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 www.soarfarmloans.org or contact David Cooke at Grow Appalachia – (859) 985-3941, david_cooke@berea.edu; Edgar Davis at KHIC – (606) 864-5175, edavis@khic.org; or Michael Hayes at KHIC – (606) 864-5175, mhayes@khic.org.

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: http://artscouncil.ky.gov/Opportunities/NextGeneration-Register.htm.Travel 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 info@ruralgeneration.org, and follow Next Generation on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about the Kentucky Network, visit: https://ruralgeneration.org/regions/kentucky/

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 ofn.org. For more information on how the US Treasury Department’s CDFI Fund provides new access to capital to under-resourced communities, visit cdfifund.gov.

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 www.oldhomeplacefarm.com 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.

LONDON, KY – Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and Grow Appalachia announced today the creation of a low-interest loan fund 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 SOAR Small Production Loan Fund will help small producers grow healthy, nutritional foods so that they can move into commercial production.

“We are pleased to partner with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Grow Appalachia and growers on this SOAR region project,” said Roger Thomas, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. “The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund investments continue to have a positive impact on diversification efforts throughout Kentucky.”

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.

“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 grant will use $175,000 for the revolving loan fund and $25,000 for technical assistance to the farmers through Grow Appalachia, which will help participants with their specific goals and needs as gardeners and food producers.

Grow Appalachia works through non-profit organizations in each county; offers classes at partner sites on topics such as garden planning, planting and maintenance, heart-healthy cooking and up-to-date food processing and preservation techniques; and helps growers market their products.

“This loan fund represents a real opportunity for small growers who want to make strategic investments in expanding their operations,” said David Cooke, director of Grow Appalachia. “KHIC is making the whole process very straightforward for folks who want to expand their production and marketing in very targeted ways.”

Here’s how the loan fund will work:

  • Almost all food-related producers, such as fruit and vegetable growers, beekeepers and gardeners of herbs, are eligible to participate in the program.
  • The maximum loan amount is $7,500 with a fixed interest rate of 1 percent and no closing fees. Typically, the terms of the loan will be four years.
  • KHIC will provide the financing and Grow Appalachia will provide the installation and technical support for each family.
  • For growers moving into commercial production, Grow Appalachia has developed a Small Production Package, which can include a high tunnel greenhouse, woven ground cover that is reusable, T-posts, a drip irrigation system, a walk-behind tractor, hand tools, wheel hose and a hydro-cool station for cold storage, as needed.

Business training also will be available through a free, five-session business training course on starting and running your own business.

In addition, many growers in the region haven’t had access to affordable banking services or have had difficult credit issues, so the fund also has formed a partnership with Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union to provide financial literacy training and credit repair counseling.

Growers who are interested in learning more can visit the SOAR Farm Loans website or contact David Cooke at Grow Appalachia – (859) 985-3941, david_cooke@berea.edu; or Michael Hayes at KHIC – (606) 864-5175, mhayes@khic.org.

MONTICELLO, KY – Local, state, and federal officials gathered today in Wayne County with community leaders and families to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mutual Self-Help program, which will built its 50,000th home this year nationwide.

Kentucky Highlands Community Development Corporation’s Self-Help Housing Program has assisted 26 low-income families in Wayne and Clinton counties buy affordable housing (23 in Wayne and 3 in Clinton).

“This program provides an important pathway to the dream of homeownership,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation. “Families and the entire community benefit from the safety and stability brought by these homes. Through many partnerships and tremendous support, Kentucky Highlands has helped 26 local families achieve this dream.”

On hand were USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah, U.S. Representative Hal Rogers, Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen, Wayne County Judge-Executive Michael Anderson, Monticello Mayor Jeffrey E. Edwards and several low-income families who are now homeowners.

“A home is the epicenter of the American dream, and this long-standing federal program has been helping families build safe homes that they otherwise could not afford,” Rogers said. “I applaud Kentucky Highlands and the USDA for helping families in our region build the foundation for a better future in a home they can take great pride in.”

Brigett Meadors, a Self-Help home-buyer who just started the construction process, praised the program.

“I never thought I would have the opportunity to become a homeowner, but I couldn’t thank the good Lord above enough for giving me the opportunity to do this,” Meadors said. “It’s not just any home, it’s going to be our home, and I’m even more excited to be able to learn and show my child one day that this is something I helped build. I feel blessed.”

USDA has contributed more than $1 million in administrative grant funds to Kentucky Highlands’ self-help program since 2008 and $1.8 million in permanent mortgage financing to the families.

“Buying a home helps rural families gain a foothold into the middle class by stepping on that first rung of what President Obama calls a ladder of opportunity,” Mensah said. “To help them succeed, USDA and its partners provide the financial tool: an affordable mortgage.”

