June 6, 2014

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand

FRANKFORT – When it comes to starting a business, few states can match Kentucky’s entrepreneurs.

One index puts us fifth in this category over the last two years, with 360 Kentuckians out of every 100,000 following the dream of being their own boss. That’s a fourth higher than the national average.

Steps are being taken to make it even easier for those who would like to follow suit.

A year ago, for example, the Cabinet for Economic Development created the Office of Entrepreneurship, which is helping small businesses with such things as marketing and securing funding.

Often, that initial round of money comes from what are called angel investors, who provide critical capital at a company’s earliest stages in hopes of reaping larger dividends down the road. These investors helped such companies as Apple, Facebook and Google get off the ground, and it’s estimated that, as group, they now provide about $20 billion a year nationwide.

They’re really starting to make their presence felt here, and two recent efforts are spurring that along. The first came in January, when the Kentucky Angel Investors Network held its first online meeting with the goal of better connecting those with the money with those having the ideas.

In April, the General Assembly expanded a tax incentive program that will make it even more attractive for angel investors to find and fund the startups that will potentially drive our economy in the years ahead.

This summer, aspiring entrepreneurs will have a chance to make their own pitch to investors. If you’re familiar with the ABC show “Shark Tank,” then you understand how this will work.

There will be eight regional competitions, with the first held earlier this month in Ashland. Others will be in such cities as Covington, Murray, Elizabethtown, Louisville and Lexington.

Winners will receive prizes and have a chance to present their business idea to the full Kentucky Angel Investors Network. For more information, visit www.kyangels.net.

Some of our future job creators will gather at Georgetown College this month for the second-annual Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs. This complements the Governor’s Scholars and Governor’s School for the Arts programs by giving 50 high school students a real-world, hands-on lesson on how to turn their business ideas into reality.

These examples are part of an overall positive trend economically for the state. The Cabinet for Economic Development says that, last year, there were 280 major announcements of companies either expanding or locating in Kentucky, with total investment reaching $3.3 billion and the number of new jobs estimated at 14,000. On average, that is tops among the South and the fourth-best in the nation, according to Site Selection magazine.

We also had a great year for exports in 2013, with sales exceeding $25 billion. That is 14.3 percent higher than we saw in 2012, the second-highest growth rate nationally. All told, Kentucky companies ship their products to 198 countries.

Our economy still faces challenges, of course, but the gains we’re seeing in entrepreneurship, exports and business investment give us reason to expect a brighter, more diversified future. The goal now is finding additional ways to build on this success.

Should you have any thoughts on this or any other matter affecting the state, please let me know. My address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov. To leave a message for me or for any legislator, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer