Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 27, 2013

Economic development center’s goal

ACTC hopes combining resources at one location will benefit community

Mike James
The Independent

SUMMIT — A move of necessity turned into a development opportunity when Ashland Community and Technical College vacated some downtown offices last fall.

When ACTC’s Entrepreneur Center and Kentucky Innovation Center moved from the G.B. Johnson building on Winchester Avenue to the college’s former technical campus in Summit, college officials created an economic development center there in hopes it will be a clearinghouse for regional economic efforts.

The Community and Economic Development Center will serve as a regular designated meeting place for economic development officials in northeastern Kentucky and will provide temporary office and meeting space for business and governmental partners.

The almost-empty Summit campus on Roberts Drive also provides room to grow as the center develops.

When the entrepreneur and innovation centers moved in, the time seemed ripe for the center concept, said Larry Ferguson, dean of Community, Economic and Workforce Development.

Ferguson sold Ashland Economic Development Director Chris Pullem and Ashland Alliance President Bill Hannah on the concept of concentrating development resources at a single central location and then cast his net for more partners. “We kind of turned the move into a positive,” he said.

Partners include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Morehead State University’s Small Business Development Center and Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corp., in addition to the entrepreneur and innovation centers.

The center is ACTC’s response to a still-tough economic climate, college President Kay Adkins said. “Business and industry have to come together and collaborate,” she said. “In difficult times like these, working together will help our region.”

Forging the partnerships and providing common work and meeting spaces takes advantage of “collective brainpower” to make more effective strategic decisions, she said. “When you bring creative people together, they feed off each other.”

The center will provide 24-hour “war room” access for officials to work with each other and with business prospects to strategize and make presentations, Ferguson said.

ACTC hopes to add more partners, both public and private sector, and from Ohio and West Virginia as well as northeastern Kentucky, Adkins said.

The center will have a Business After Hours open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb 21.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.