With the self-help program, qualifying families save money by building their own homes under the direction of Kentucky Highlands, and they qualify for low-interest, long-term, no down payment loans from USDA as well as forgivable loans from a variety of sources, including HOME (HUD funds) and the state Affordable Housing Trust Fund resources administered by Kentucky Housing Corporation and the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati’s Affordable Housing administered by Cumberland Valley National Bank, Appalachian Regional Commission funds administered by the Kentucky Department for Local Government, and Self-Help Home Ownership Opportunity funds administered by the Housing Assistance Council.

“The Governor and I know that affordable housing is one of the key components in improving the quality of life for our people, alongside education, access to healthcare and jobs,” Luallen said. “That’s why I’m proud to be a part of the celebration today, and announce a special funding program offering down payment assistance and low fixed financing for low- to moderate-income home buyers in the 54-county SOAR region, which will make owning a home more affordable.”

Here’s how the program works:

  • Families apply to participate and have their family and credit status checked to see if they qualify. Qualifying families must have incomes that do not exceed 80 percent of area median income and be willing to provide 30 hours per week of construction labor;
  • Kentucky Highlands provides experienced carpenters to lead, coach and supervise construction, and families work in build groups of six to eight people to cooperatively build their homes;
  • The savings on labor, administrative cost and the builder’s profit total of about 25- 30 percent of the home’s cost or about $25,000 – $35,000, depending on total costs;
  • The interest rate may be as low as 1 percent, and there is no down payment; and
  • Some families qualify for forgivable loans from a variety of sources including funds from Kentucky Housing Corporation, Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, Kentucky Department for Local Government and Housing Assistance Council.
MANCHESTER, KY – Entrepreneurs in rural areas typically face larger obstacles than their urban counterparts because funding, technical assistance and advising are scarce.

But one family business in Clay County has been selected to participate in a national program at Babson College, which U.S. News and World Report has ranked as the top business school in entrepreneurship for more than 15 years. Theresa Chambers, who owns Thersey’s restaurant as well as a Subway in Clay County, is one of only 100-150 business owners nationwide selected to participate in Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses for each class. The national program is co-chaired by Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, the billionaire “Oracle of Omaha.”

“Entrepreneurs have lots of ideas, but it can be difficult finding the time and ways to execute those ideas,” said Chambers, a Clay County native who lived in California for more than 20 years and worked in the tech industry with her husband, Dan. “This program will give me the tools I need to fix the problems I see and help create more jobs. It’s very fulfilling to come back to the community and try to be a change-maker.”

Through specific curriculum and a peer-to-peer learning, the program leverages participants’ shared objectives to grow their businesses, increase revenues and create jobs. They must complete and present their growth plan to the class in order to graduate.

Chambers will spend a week at Babson College in Massachusetts at the beginning and end of the program, where she will receive a combination of advice, guidance and coaching. Faculty and business advisers work together to review the growth challenges of each business owner and suggest specific community resources that participants might use to target those challenges.

Participants own companies that had revenues ranging from $200,000 to $4 million. Chambers is the fourth client of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation or the Kentucky Innovation Center in London to be selected over the last three years.

She and her husband moved to Kentucky in 2001 to be closer to her parents. They had owned numerous companies, but the restaurant business was new. Chambers gradually acquired four Subway franchises but wanted to do something more creative. From the Subway franchises, she learned about inventory and pricing, then sold two of them and applied that knowledge to a restaurant she opened called Thersey’s using her childhood nickname.

Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center, which also serves as part of the Kentucky Innovation Network in London, has been working with Chambers for the past year by helping with business planning and laying the foundation to build a loan or an equity proposal so that she can expand both her restaurants.

Her Subway is already a high-performing franchise, so various avenues are being researched on ways to grow outside of the existing strip mall location. She also would like to expand capacity at Thersey’s to add banquet space and room for larger parties. Thersey’s, which serves everything from steaks and seafood to Tex-Mex to fried chicken, is one of only three sit-down restaurants in the county.

“The national program that Theresa is attending will give her more credibility as we work together to help her gain access to a loan to relocate and expand her business,” said Bill Schutters, director of the Kentucky Innovation Center in London. “It is a component of a partnership KHIC announced in fall 2012 with Goldman Sachs. The 10,000 Small Businesses provided KHIC’s loan fund with $5 million to lend to small businesses in low- and moderate-income areas throughout Kentucky.”

Chambers also plans on sharing her knowledge with her 20 employees.

“I have great employees and look forward to providing growth opportunities for them,” she said. “A few people working for me want to start their own business, so they’re excited to find out what I learn.”

Thersey’s restaurant also serves as a meeting space for Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center’s eChampions program, which provides mentoring for entrepreneurs.

Coincidentally, the family’s relationship with KHIC dates back 40 years. Chambers’ husband, a software engineer for Northrop Grumman, attended a three-day Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation seminar in 1975 on how to start a business.

