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With a $20,000 award at stake, Dr. Pearse Lyons, president of Alltech, has challenged the students of three Kentucky universities – the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and the University of Pikeville – to create jobs in the Commonwealth.
Kentucky is currently the 13th worst U.S. state for finding a job. Even in its best month since November 2008, Kentucky is hovering above the national average of 8.1 percent with 8.3 percent of its population out of work, according to April figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. Some Eastern Kentucky counties have reached unemployment levels as high as 16 percent, double the national average.
In response, Lyons has tasked the three universities with developing a business plan competition to foster innovation, economic development and entrepreneurship in nine Eastern Kentucky counties – Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin and Pike.
“It’s time to balance the scales and cultivate a Kentucky that leads the nation not just in college sports but in employment as well,” said Lyons. “With its hardworking people, vibrant culture, picturesque landscape and abundance of natural resources, Kentucky is ripe for the right idea. What we need is innovation and inspiration – sparks that will kindle the economic flame.”
Teams will be chosen by university officials and will most likely be made up primarily of MBA students and a select number of undergraduates.
“This project has tremendous value to students, providing them the opportunity to apply scholastic knowledge to a real economic challenge and affect tangible change in their own state,” said Harvie Wilkinson, MBA program director and director of the Executive Education Center at the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics.
The Innovation Competition among the three universities will run November 2012 through January 2013, when the students will present their final plans to a panel of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
“The launch of this initiative with business students representing the University of Pikeville, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville will create a venue for success, and will encourage a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in Appalachia,” said Howard Roberts, chair of the University of Pikeville’s Division of Business and Economics. “Dr. Lyons recognizes the value of this endeavor and the impact it will have on economic development. The quality of life in this region will be enhanced by the creation of jobs and the realization of entrepreneurial dreams.”
According to one of the competition’s coordinators, Dr. Van Clouse, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville’s College of Business, the winning business plan will be the one that best fosters economic development in a nine county region of Eastern Kentucky and appeals to investors.
“It may be the launch of a business in the region or perhaps it is a product that benefits the region,” said Clouse.
The winning team will receive $20,000 from Alltech for their university’s business school, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky will prosper by capitalizing on their innovative ideas.
“The University of Pikeville is looking forward to working with UK, U of L and Alltech to develop innovative ideas to grow the economy of our homeland,” said former Governor Paul Patton, president of the University of Pikeville. “Pearse Lyons has demonstrated his ability to provoke out-of-the-box thinking, which is exactly what we need to solve chronic problems of Appalachia. We know our students and the region will benefit from this effort.”