For many years manufacturing has been a staple of jobs for west Kentucky and while we have lost many of these jobs this is still, and will continue to be, an important part of our economic development and job creation. Innovation is critical to the growth of manufacturing and the industry’s ability to be compete in today’s marketplace.
To address this issue, The Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation in partnership with the Kentucky Manufacturing Assistance Center, along with other state groups, has begun a new program called Make It Kentucky. Its goal is to assist Kentucky manufacturers in the development of new products to increase their competitiveness, and foster the growth of high-tech entrepreneurial companies in the state.
Many of the services are free for qualified companies. In order to qualify the company must: be based in Kentucky; fall in to one of the accepted manufacturing codes NAICS 31-33; have at least $50,000 in annual revenue; have at least four employees. The company must also be able to benefit from one or more of the six service areas that Make It Kentucky provides.
Services include executive level coaching on technology commercialization, training and implementation of product design, development, and marketing processes. Additionally, Make It Kentucky can assist with technology transfer, the creation of strategic supplier relationships and access to research and development funding.
Acceptance into this program is selective due to the great demand across the state. To help companies in west Kentucky, the Innovation and Commercialization Center located at the Regional Business and Innovation Center at Murray State University has started a local Make It Kentucky program with new team leaders.
Beth Ward, assistant director of the RBIC, has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management and a master’s degree in business administration. Ward has more than 20 years of business experience in manufacturing. Her most recent position before joining the RBIC was with Huntsman Chemical where she served as demand manager for their North and South American operations.
Rick Johnson joined KSTC in February as technology commercialization executive in residence. Previously, Johnson ran two closely held electronic manufacturing companies and divisions of two publicly traded electronic manufacturing companies. Johnson started his career as a design engineer and progressed into engineering management, sales management and then general management.
Ben Jennings joined KSTC in May of 2007 to manage the KY Enterprise Fund grants and investments before moving over to Make It Kentucky in January. Previously, Jennings worked as an analyst and consultant at Norton Healthcare in Louisville.
Scott Broughton, business growth specialist at KMAC and member of the Make It Kentucky team, draws on his experience as a product developer designing over 50 new and improved products for industrial, commercial and consumer markets to help companies improve the success of their new products.
Johnson and Jennings work together with each selected company to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and to put together a program for improvement and enhancement. After the initial assessment, the Make It Kentucky team and the company agree on a plan of action. Depending on the individual company needs, follow-up meetings may be in person or by phone or email.
“Make It Kentucky is all about helping Kentucky manufacturers grow revenues and grow jobs,” Johnson said. “We are assisting companies throughout the state by providing executive-level coaching, helping with product development, and linking manufacturers with Kentucky suppliers among other things.”
“We appreciate all of the support and encouragement we have received from the local area economic development personnel,” Johnson said.
If you believe you qualify, and are interested in participating in Make It Kentucky, please contact Beth Ward with the Regional Business and Innovation Center at Murray State University at 270-809-6074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Loretta Daniel is director of the Murray State University Regional Business and Innovation Center. She can be contacted at 270-809-6071 or email@example.com.