Babson accepts applications on a rolling basis at www.10ksbapply.com.

LONDON, KY — Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses announced today that Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation was selected as one of 24 mission-driven small business lenders to participate in the Small Business Finance Collaborative. This unique and intensive technical assistance program is designed to increase small business capacity in lending in underserved communities in the U.S.

Responsible, affordable credit is not readily available for small businesses, especially minority- and women-led businesses, due to the decrease of mainstream finance serving this market. This new program will build the capacity of CDFIs (community development financial institutions) and other mission-driven lenders to deliver responsible and affordable loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the nation.

OFN will deliver the Finance Collaborative, providing 24 mission-driven small business lenders with an intensive two-year program of peer learning, training and technical assistance. As a result, each participant will create and implement a strategic growth plan to improve lending strategies and practices, while maintaining asset quality. Participants will be expected to report regularly on growth goals and to adopt best practices. Funding is provided by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses with additional support from Surdna Foundation.

“Our nation’s economic recovery has been very uneven, with minority and women-led small businesses in underserved communities experiencing barriers to the credit they need to succeed. The participants in the Collaborative are uniquely positioned to reach these communities, helping owners avoid high cost loans. They will build strategies to aid small business and encourage sustainability, growth, and job creation,” said Mark Pinsky, president and CEO of OFN.

The Small Business Finance Collaborative is built upon a successful prior initiative in 2011-2013 where participants reported doubling their assets, increasing their self-sufficiency ratio, and number of small businesses reached. Participants in the Finance Collaborative will expand on concepts learned in a previous training, including value proposition, innovation, talent management and the lending life cycle. The curriculum’s foundation is adapted from the Babson-designed Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses education program.

“Research shows that small businesses are the leading drivers of economic growth and job creation in this country. Our partnership with OFN will continue to support mission-driven lenders, so that even more entrepreneurs gain access to the capital they need to succeed,” said Esta Stecher, CEO of Goldman Sachs Bank USA. “These lenders were chosen because of their expertise and leadership in this area. We look forward to seeing the impact they will have in underserved communities.”

This is the second Goldman Sachs partnership for Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, which serves a 22-county region in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. In 2012, Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses provided KHIC’s loan fund with $5 million to lend to small businesses in low- and moderate-income areas throughout Kentucky. To date, KHIC has closed loans to 20 different Southeast Kentucky companies using these funds.

“These national resources will help us be more effective in supporting small businesses, which are driving economic growth and opportunity in the region,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.

The Finance Collaborative members reflect the diversity of mission-driven small business lenders and approaches. Some participants have a national presence, while others serve local communities. Working in urban, rural and Native communities, these lenders offer a range of lending products and business models. Collectively, the 24 participants have cumulative assets exceeding $862 million with more than 7,500 small business loans outstanding totaling nearly $600 million. The 2015-2016 Small Business Finance Collaborative participants are:

Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Inc. (ACE)
Accion New Mexico ∙ Arizona ∙ Colorado ∙ Nevada
Bridgeway Capital
Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union
California Coastal Rural Development Corporation (Cal Coastal)
CDC Small Business Finance
Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF)
Community First Fund
Community Reinvestment Fund, USA (CRF)
Entrepreneur Fund
Excelsior Growth Fund
Growth Capital
Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC)
LiftFund, formerly known as Accion Texas
Montana Community Development Corporation (Montana CDC)
Northern Initiatives
Pacific Community Ventures
PIDC Community Capital (PIDC-CC)
The Support Center
Virginia Community Capital (VCC)

About Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, founded in 1968 to stimulate economic growth in nine counties in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, now serves 22 counties in the region and has created more than 20,000 jobs. For more information, visit www.khic.org.

About Opportunity Finance Network

OFN, the leading network of private financial institutions, creates growth that is good for communities, investors, individuals, and the economy. Members of OFN are community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that deliver responsible lending to help low-wealth and low-income communities join the economic mainstream. Through 2012, OFN’s Network originated more than $33.3 billion in financing in urban, rural, and Native communities, and financed development/rehab of 960,000 housing units, started or expanded nearly 94,000 business and micro-enterprises, and helped create or maintain nearly 600,000 jobs. More information is available at: www.ofn.org.

About Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is a $500 million investment to help small businesses in the United States create jobs and economic growth by providing entrepreneurs with a practical business education, access to capital and business support services. The program is based on the broadly held view of leading experts that greater access to this combination of education, capital and support services best addresses barriers to growth. The program is active in urban and rural communities across the United States. Sites include Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City, as well as a National Cohort at Babson College. Access to capital is also available in parts of Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Virginia and Washington. For more information, visit www.gs.com.

LONDON, KY – He stood on stage with a former president, advised the leader of South Africa on rural economic development in the Cabinet Room of the White House, testified before Congress and received a national lifetime achievement award for his work with entrepreneurs.

