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,; or Michael Hayes at KHIC – (606) 864-5175,

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

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

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:

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

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.”