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Federal Funds to Boost Health Entrepreneurship in Northern Kentucky

A federal grant valued at $731,250 was awarded to the Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation's Entrepreneurship Council (NKYEC).

The funds were awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's economic development administration.

The money will be used to build the Northern Kentucky Health Innovation Initiative (NKY-HII).

This marks the first time that such funds have been awarded in Kentucky.

Local funds will match the grant to make the total award worth over $1.4 million.

Combined with the recently announced state funds, there will be more than $2.8 million to work on entrepreneurship in Northern Kentucky.

According to a news release, NKY-HII would create jobs and attract companies and talent in the health innovation sector across the eight-county Northern Kentucky region.

By aligning the region’s top economic development, healthcare, university and startup accelerator assets, the NKY-HII will stimulate and commercialize health innovation, the release said. 

The grant is one of 40 that were announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program. The funding was awarded through the 2018 i6 Challenge, a leading national initiative designed to support the creation of centers of innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The awarding of these funds supports our commitment to build a health innovation cluster in Northern Kentucky,” said Gary Moore, Boone County Judge/Executive, and current board chair of Tri-ED. “We are just getting started – the funding we’ve received to date with our partners will allow us to continue work on building companies and increasing jobs and investment in the region, while uniquely solving health issues.”

Tri-ED Senior Vice President Casey Barach, who spearheaded the grant submission, praised the efforts in the region. “The power of the Initiative’s partnership will allow the region to build a world-class health innovation initiative and is the primary reason we were awarded these funds. This investment will allow our partners to continue the hard work to aggressively address health issues in the region, so we can improve and save lives.”

NKYEC has a strong foundation to build the NKY-HII, leveraging NKU and St. Elizabeth’s existing health innovation programs.

“We’re proud of the partnership that were awarded these dollars,” said Garren Colvin, President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “It’s a perfect partnership for an organization like ours, which strives to bring innovative health solutions to our patients. We’re excited to use our expertise to invest in the community around us and grow a health innovation cluster here.”

“We look forward to working with our regional partners to develop new and innovative health solutions,” said Ashish Vaidya, President of NKU. “Our newly established Institute for Health Innovation is perfectly positioned to guide the NKY-HII.  We all have a role in addressing the urgent population health concerns our region faces, and this collaboration brings everyone to the table.”

Normand Desmarais, chair of the NKYE, and co-founder of TiER1 Performance Solutions, also praised the additional funding. “We are working to deliver new resources and accelerate business success for local entrepreneurs,” he said.  “Health innovation is one the areas we are focusing on, and this additional funding will be a big driver to improving our success in this sector.” 

Within the next three years, NKY-HII is anticipated to create 27 health innovation focused companies and add 44 full-time and 59 part-time jobs to the region.

The NKYEC consists of:

Aaron Bludworth


Rich Boehne

Chairman – Scripps/ NKU Board of Regents

Craig Carlson

Regional Director – BB&T

Karen Cheser

Superintendent – Ft. Thomas Independent Schools

Norm Desmarais

Founder & Chair – TiER1 Performance Solutions / NKU Regent

Nigel Ferrey

Chairman & CEO – SIDIS Corp.

Kay Geiger

Regional President – PNC Bank

Sarah Giolando

Chief Strategy Officer – St. E Healthcare

John Hawkins

CEO – MPI/Pathfinder

David Heidrich

CEO – Zalla Companies / Northern Kentucky Growth Fund

John Hengelbrok

CEO – Baker Stamping Co.

Matt Hollenkamp

Vice President, Marketing & Communications – St. E Healthcare

Dave Knox

Founder & Managing Partner – Vine Street Ventures

Tony Lamb

Founder & CEO – Kona Ice

MaryAnn Pietromonaco

VP – Morgan Stanley / Chair of Aviatra Accelerators

Tom Prewitt

Chair – Graydon / Chair of UpTech Accelerator

Tim Schroeder

CEO – CTI Clinical Trial & Consulting Services

Chad Summe

Sr. VP – Quotient Technology

Vincent Williams

Co-Founder / Partner – Orchestrate Technologies

Brad Zapp

Founder & Managing Partner – CONNETIC Ventures

-Staff report