WKU Planning Business Accelerator in Scottsville

WKU Planning Business Accelerator in Scottsville

September 24, 2009 (Scottsville, KY) [From the Bowling Green Daily News]

It’s responsible for nearly 700 jobs in Bowling Green, and a Western Kentucky University facility will soon expand to Scottsville.

WKU recently landed a $100,000 endowment to open a small business accelerator in Scottsville. The accelerator helps start-up businesses get off the ground, giving them materials, tips and a business space.

“Now you have the opportunity for companies to start and grow and stay,” said Buddy Steen, executive director of the small business accelerator at WKU’s Center for Research and Development.

The Allen County accelerator is planned to open this spring in an existing building – officials are considering the Farmer’s National Bank in downtown Scottsville.

It will be the second accelerator in the region. Bowling Green’s accelerator has helped launch 38 companies, with a combined revenue of $199 million. About 17 businesses operate inside the 280,000-square-foot accelerator, which is at the intersection of Nashville Road and Campbell Lane.

“When we first moved in, we signed five tenants,” Steen said. “Within a year, we were out of space and had to expand.”

Some companies are already interested in locating at the future Scottsville accelerator, officials said.

Scottsville economic development officials approached Steen about opening an accelerator in Scottsville, which was the perfect community for another facility, Steen said.

“Of all the counties I can think of, this was the most aligned and ready community,” Steen said. “You have leadership; you have economic development resources and connections to the university.”

About 1,000 WKU alumni are from Scottsville and 387 Scottsville students are enrolled at the university, WKU President Gary Ransdell said.

WKU is “focusing on economic development in the region,” he said. “Our reach is expanding beyond Scottsville and beyond Louisville. It’s global.”

The Halton Group Americas, an indoor climate solutions company which operates in Scottsville, offered $50,000 to the project. Those funds were matched with money from Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Regional University Excellence Trust Fund. Those funds will be used to start the accelerator.

The Halton Group Americas also has ties to the accelerator – it’s headquartered in the Bowling Green facility.

“I truly believe that a good company must give back to their community,” said Rick Bagwell, president of Halton Group Americas. “By being able to work and take part of (the accelerator project), we have the largest impact on the community with the funds we have.”

Before they can move into the accelerator, business owners meet with Steen, who determines whether the business meets certain qualifications. A business must have a national or international market, and it must have the potential to grow, he said.

After they get a building, officials will begin gathering resources, such as getting access to fiber optics and meeting with entrepreneurs.

“Once companies realize it’s a place where they can access the Internet, the (ability) to recruit becomes very powerful,” Steen said.

The Bowling Green accelerator is the headquarters for companies such as HeathCo. Blu Pharmaceutical, which traces its roots to the Bowling Green accelerator and recently purchased the old Tyco manufacturing plant in Franklin after it outgrew the accelerator. Another tenant started with three workers and now has about 50 employees, Steen said.

“It’s just a great opportunity to help businesses that want to be able to grow and expand,” said Richie Sanders, economic development director for Allen County.