Estill County 21st Century, Inc. dba Estill Development Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community and economic development organization serving Irvine, Ravenna & Estill County, Kentucky. Founded in 1995, EDA is the preeminent development entity in our community and is responsible for aiding and nurturing worthwhile projects and programs to improve the quality of life for our rural population. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT & NETWORKING The Estill County Chamber of Commerce is an operating division of EDA. The Chamber facilitates business networking opportunities for our members, offers training based on stated needs, and organizes fun and educational events for the entire community. In our small community, a chamber of commerce could not operate fully or effectively without a parent organization. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT Starting with Leadership Estill County 7 years ago, an annual adult leadership program has thrived and grown into a four county initiative called Leadership LEAP (Learn, Empower, Attain, Progress). Made possible through sponsorships and facilitated by EDA, Leadership LEAP would lack needed structure without its parent organization. With over 80 graduates so far, the loss of LEAP would be a step backward for not only our county but also our 5 other rural partners. ENTREPRENEURIAL DEVELOPMENT In the summer of 2012, EDA launched the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, or ICE Box. It is the first and only business incubator in our community, offering business start-up services and assistance as well as low cost office space. Beyond these services, entrepreneur academies have been offered and EDA has a close relationship with the Small Business Development Center.
PHILANTHROPY EDA created a separate fund in 2013 and dubbed it the Estill County Community Foundation. Still in its infancy, it is the only grant-making entity that exists only to serve our community. If EDA were no more, there would be no administrator of the fund and it would cease to exist. INFORMATION CLEARINGHOUSE EDA is the “go to” organization for people within and without our community who need information about services available locally. In this way, EDA is many times the mediator and facilitator to make introductions as well as disseminate information out to the community at large. No other organization exists to take on this role in Estill County.
ACCESS TO THE ARTS When a group of engaged citizens approached EDA in 2013 about founding a performing arts group for Estill County, they were received with open arms. The River City Players is now an operating division of EDA, and their membership is being offered assistance with administration, fundraising and connection with resources. They have presented several live productions and two youth theater camps. Acquisition of the Mack Theater in downtown Irvine is close at hand, and fundraising for its redevelopment will begin. CIVIC ENGAGEMENT Since its founding, EDA has been at the forefront of organizing the citizenry of our community to shape its own fate. Many different events have been held over the years focusing on strategic planning for Estill County. Another initiative, called #EstillRising, is being planned currently. No other organization locally has the capacity to engage the people effectively in this way. REGIONAL COLLABORATION The EDA Board of Directors, knowing collectively that no successful community exists as an island, has long supported regional initiatives and collaboration with our neighbors. Through initiatives like the aforementioned Leadership LEAP (Lee, Jackson, Owsley, Powell & Wolfe Counties), the BELP Regional Technology Authority (Breathitt, Lee & Powell Counties), the LEWP Recreation Board (Lee, Wolfe & Powell Counties), and many others, EDA is at the center of multi-community cooperative efforts. Without a development organization such as EDA, Estill County would most likely be left alone in the region in many respects. LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Realizing that a successful community invests in itself, EDA founded a buy-local, think-local initiative called Estill County Local-Motive in 2011. The program has shown quite a bit of merit and has blossomed into Eastern Kentucky Local-Motive and includes three counties with more to come. Eastern Kentucky Local-Motive operates completely under the umbrella of EDA with member partner organizations in each participating county.
BUSINESS RECRUITMENT & RETENTION Every successful community needs a contact point for site selectors and others looking to expand business into their community. EDA serves as that point for Estill County. Through an operating agreement with the Estill County Fiscal Court, EDA houses the Estill County Industrial Development Authority. Informing interested prospects about existing infrastructure and available resources (such as our working relationships with the Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board and the Innovation & Commercialization Center), is paramount to prompting economic development of this sort. EDA also reaches out to existing businesses in our community to find out what needs they have to be as successful as possible.