National Science Foundation Grant Funds UK Economic Development Study

The University of Kentucky has received nearly half a million dollars from the National Science Foundation to study economic development in eastern Kentucky.

The study involves faculty from UK’s business school and schools of social work, public health, sociology and agriculture.

Business professor Walter Ferrier is the study’s principal investigator. He says the researchers will look at the region’s economic development organizations.

“What we look at is the connections between organizations,” he said. “And the structure of those connections is kind of mapped out in a visible way as we use some sophisticated software.”

Ferrier says despite persistent economic problems in Appalachia, there’s hope: As the coal industry employs fewer people, that could create opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“As the large industries perhaps play a less significant role in economic and business activity in the region, I think that will stimulate an even greater interest in small business, in entrepreneurial startups,” he said.

Ferrier and his colleagues will look at the hundreds of economic development organizations in 54 counties and encourage separate agencies to collaborate for mutual benefits.