, we’re celebrating another milestone of service and dedication to the people of this region,” Congressman Hal Rogers said. “I commend the board of directors for not only diligently working to protect the jobs at this facility, but for having the vision to expand health care in an area underserved for mental health concerns.” “By working together to find an innovative solution, the partners here today have not only protected existing jobs, but created new ones at the same time. All the while improving health care for our seniors and the entire community,” said Governor Bevin. “We thank the hardworking team at Pineville Community Hospital for their dedicated servant leadership and commitment to their neighbors.” USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah also attended the event.

The nonprofit hospital, which was formed in 1938, is located in a region that has state and federal designations such as SOAR, Promise Zone and StrikeForce. “The $3.1 million USDA loan guarantee is important to the Pineville community in many ways: It provides residents access to quality health care, supports the employment of 326 employees and allowed for the creation of 12 additional jobs,” said Thomas G. Fern, state director for USDA Rural Development in Kentucky. “In a time when the region has seen a significant loss of employment, these existing and new jobs being created by Pineville Community Hospital are critical.”

The hospital used some of the funds to convert an unused labor-and-deliver wing into a 12-bed geriatric psychiatric unit, which treats patients over age 65 who have depression, PTSD and other issues. Other funds were used for repairs and to restructure existing debt.

“Pineville Community Hospital converted the unused 10-bed obstetrics unit into a geriatric psychiatric unit,” said Stace Holland, CEO of Pineville Community Hospital. “Research showed this type of service was not being offered within 30-mile radius, which affects more than 38,000 residents.

Working together with First State Financial and the hospital, KHIC was able to restructure the hospital’s existing debt into the USDA loan, which then gave the bank an opportunity to provide private working capital through a line of credit. “This is a great example of how strategic partnerships can attract public and private investments to benefit the health and economy of our region,” KHIC President & CEO Jerry Rickett said. “Working together at the local, state and federal level, we can leverage our resources and maximize our results.”

LONDON, KY – Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation received a $10,000 grant from the Berea College Appalachian Fund to create the Promise Zone Federal Grant Procurement Mentoring Pilot Program.

The program is designed to build the capacity of grant writers and increase their success in securing federal funds for their communities. It will create a mentoring network of grant writers and grant administrators to be paired with small community-based organizations within the Promise Zone and assist them with:

  • Strategic planning for grant projects
  • Program design – understanding the research and best practices in the field
  • Writing a grant proposal
  • Preparing a budget for the program and thinking of the impact on the organization’s budget
  • Evaluating the success of the project
  • Planning to sustain, replicate the project

The mentoring program will focus on three areas of funding: health and wellness, healthy and local foods, and STEM education. It will provide stipends to mentors, engage small community-based organizations new to grant writing and develop an online resource guide for federal grant seekers. They must provide services in the Promise Zone footprint of Knox, Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay and most of Whitley Counties.

“Federal grants are complex and difficult for small community-based organization to navigate,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of KHIC, which is coordinating and managing the federal Promise Zone. “This pilot program will help us increase the capacity for attracting grant funds to the region. It also will help create a model and secure funding for grant mentoring program for the duration of the Promise Zone designation.”

In addition to personal mentoring, the program will develop easy-to-understand modules to guide organizations in navigating the federal grant process, including locating a grant, understanding the request for proposal, completing steps to ensure eligibility for federal funding, developing a federal budget and submitting a federal grant. The modules will be available electronically and include a dedicated email where questions can be sent and answered by a mentor in a timely manner.

“The Berea College Appalachian Fund is pleased to be able to partner with the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation in this project,” said David Cooke, director of the Berea College Appalachian Fund. “This is truly an investment in the future of Kentucky, and it is appropriate that these two organizations with their long history of service to the region are working together.”

The Kentucky Promise Zone initiative, which runs through 2024, gives the area a competitive advantage in applying for federal funding as well as additional assistance from federal agencies that oversee housing, education, economic development, agriculture and safety. Those agencies also will provide increased coordination to help the counties maximize federal and private investment.

