PADUCAH – Murray State University will be at the center of a new regional hub designed to attract and develop entrepreneurs and startup businesses in western Kentucky.

Announced at a conference in Paducah Tuesday afternoon, MSU’s Center for Telecommunications Systems Management will partner with the Technology Council of West Kentucky and entrepreneur service providers in the region for what’s known as a Regional Innovation for Startups and Entrepreneurs hub, or RISE.

That hub is part of efforts from KY Innovation, an initiative of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development that is designed to support entrepreneurs, small businesses and startups. It will receive $428,684 in state funding.

According to a news release from Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s office, West Kentucky’s consortium includes partners in Murray, Henderson, Hopkinsville, Madisonville and Paducah. The Purchase and Pennyrile Area Development Districts will act as lead partners, joining the TCWK, Murray State CTSM and MSU’s Small Business Development Center. The goal is to build up area startups, focus on collaboration and develop a culture of supporting entrepreneurs and new startups.

According to the release, partners in those communities will identify “first 100” entrepreneurs within six months, hold work sessions to identify assets to support entrepreneurship within 90 days and develop talent partnership programs for the 2018-19 school year.

Those organizations will also provide businesses and individual entrepreneurs services including business planning, investor-financing readiness evaluations, software development vetting and more.

“We are focusing Kentucky’s resources to support entrepreneurs who create new products, launch and grow businesses and positively impact our overall economy,” Bevin said in the release. “The western region of Kentucky is vital to KY Innovation’s statewide strategy to serve entrepreneurs. KY Innovation’s investment in west Kentucky’s RISE hub will enable it to better leverage the exceptional businesses, universities and workforce already in the area and will help create an environment where they can flourish.”

According to the release, consortium leaders identified the following as major objectives for the project:

• Developing entrepreneurship culture

• Regional coordination of local entrepreneurship efforts

• Fostering growth and development of technology and innovation

• Provision of enhanced entrepreneurial services such as startup counseling

“West Kentucky has a broad array of resources for startups, but we recognize this is a pivotal opportunity to enhance and share those strengths in order to build our regional ecosystem,” Murray State CTSM Director Ramage said. “Clustering resources around the information technology sector allows us to connect startups to expert services, capital and tools they require to succeed.”

Brian Mefford, KY Innovation executive director, said the new hub could change the region’s innovation economy.

“The west Kentucky proposal incorporates the region’s proven assets, both in the stakeholders it represents and its focus on technology startups,” Mefford said. “This presents a great opportunity to encourage entrepreneurs who work on the forefront of a sector that will become even more vital in years to come.

“Murray State’s CTSM also recruited ideal partners in its local service providers through the Technology Council of West Kentucky, a group whose very formation is both forward looking and entrepreneurial by nature. The KY Innovation team values that kind of foresight in leadership and looks forward to the important work we will do together.”

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