ICC expands markets

Shawntaye Hopkins

Sometimes people have a plan, but the weight of failure is so heavy, it stops them before they get started.

But there are places that can help those with business ideas or inventions make it beyond just a thought.

“They might think about it or talk about it for five or ten years -an idea or something – but they never start, and that’s a real shame,” said Buddy Steen, executive director of the Central Region Innovation and Commercialization Center.

The Central Region ICC works closely with Western to help entrepreneurs create or expand businesses in Kentucky and help them obtain national or international markets.

The ICC looks for technology companies with a knowledge base and a strategy to obtain national or international markets after they are successful, Steen said.

The ICC wants to assist in creating the businesses that will produce jobs to prevent intellectual minds, like those in the engineering program, from graduating from Western then leaving the city, Steen said.

“Our mission is to facilitate the creation and growth of emerging science and technology companies in our area,” he said.

Potential clients should come to the ICC with a business plan and $500. The center will help clients create a business plan if they don’t have one. Steen is currently working with seven clients.

Steen said, since the program began in July 2002, he has met with 45 potential clients, including Western professors, inventors and other entrepreneurs.

Hitcents.com is working with the ICC at the business plan assessment level. Bowling Green freshmen Clinton and Chris Mills founded Hitcents to help companies advertise on the Internet in December 1999.

Chris Mills said Steen came to them and set up an appointment for the brothers to find out more about the ICC. Hitcents joined because they felt the ICC could help them develop a better business plan, he said.

Unlike other ICC regions, the Central region ICC searches for sources of intellectual capital, Steen said. He said intellectual capital can be in the form of a person who has knowledge about a process or a patent.

Steen said Chris Byrne, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an expert on the carbonization of wood, has a patent on a product he devised to aid in the carbonization process. The ICC is working with Byrne to move his process into the commercial world, he said.

The ICC also serves as a catalyst for innovation and commercialization by linking individuals with business problems to Western professors who can help solve them.

Steen has met with clients in various locations, such as on campus and at Barnes and Noble Booksellers. The permanent ICC office will be located at Western’s Center for Research and Development on 2700 Nashville Road when renovations are completed around the beginning of May.

The ICC works with existing economic development programs, such as the Small Business Development Center located at the Carroll Knicely Institute for Economic Development, Steen said.

The SBDC counsels and trains individuals wanting to create their own businesses, but the SBDC does not focus on local businesses. But Horn sometimes refers clients to Steen.

Steen has personal reasons for wanting to help build businesses in Kentucky. He graduated from Western in 1990 and worked for ten years in the engineering and technology department as a technical support specialist/staff engineer.

After Steen left Western, he started a company that moved to Nashville against his will. He eventually left the company and took his current position.

“If the ICC had been in existence when my company started, in my opinion, we wouldn’t have moved to Nashville, and the scenario would have been quite different,” he said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]