LONDON, KY – More than $223 million in funding has been announced in the eight-county Promise Zone since its designation two years ago.

That means programs in Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley are seeing greater investments in areas such as online learning and other education initiatives, workforce training, business financing, broadband, infrastructure projects, tourism, and housing and energy-efficiency projects.

In addition, the number of private-sector, government and nonprofit partners has increased by more than 50 percent in one year – from 42 partners to 64.

“Through our strong partnerships and cooperation, the Promise Zone is helping the region attract investment that is focused on creating sustainable economic stability and opportunity,” said Jerry Rickett, president & CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, which is coordinating and managing the federal Promise Zone. “Business investment; workforce training and education; and reliable infrastructure are a strong foundation for a bright future.”

Highlights of the $114 million in commitments made in the Promise Zone counties in the second year included:

  • $30 million in private investments from Keeneland Racing Association for the Thunder Gap racetrack in Knox County.
  • $19.9 million dollars in assistance for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) recipients in the Promise Zone to find employment opportunities through EKCEP and the state of Kentucky.
  • $1 million POWER initiative that the Kentucky Cabinet for Finance and Administration received for “Unleashing the Power of the I-way,” which will maximize SOAR’s KentuckyWired broadband project. Promise Zone counties will be included in the first area to be built.
  • $20.7 million from USDA to help more than 200 families with homeownership and home repairs; assist businesses with financing and energy-efficiency improvements; and aid communities with water and sewer infrastructure projects.
  • Trail Town designations for Manchester and Harlan County’s Tri Cities, which will help increase tourism by being included in the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourisms state maps, visitor’s guides and other state promotional materials as adventure tourism destinations.

The Promise Zone has received attention from across the country and around the globe. For example, a journalist and film crew from Singapore toured the region as part of a story on how America reinvents itself.

In addition, the federal EPA included Corbin as one of a handful of communities it is profiling on how local foods are revitalizing downtown economies.

“Kentucky Highlands has a long and proven track record in Eastern Kentucky. I commend their continued commitment to the southeast Kentucky region and their partnership with Promise Zone residents and local leaders to change the course of their future. The success of the Southeast Kentucky Promise Zone in 2015 is very impressive and lays the foundation for continued success in 2016,” said Thomas G. Fern, state director for USDA Rural Development in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Promise Zone initiative gives the area a competitive advantage in applying for federal funding as well as additional assistance from federal agencies that oversee housing, education, economic development, agriculture and safety. Those agencies also will provide increased coordination to help the counties maximize federal and private investment.

You can learn more by visiting the Promize Zone website, following the Kentucky Promise Zone Facebook page and participating in one of the annual listening sessions or periodic visits being held in each county.

The Kentucky Promise Zone – comprised of Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley counties — is one of only 13 Promise Zones in the country and the first in a rural area. The initiative gives the area a competitive advantage in applying for federal funding as well as additional assistance from federal agencies that oversee housing, education, economic development, agriculture and safety. Those agencies also will provide increased coordination to help the counties maximize federal and private investment.

LEXINGTON, KY – Community Ventures, FAHE, and Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation announced today that they successfully closed on a total of $40 million in bonds as part of the United States Treasury Department’s CDFI Bond Guarantee Program.

Only seven community development financial institutions (CDFIs) closed on the multi-party bond, and three of them are in Kentucky. With a total of $127 million, it is the largest group of bond participants in a single bond issue to date.

“Community development resources are shrinking every day,” stated Kevin R. Smith, President and CEO, Community Ventures. These resources will breathe new life into many projects across our commonwealth – projects to create jobs and better places for Kentuckians to live. We can’t thank the CDFI Fund and OFN enough for making it happen.”

The CDFI Bond Guarantee Program is designed to provide CDFIs with the long-term, reliable capital they need to stimulate development in low-income and under-resourced communities. Marking the third year of the program, this bond is part of a landmark round with $327 [cb1]million in bonds issued.

