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July 11, 2014

KHIC receives new grant

To be used toward rural business, economic growth

CORBIN — By Kristina Smith / Staff Writer

Members of the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation gathered in London Thursday to announce a new grant for Southeastern Kentucky.

The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development awarded the $115,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant for KHIC to use toward rural businesses and economic growth.

“There is no question that KHIC has been a tremendous asset to Southeastern Kentucky,” said Tom Fern, state director for the USDA Rural Development.

KHIC will coordinate the grant as part of the Promise Zone initiative. Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry and parts of Whitley are counties involved in the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone.

Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of KHIC, said the grant came after the KHIC learned that healthcare is one of the fastest growing businesses in Southeastern Kentucky. KHIC applied for the USDA grant with that focus in mind.

As a result, Dr. Lovie Stallworth will be one of the firsts to benefit from the Rural Business Enterprise Grant.

Stallworth told attendees at Thursday’s meeting of her desire to open her own medical practice — and the struggle that went along with it.

“I wanted to have the option to stay in my local area and open my own practice,” Stallworth said. “But I felt like I’d have to get a MBA to open my practice.”

Stallworth already knew what she wanted to do — she needed to open an after-hour clinic that people could receive medical attention from. What Stallworth was really looking for was some guidance to opening her own business.

“It didn’t matter how passionate I was about the clinic if I didn’t have the money to keep the lights on and pay employees,” Stallworth said.

That is when Stallworth learned of KHIC and the support they could provide. KHIC helped Stallworth draw up a business plan and the finances that would support it. Because of that, Stallworth now has her own internal medicine and pediatrics practice in Middlesboro.

“I’ve been able to see my dream come alive,” Stallworth said.

Stallworth will use the grant to help run her business. In turn she will pay back the grant money and the money will then go to another entrepreneur.

Rickett explained the grant as part of a revolving loan fund. The money will continue to cycle through business owners who need it to make their business flourish.

“I want to sincerely thank the USDA for the new resources they have provided for us,” Rickett said.

“It’s not just me (that the grant will help), it’s so many more individuals,” Stallworth said.

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The soft whistle of a flute floated through the room as audience members listened in awe to tales of the Thunderbolt people. “This land that you’re now sitting on was that of Thunderbolt people,” said Thunderbolt descendant David Owens. Owens and Indian flute player Robert Mullinax stopped at the Laurel County Library Friday night to entertain with spoken legends, folk lore and tales of the bygone Thunderbolts. Audiences were captivated by stories passed down from the Thunderbolt of how things came to be. Tales about fire, pipes and Kentucky — just to name a few — were shared by Ownes over the course of an hour with Mullinax playing behind him.

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