West Liberty, Kentucky & Appalachia

Digital Entrepreneur and Worker Development (DEWD) Program

Background: In March 2012, a small community nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians was nearly destroyed by a monstrous tornado. Seven lives were lost, 400 homes demolished, $50 million of damage incurred, and most of the downtown devastated. Rather than view this crisis as a hopeless tragedy, the 3400 residents of West Liberty, Kentucky, instead saw an opportunity to rebuild their town as a 21st Century, sustainable community, and to develop a path to create a more competitive, entrepreneurial economy.  From the heart of coal country, West Liberty could provide a replicable, energy-diversified model for post-disaster recovery communities across the globe, and – perhaps more significantly – an example for other distressed areas of rural America. Rebuilding West Liberty, Kentucky, a Clinton Global Initiative America Commitment to Action, is a multi-faceted approach to redevelop this small town in coal country as a national model for sustainability -- through the construction of state-of-the-art, energy efficient homes that utilize renewable technologies, and through the educational promotion of its innovations to school children and similarly-situated rural communities across the country.

Program Service Area  - After the March 2, 2015 tornado the Federal Emergency Management Association issued FEMA-4057-DR Disaster Declaration and the following 7 of 9 impacted counties will be the communities that will be assisted in this program and their unemployment rate are: Morgan 7.3%, Magoffin 13.1%, Menifee 7.9%, Wolfe 7.3%. Johnson 7.9%, Lawrence 8.3%, Rowan 6,3% (all June 2015).  These compare to a statewide rate of 5.0% (April 2015) and a nationwide rate of 5.5% (May 2015).

Program Partners
Sustainable Business Ventures Corporation – Bobby Clark – Green Entrepreneur Program – Project Manager
Midwest Clean Energy Enterprise LLC – Bobby Clark
Bill Schutters – Community Building through Entrepreneurial Education and Experiences (CBe3) and Ice House Entrepreneurship Program Small Business Edition (SBE)
Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) – Jeff Whitehead – Teleworks Hub
Frost Brown & Todd – Jonathan Miller – Outreach, Promotion, Legal Services for Business Startups
Morehead Kentucky Innovation Center – Johnathan Gay – Small Business Incubator
Commercial Bank of West Liberty – Hank Allen – Small Business Incubator
Mountain Association of Community & Economic Development – Paul Wright – Small Business Loans  

Program Overview
The partners assembled are working together to address serious issues facing eastern Kentucky and Appalachia. JOBS! There has been a loss of 7,500 coal jobs or a 50% reduction since 2011. For every coal job lost there are an estimated three additional jobs lost. The additional job loss impacts retail shops, restaurants and many other businesses in the local economy. Many youth leave and never return and these communities are in a death spiral.

So now this team will use state-of-the-art job creation tools and highly focused entrepreneurial training to create jobs in a region that desperately needs a new approach and measurable successes. The program is called Digital Entrepreneur and Worker Development (DEWD) Program.

There are two key components of the DEWD job development program: (1) entrepreneur training and (2) training workers for online customer service jobs.  The entrepreneur training program provided in the seven target counties will also collaborate with similar efforts in the eight counties in the Promise Zone counties and other parts of eastern Kentucky that are also focusing on entrepreneurial development.

The entrepreneur training will integrate three programs:

Community Building through Entrepreneurial Education and Experiences (CBe3) helps connect entrepreneurs virtually and in-person to mentors, investors, and resource providers in your area using our patented matching algorithms. The Knowledge & Learning Center provides unique competency based learning system that enables continuous delivery and assessment and personalized learning paths and content.

Ice House Entrepreneurship Program Small Business Edition (SBE) is an experiential learning program designed to inspire and engage participants in the fundamental aspects of an entrepreneurial thought and process. SBE is designed to empower participants by exposing them to entrepreneurial thinking while immersing them in entrepreneurial experiences that will enable them to develop and hone entrepreneurial skills.

Green Entrepreneur Program (GEP) was developed to help difficult to employ individuals (including inmates and ex-offenders) create their own job through self-employment. This program provides:  (1) Entrepreneurship Introduction and Overview; (2) Brainstorming, Mentors, Goals, and Networking; (3) Social Media and e-Commerce; (4) Sustainability, Green Practices, and Environment Issues; and (6) Business Plan Basics.

The entrepreneurship training programs will assist participants in developing business plans. Frost Brown & Todd will provide legal support plans for business startup and MACED will assist in finding resources for business startup.  The CBe3 program will continue to provide mentor support and additional online educational opportunities. The small business incubator at the Commercial Bank of West Liberty and in Morehead supported by the Kentucky Innovation Center will provide ongoing support and assistance. The grant funds provided for training are expected help launch 10-15 new businesses.

A Teleworks Hub is a sustainable job creation program bringing technology-based jobs to local communities. It connects 21st century workforce opportunities to people who are eagerly seeking work uses Digital Works curriculum to train workers and has a 90+% placement rate after completing a six-week program. This program connects 21st century workforce opportunities to people who are eagerly seeking work. It is a unique strategy to create jobs in areas facing high unemployment by leveraging broadband technology for call center and IT outsourcing. The Digital Works program will increase employment opportunities West Liberty and seven surrounding counties by making new online jobs available and preparing local workers to compete for, obtain, and succeed in those jobs, thereby improving their personal economic circumstances and improving the economic health of their counties by increasing per capita wages and preparing the local workers for the digital economy