Ray Moncrief has had a role in creating 14,000 jobs for almost 600 businesses in Southeastern Kentucky as executive vice president and chief operating officer for Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation since 1989.

He retired from that position Dec. 31 but will continue leading Meritus Ventures LP, a KHIC-managed $36.4 million venture capital fund focused on rural investing; and Southern Appalachian Fund LP, a KHIC-managed $12.5 million venture capital fund focused on investing in low-income census tracts.

“Ray has spent decades providing leadership and expertise in saving struggling companies and assisting emerging businesses,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands. “Because of his efforts and vision, hundreds of people are employed today and communities are stronger as a result.”

Moncrief moved to Kentucky in 1978 to be Chief Financial Officer of Outdoor Venture Corporation, a military tent manufacturer in Stearns, KY.

OVC, which has diversified and remade itself to stay competitive and thrive in a global economy, employs more than 230 people.
“You meet very few people in your life that are an enduring contributor to your business,” said J.C. Egnew, president of Outdoor Venture Corporation. “Ray Moncrief is one of those rare people who has been a great contributor. When he first came to work for the company, our business was deteriorating due to imports, and he helped us immensely.

“Ray has been a board member for more than 30 years. He’s an outstanding board adviser and has helped us make a number of successful transactions buying and selling businesses. He’s always been there when we need him – in tough times and in good times. He’s a dear friend of both the company as well as me personally.”

Moncrief represented KHIC when one of its initiatives was honored at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2013 and received the lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds in 2012.

Although it is difficult to encapsulate a career in a few short examples, KHIC Executive Vice President and CFO Brenda McDaniel said these three projects exemplify his range of skills that have helped hundreds of families in Southeastern Kentucky:

His unique financial analysis skills were used in the development of an equity investment in Cumberland Gap Provision Company of Middlesboro, Ky. When the company first started, it had outside venture capital investors who eventually wanted to sell the company for its market share. Moncrief structured an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) to purchase the company so that it would stay in the area. Cumberland Gap Provision Company later sold, and the employees, as owners of the company, received a contribution to their retirement plans. Current employment at the company, which is now owned by Smithfield Foods, is 323.

Moncrief demonstrated his passionate commitment to provide employment opportunities for area residents, when he designed a bankruptcy reorganization plan for Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries, Inc, w hich provides employment opportunities and rehabilitative services for disabled and socially disadvantaged individuals. SEKRI expanded into three additional locations and currently employs 500 people.

Providing visionary leadership in the area of community development venture capital investment has been Moncrief’s primary objective. He has been instrumental in advancing the cause of access to capital for individuals and small companies located in disadvantaged areas. His most recent efforts have resulted in the development of the New Markets Venture Capital model, Rural Business Investment Companies, and Appalachian Community Capital which will provide millions of dollars of capital for investment in disadvantaged communities throughout the country.

“Ray is a pioneer and a singular leader of the national community development venture capital industry, whether servicing as chair of the board of the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance, working tirelessly for public policy to promote entrepreneurship and job creation in low-income and rural communities, or selflessly sharing his extensive knowledge and experience with new entrants to the field,” said Kerwin Tesdell, president of the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance, the association of venture capital funds that provide equity financing for businesses that create good jobs and entrepreneurial capacity in low-income communities in the United States and around the world. “It has been a pleasure to work with Ray as a colleague and a privilege to have him as a friend. I look forward to many more years of his leadership, guidance and friendship as he moves into a new stage of his life.”

BRODHEAD, KY – EST Tool & Machine, Rockcastle County’s largest manufacturer, is expanding its capacity and will add eight to 12 new employees in the next year. It is actively seeking to hire six people immediately.

EST, which currently employs 30 people, needs additional equipment to meet the growing demand of new and existing customers.

To finance two new machines, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation approved a loan package this month of up to $750,000.

“Our customers’ business is growing rapidly, and ours is growing with it,” said Steve Taylor, president of EST Tool & Machine. “Kentucky Highlands has been a tremendous asset. Anything we need, they always make it happen, and they’ve provided loans more economically than anyone else.”

It’s a dramatic turnaround since the recession, when EST reduced its staff to four people in 2009.

A family-owned custom tool and machine shop, EST moved from Springfield, OH to Brodhead, KY 15 years ago to increase production space and get closer to a large portion of their customers.

EST’s clients include several Kentucky companies, such as International Crankshaft of Georgetown; Okonite Corp. and Asahi, both of Richmond; and Millennium Forge of Louisville. It also has a pair of clients in Arkansas.

KHIC has helped EST with financing since it first moved to Kentucky and has worked on multiple financing since then.

“EST Tool & Machine is a great example of the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses to our communities and our economy,” said KHIC President & CEO Jerry Rickett. “Kentucky Highlands is proud to be a partner with a company that continues to thrive and grow.”