Student Series: Investing in Appalachia

A third feature in our student series:

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation: Investing in Appalachia

by Robert Chandler

Like much of Appalachia, Southeastern Kentucky has historically lacked a variety of job opportunities. Since 1968 however, the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC) has been working diligently to promote new businesses and industries in this region and continues to play a significant role in creating jobs for their twenty-two county service area.

KHIC was born out of President Johnson’s War on Poverty and was formed in 1968 to stimulate the local economies. It originally served just nine counties, dealing primarily with loans.  Everything changed when KHIC began practicing a new kind of so-called ‘venture capitalism’ that emphasized a more active role of management within businesses. With funding from the Office of Economic Opportunity, KHIC was able to set up a program for finding potential local entrepreneurs, investing in their businesses, and (if deemed a worthy investment) providing capital for that business. Prospects had to be located in the service area and committed to hiring residents from the local community. KHIC’s solid investing plan has worked well in bringing jobs to the hard-working people of Southern and Eastern Kentucky. The organization recoups initial investment money from businesses and reinvests in new or expanding companies.

“As of now, the companies that we've funded employ 10,500 people throughout our service area. This number doesn't even include past ventures. These are 10,500 people that are currently working and receiving a paycheck every week,” says Jim Carroll, KHIC’s Executive Director of Business Innovation and Growth Center. The Business Innovation and Growth Center is located in London, KY and provides office space as well as training and mentoring for newly developing businesses.

“I host classes, coach, and mentor entrepreneurs and their businesses, to help these individuals get started. We bring in local lawyers and accountants to provide assistance and advice about different aspects of owning a business. Maybe they need help with marketing or with learning how to manage their finances. Just one hour of business mentoring can increase a company's longevity,” explains Carroll.

But just what sort of ‘development’ is taking place? KHIC has contributed assistance to a variety of industries in the region, such as manufacturing companies including Patriot Industries and Highlands Diversified. They’ve also supplied funding for the University of Kentucky College of Design Center for Applied Energy Research joint project, Houseboat to Energy Efficient Residences (HBEER). HBEER is designed to restructure the houseboat manufacturing market to make affordable, energy-efficient homes that could end up replacing mobile homes. Their ongoing energy “boot camp” is a program geared toward selecting energy-oriented businesses. Jim Carroll adds, “These projects are great examples of the potential for energy-related companies to create green jobs and attract investment to Kentucky.” There will be a symposium in February 2011 for participating companies to present their ideas to potential investors.

KHIC has made great strides in the last few years. They are now able to offer a wide variety of assistance to an even larger number of people. Their continued success brings new jobs to Southeastern Kentucky and promotes stronger local communities. They are providing for a new, developing Appalachia.

For more information about this organization please visit: www.khic.org

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.