Cabinet for Economic Development

Press Release Date:  Monday, September 17, 2007  
Contact Information:  Mandy Lambert, (502) 564-7670  

Yearlong initiative designed to increase economic development, entrepreneurship

FRANKFORT, Ky. Governor Ernie Fletcher’s efforts to support entrepreneurs have received a boost from the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices.

The NGA Center has selected Kentucky to participate in a yearlong policy academy, working with nationally recognized experts to identify economic policies that can help improve the commonwealth’s competitiveness in the global economy. Entitled State Strategies for Promoting Innovative Clusters and Regional Economies, the policy academy will begin in September and provide a team selected by Governor Fletcher with the latest information on how to apply contemporary cluster analysis and innovation-based economic strategies.

“I want Kentucky to be a leader in supporting innovative businesses,” Governor Fletcher said. “The outcomes of the policy academy will help us build on our efforts to deepen our workforce skills and entrepreneurial efforts across the state.”

Clusters are groups of businesses and related institutions that derive economic advantages from being near one another. Clusters can boost a region’s economic capacity and entrepreneurship, as well as improve employment and wages, so states can benefit from designing policies that promote them.

The Fletcher administration already has taken unprecedented steps to nurture entrepreneurs. Kentucky is the only state that matches both phase 1 (proof-of-concept research) and phase 2 (full-scale research and development) of two federal grant programs: Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Research. Kentucky’s matching grants support grant winners in the critical period between their selection for federal funding and their actual receipt of funds.

Kentucky was one of seven states chosen by the NGA Center based on an application that was submitted by Governor Fletcher in July. Also selected were Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Oregon, and West Virginia. Participating states will learn about new research, promising practices and state policy options related to cluster-based and innovation-led economic development.

Kentucky’s application identified a team whose five core members represent a range of economic development agencies and organizations: Keith Bird, chancellor of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System; Deborah Clayton, commissioner of the Department of Commercialization and Innovation, Cabinet for Economic Development; Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.; Beth Smith, commissioner of Workforce Development for the Education Cabinet; and Libby Milligan, Governor Fletcher’s special assistant for administration and legislation.

Others named on the application in supporting roles are Donna Duncan, commissioner of the Department of Financial Incentives, Cabinet for Economic Development; Linda Linville, senior fellow for academic affairs, Council on Postsecondary Education; and Tom McMahon, Fund Manager for Commonwealth Seed Capital LLC, a state fund that invests public dollars in startup companies and economic development projects throughout Kentucky.

“The NGA Center’s policy academy will facilitate open discussion across state agencies to help better align economic development with state resources and advocate for a unified economic development plan,” said Economic Development Secretary John Hindman. “NGA’s experts will assist in synthesizing a wide array of studies and reports, while helping identify common themes and overarching recommendations to help guide Kentucky in developing economic development policies.”

The Kentucky policy academy team will focus on improving workforce education and skills and encouraging entrepreneurship. “Increasing our workforce’s skills and education levels are immediate and pressing needs to help Kentuckians compete for higher paying, high-tech jobs,” said Clayton, who was picked by Governor Fletcher to head the policy academy team. “Kentucky’s entrepreneurial economy, which is closely linked with educational attainment, will also benefit from placing more focus on an educated workforce.”

The NGA Center’s report, Cluster-Based Strategies for Growing State Economies, provides information on the benefits that cluster-based economies can bring to regions. It can be viewed online and downloaded at

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The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development is the primary state agency in Kentucky responsible for creating new jobs and new investment in the state. New business investment in Kentucky in 2006 totaled more than $3.4 billion with the creation of over 18,500 new jobs. Information on available development sites, workforce training, incentive programs, community profiles, small business development and other resources is available at