Report recommends greater state support
for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Kentucky
August 25, 2008
Berea, Ky. — Kentucky can and should do more to help entrepreneurs and small businesses prosper, according to a new study released by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). The report was written by the Rural Policy Research Institute’s (RUPRI) Center for Rural Entrepreneurship.
“For too long, Kentucky has neglected the important role of entrepreneurs of all kinds in building a stronger and more resilient economy,” said MACED President Justin Maxson. “This report provides important insights and policy recommendations on how to build a true entrepreneur support system in our state.”
Businesses with less than 100 employees account for 99 percent of all businesses in Kentucky, according to the report. However, entrepreneurs make up only 16 percent of nonfarm employment in Kentucky compared to 18.2 percent nationwide. Entrepreneurs’ average income in Kentucky is 26.4 percent lower than the national average.
“It’s increasingly evident that Kentucky must turn more of its attention to building our economy from within,” said Maxson. “MACED’s 32 years of entrepreneur support has helped us see the tremendous economic potential that lies in the untapped talents of Kentucky’s people. Much more could be done to help them start their own enterprises and advance the small businesses that already exist.”
The report notes that Kentucky has many of the ingredients of a support system that helps entrepreneurs of all kinds move through the pipeline from identifying an idea to establishing and growing a successful enterprise. What Kentucky doesn’t have is adequate state commitment to and investment in these efforts, and the leadership needed to help various programs and organizations work together as a system.
The study’s recommendations include:
• An increase in the share of state economic development resources that go into entrepreneurship and small business development;
• The creation of a state commission to raise the profile of entrepreneurship, conduct research and convene an annual summit;
• A new system of expanded performance-based investments in existing and new entrepreneurship and small business programs across Kentucky;
• A new state role in helping coordinate and connect the various public, non-profit and private programs across the state.
A number of states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Kansas and Nebraska, have taken the lead in building stronger support systems in recent years. The report notes that a high performing system includes entrepreneurship education, access to capital, access to information and technical assistance, regulatory compliance help, networking support, and help for local communities that want to better promote entrepreneurship.
MACED commissioned the report as part of its High Road Initiative, a joint effort with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth to advocate for a new, broader approach to economic development in Kentucky that benefits people and places in need.
The report is co-authored by Deborah Markley, an economist and Managing Director of the RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, and Brian Dabson, the President and CEO of RUPRI and a Research Professor at the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship is a national research and policy center created in 2001 to stimulate and support private and public entrepreneurship development in communities throughout rural America.
MACED is a 32-year-old community development organization that works in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia to create economic opportunity, strengthen democracy and support the sustainable use of natural resources. To read the report visit www.maced.org or call 859-986-2373 to receive a copy.