While Kentucky’s largest employers are grabbing headlines for plowing millions into facilities that create hundreds of jobs, the state is working diligently to aid small business and encourage entrepreneurship.
From a microloan program for loans up to $35,000 to classroom-style training sessions to outreach events and mentorship programs, the state has embraced small business.
Cabinet's Efforts to Support Small Business
In 2009, the Cabinet for Economic Development’s Small Business Services Division hosted eight small business forums across the state, showcasing a particular region or area development district and offering fledgling entrepreneurs the chance to learn about the key components that turn an idea into a solid business plan.
“We want to make sure people get assistance, whether that’s financial support, help making connections, finding out about contract opportunities or even attending some workshops,” says John E. Cole III, director of the Kentucky Small Business Services Division.
Mammoth Designs Inc., a Flemingsburg-based manufacturer of cab enclosures, canopy tops and accessories for utility terrain vehicles, was founded in 2005 by father-son team, Matt and David Oldham.
What started as a business being run out of the younger Oldham’s basement has grown into a substantial operation, aided in part by consultation from state small business experts, who offered advice on streamlining operations, increasing efficiencies and boosting profits. (Some of the company’s UTV equipment was featured in the movie Tropic Thunder.)
Kentucky Financial Assistance Aids Growth
The company’s growth also has been helped by loans from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority and the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
“Whenever you expand, you need more capital,” David Oldham says. “We’re working so that we can make our business less cyclical, and growing daily, and so these sources of capital have been very helpful to us.”
The company is exploring the government-contract market, and having resources available from the state to help it do so has been a key to its success in that effort, Oldham says.
At 30-year-old Boneal Inc., a prime-contract manufacturer for government agencies and the private sector, being in a Small Business Administration-certified HUBZone – a historically underutilized business district – has been beneficial in landing government business.
Consultants from the Kentucky Procurement Assistance Program (KPAP), also housed in the Cabinet for Economic Development, worked with Boneal when the company began to explore the government market, helped them get HUBZone certification and provided information about government specifications and pricing history.
Boneal has subsequently won contracts with the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force. Boneal continues to utilize KPAP’s bid match service to identify government contracting opportunities, and participates in many KPAP training/networking events to aggressively seek out new marketing contacts.
“In Kentucky, there are a number of programs that help businesses help themselves,” says David Ledford, Boneal president. “We got a lot of guidance when we were learning about government contracting and were able to get access to a lot of data and research that was out there, as well as some helpful introductions. We have always found the Cabinet for Economic Development staff have a genuine interest in what we’re doing.”