“This is game-changing and transformative,” said President and CEO of FAHE Jim King. “Thirty years of fixed money in the hands of CDFIs in Appalachia makes all the difference whether or not really important housing gets done. It allows us to focus on the task at hand and utilize our expertise in providing life-changing resources.”

Community Ventures, FAHE, KHIC and the other participants in this bond have the capacity to put long-term, fixed-rate, affordable capital to work across a broad geography, serving more under-resourced communities than ever before. The participants in the multi-party bond are:

“This unprecedented opportunity will help spur investment and job growth in the region,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands. “It also will help us maximize exciting efforts under way, such as SOAR and the Promise Zone.”

Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) was the qualified issuer.

“OFN is proud to have issued this multi-party bond for our member CDFIs to catalyze critical economic development in underserved areas throughout our country,” OFN Chief Operating Officer Cathy Dolan said.” This bond is a testament to the financial strength of our Member CDFIs, and a reflection of their effectiveness in providing access to responsible and affordable capital where it is needed most. Through this $127 million, multi-party bond, OFN Members like Community Ventures, FAHE and KHIC can reach further into tough markets to make a real difference. “

Enacted as part of the Small Business Jobs Act, the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program is an innovative federal credit program designed to function at zero cost to taxpayers. It provides eligible CDFIs access to long-term, fixed rate, affordable capital to encourage economic growth and development.

To learn more about how OFN connects CDFIs to critical financing, visit For more information on how the US Treasury Department’s CDFI Fund provides new access to capital to under-resourced communities, visit

First six SOAR production loans announced

Farms in Clay, Laurel, Lincoln, Madison, Wayne, Whitley counties receive funds

LONDON, Ky. – Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation today announced the first six recipients to receive loans from the SOAR Small Production Loan Fund, which helps small producers grow healthy, nutritional foods that they can move into commercial production.

“This fund will support and educate growers to develop a strong local food system in Eastern and Southern Kentucky that will result in profits for the growers and nutritional food for families in the region,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of KHIC.

The six farms to receive the first loans of $7,500 are:

  • J & J Farm Produce Market – Founded in 2010 by Julian Turpin as a roadside fruit stand near Somerset, J & J Farm Produce Market & Deli sells Kentucky Proud organic vegetables, fruit and other produce grown by the owner on his 55-acre farm in Lincoln County and by the neighboring Amish community. J & J Farm Produce also supplies produce to local supermarkets in Pulaski County. The SOAR Production Loan provided the J & J Farm Produce financing to purchase coolers and a cargo trailer to transport produce.
  • Maggie and Will Bowling – Maggie and Will Bowling grow organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers on their 55-acre farm near Oneida in Clay County. Products are sold in markets in Manchester and Hazard to food services, including Manchester Memorial Hospital, and area restaurants including Thersey’s in Manchester. Produce can be order directly through the Old Homeplace Farm website at In addition, Maggie was previously the Grow Appalachia site coordinator at Pine Mountain Settlement in Harlan County. The SOAR Production Loan Fund provided Maggie & Will Bowling a loan to purchase a new 30’x 96’ high tunnel greenhouse to help extend their growing season to 10-months.
  • Melanie Gross – Melanie Gross and her husband have been involved with organic farming and Grow Appalachia for several years. With the SOAR Production Farm Loan, the Gross’ will purchase several beehives and bees to expand their honey operation in southern Laurel County and construct a high tunnel greenhouse to extend the growing season for various vegetables.
  • John Stanley and Heather Lundy – Moving to the Bybee area of rural Madison County from Nova Scotia in early 2014, John and Heather continued the organic farming efforts they had begun seven years earlier. They’ve started a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and began to sell their products at the Farmer’s Market in Berea. Their 11-acre farm includes 11 2,500 square-foot plots growing a variety of produce, two high tunnels constructed by Grow Appalachia, free-range chickens for eggs and a number of herbs. With the $7,500 working capital loan from the SOAR Production Farm Loan Fund, John and Heather will extend their farm practices that conserve and build soil health, expand their produce operation, add more laying hens and grow their CSA for next year.
  • Terry and Mildred Simpson – Lifelong residents of Wayne County, the Simpsons took over operation of the family farm on which Terry grew up in the early 1980s. Included in their diverse farm operations, Terry and Mildred have operated a certified Kentucky Proud roadside market near their home for the past 15-years to sell produce and flowers. The Simpsons have always embraced new technologies allowing them to expand their production and markets. The SOAR Production Farm Loan of $7,500 will be used to purchase a “cool room” to maintain fresher product during the floral and vegetable season and to purchase a mulch film lifter to remove and conserve the plastic mulch film from the ground at the end of each growing season.
  • Fox Brothers Farms – Retired teachers Donnie and Daniel Fox have been growing three to four acres of produce in the Canadatown community of rural Whitley County for more than 10 years. The brothers focus on corn, watermelons, beans and tomatoes. Their products are sold through the two Whitley County Farmer’s Markets, at their roadside produce stand and by direct sales. With the SOAR Production Farm Loan of $7,500, Fox Brothers Farms will clear land for added production, purchase additional equipment and fence the area around their gardens to prevent loss from deer and raccoons.

