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Murray State, Local Partners Establishing Hub For Tech Startups And Entrepreneurs

Courtesy of Chris Wooldridge
Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless speaking at the announcement in Paducah on Tuesday.

Murray State University and local partners are establishing a regional hub to serve, attract and cultivate innovative entrepreneurs and startup businesses in the west Kentucky region.

Murray State’s Center for Telecommunications Systems Management and Small Business Development Center are partnering with the Technology Council of West Kentucky, local area development districts and others to launch a Regional Innovation for Startups and Entrepreneurs - or RISE - hub.

Governor Matt Bevin’s office said on Tuesday the effort is part of the statewide KY Innovation effort to support high-tech businesses.

Support organizations are in Murray, Henderson, Hopkinsville, Madisonville and Paducah. The state is funding the hub with $428,684 that will be matched by communities (either cash or in-kind).

SBDC Director Chris Wooldridge is a co-coordinator along with TSM director Michael Ramage. Wooldridge said the initiative will support a regional approach toward innovation and tech-based entrepreneurship, with the university serving as an “activist and catalyst” for the surrounding communities.

The idea of the project, he said is to support local “tech clusters” as well as work with partner communities to develop incubator facilities for tech and entrepreneur development.

“I think really what this does, is it really puts some funding to those projects in each of the communities. Because each of the communities has a different approach - or a slightly different approach toward: how do we make places for innovation and tech-interested entrepreneurs,” Wooldridge said, adding that the initiative is working toward a goal of creating jobs and wealth in the region.

Credit Courtesy of Chris Wooldridge
Courtesy of Chris Wooldridge
Murray State SBDC Director Chris Wooldridge (second to left)

According to a release, partners will provide business planning services, investor-financing readiness evaluations, software development vetting and advising on incorporating, tax and permitting obligations, IP protections and partnership agreements.  

“The First 100” will identify 100 entrepreneurs in five communities within six months. Also, within 90 days, each community will conduct a work session to identify its local tech and entrepreneurial assets. And each community will create a talent development program.

Bevin said in a release the state’s western region is “vital to KY Innovation’s statewide strategy to serve entrepreneurs.”

More RISE awardees will be announced in the coming weeks with a total of $4.9 million going toward regional efforts across the state.

Wooldridge said the initiative has a potential to last more than one year, “and so we could look at another round of funding each year.”

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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