A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Johnathan Gay: Entrepreneur ignores sad statistics, finds Jackson Co. ‘ready to work’

Launching a new business venture in a county purported to be one of the worst in America is not something you’d ordinarily expect from a successful entrepreneur, especially one who lives nearly three hours’ hard drive away. But, that’s exactly what Tim Robinson did.
Did he read all those dreary stats the New York Times assembled? Poor educational attainment, household income, jobless rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate … all thought to make it impossible for an entrepreneur to assemble a stable workforce.
He might have read them, but he paid them no mind.
“Baloney,” says Robinson, dismissively. “Jackson County is one of the most welcoming communities our company has worked in. Educated and healthy workers come ready to work, the community is supportive, the natural beauty helps us; it’s just a wonderful place to locate a business.”
Robinson is another Eastern Kentucky entrepreneur who could be any number of places. He graduated from law school at the University of Kentucky and does business in Bluegrass cities such as Lexington and Ashland, and in Huntington, West Virginia, all of which have far better stats than Jackson County.
But, when Tim found out that a small drug rehab facility in the Jackson County community of Annville was in danger of closing, he didn’t hesitate to make the trip there to make a proposal. Robinson’s company, Louisa, Kentucky-based Addiction Recovery Care would take over management of the facility, keep its employees and grow it to boot!
The facility was named in honor of a late, recovering addict named Beth. Beth’s sad story might be one that would have been covered by the New York Times, but there was also a more hopeful chapter to her life. As she fought to recover, she became known throughout the area for her compassion and willingness to help others. Though she ultimately lost her struggle, she inspired others to pick up the task of helping addicts.
The friends and family Beth inspired found a willing partner in the Annville Institute, a faith-based campus founded by a missionary over a hundred years earlier. The campus, home to more than a dozen various faith-based initiatives, provided the house in which Beth’s Blessing was launched and now resides.
“The missionary tradition in Eastern Kentucky has a long history,” says Tim, “but people forget that evangelizing often takes a backseat to enterprise growth and entrepreneurial development. Great missionaries have been as much Bill Gates as they have been Billy Graham.” In other words, they see a need and fill that need through savvy and entrepreneurship.
Robinson continues that tradition in Jackson County and his other locations. His is a business that’s both licensed for insurance and, simultaneously, faith-based.
“We are very much a business that believes in staying on the cutting edge. We use the most modern, board-certified methods for drug recovery. But we don’t check our faith at the door. We find a way to weave it into what we do.”
Tim says that the key to helping alleviate Eastern Kentucky poverty is empowerment. Recently, he and his wife (and business partner), Lelia, have been experimenting with an art gallery at their parent organization. “We want to teach these folks who are recovering to channel their experience and pain into something meaningful, like art. We actually have several paintings in the gallery painted by them.”
Tim smiles a bit sheepishly when asked if any have sold. “Honestly, we’re still working on that. So far, we can’t get any of them to give us permission to sell them. They’re too proud of their work to let them go.”
The Kentucky Innovation Network helped Robinson locate equity investors to allow him to launch his venture in Jackson County. The network provides a variety of services for entrepreneurs and small businesses. For more information, contact Johnathan Gay at the Kentucky Innovation Network office in Morehead at 606-783-9536 or visit kyinnovation.

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Johnathan Gay is an attorney and the director of the Kentucky Innovation Network office at Morehead State University. To learn more about the Kentucky Innovation Network or to get involved in entrepreneurial projects, click here.
To read more of Johnathan Gay, click here.

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