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and Grow Appalachia created the low-interest loan fund this summer for small farmers in 54-county SOAR region of Eastern and Southern Kentucky. The fund was established with support from a $200,000 grant through the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy.

The loan fund, which is supported by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, will not only provide favorable loan terms for growers but also use the repayment of the initial loans to sustain the program for other growers.

LONDON, KY – In just 18 months, more than $200 million in funding has been identified for projects in Kentucky’s Promise Zone consisting of Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and most of Whitley counties.

The funds come from a combination of federal grants, private foundations, federal loans, private investments and other sources of money from outside the Promise Zone.

“We have now identified more than $200 million coming to the Promise Zone over the next 5 to 7 years,” said Jerry Rickett, president & CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation. “It is all due to the hard work of our partners and community leaders who have devoted their resources, time and expertise to leveraging this tool.”

KHIC is coordinating and managing the process, but there are 55 Promise Zone partners — ranging from the private sector to local governments to nonprofit organizations. USDA is the lead implementing federal agency for the Kentucky Promise Zone.

“USDA Rural Development was designated as the lead federal agency for the rural and tribal Promise Zones, and we are proud of the success brought about through the partnership of Kentucky Highlands as well as local, state and federal leaders across the region,” said Tom Fern, State Director for Rural Development. “This achievement is due to the collaborative efforts of all the Promise Zone Partners reaching into specific areas targeted by the initiative.”

Investments already are being made in areas such as education; medical facilities; college and career readiness; online information technology degree and certificate programs; workforce training; health and anti-drug initiatives; and housing and energy-efficiency projects. Some highlights include:

Almost $20 million from USDA for a pilot project to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants find jobs and ultimately work toward self-sufficiency.

$30 million in private investment by Keeneland Racing Association to build Thunder Gap on the Corbin Bypass. It is expected to create about 2,000 jobs and $10 million in tax revenues over the next five years with 100 to 150 permanent jobs.

More than $44 million in grants for education projects that support a college-going culture and mental health initiatives.

An announcement that Kowa Kentucky, Inc. will open a facility in Corbin to manufacture surface treatment for automotive suppliers and create 30 jobs. It is the first North American plant for Kowa and the first Japanese company to locate in the Promise Zone.

Co-investment from the state and federal governments in local companies such as Phillips Diversified, which is headquartered in Manchester. KHIC completed two loans last year with Phillips Diversified — one loan in partnership with the Economic Development Cabinet and the other with USDA to create about 40 jobs.

Almost $1 million for the Looney Creek Trail from a combination of Department of Transportation and Frazier Foundation funds.
In January 2014, President Obama identified Eastern Kentucky as one of the first five, and the first rural, Promise Zone communities. The Promise Zone Initiative empowers federal agencies to partner with local communities and businesses in creating jobs, increasing economic security, expanding educational opportunities, building private investment and improving public safety.

You can learn more by visiting the Promise Zone website and participating in one of the annual listening sessions or periodic visits being held in each county.