Angel group formed to help economy in Tri-State

ASHLAND – The Tri-State Angel Investment Group, formed earlier this year, has made an initial $100,000 investment to help local businesses start up or expand and bring more jobs to the area.

The group of investors has raised $1.2 million to help Tri-State businesses grow, said Nick Fosson, director of the Kentucky Innovation Network office in Ashland, one of 13 in Kentucky. It was funded from a grant from the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet Office of Entrepreneurship.

“Our mission is to improve the economy of the region,” Fosson said. “The first priority is to invest in regional businesses. We have to think regionally.”

The region the network will fund projects in is within 50 miles of the Ashland, Ironton and Huntington areas, he said. The group currently is composed of Ashland and Ironton area investors and would like to see more investors from Huntington and expand the initial investment to $3 million, Fosson said.

The $100,000 investment made last week is part of a $2.5 million waste to energy project expected to bring 18 to 20 new jobs to the Tri-State, said Fosson, a retired chemical engineer with an MBA from Marshall University who has worked for Ashland Oil and Armco.

“Businesses need money to grow or expand,” Fosson said. He has worked for more than five years to establish the only Angel Investment Group in Kentucky east of Lexington.

Angel Investment Groups are a step below venture capitalists who invest between $100,000 to $2 million in economic development projects, Fosson said.

“We’ll take some risks to help local businesses,” Fosson said. The group, formed Jan. 1, has heard from six businesses looking for capital, has moved three or those projects to due diligence and funded its first project last week, Fosson said.

Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation in South Point, Ohio, is among those involved in the project.

“The LEDC chose to get involved in this,” Dingus said. “I believe in it. I’m a true believer in the Tri-State economy. We have to think regionally. Some projects need more capital to expand. “The idea is to nurture new businesses with great opportunity.”

The idea is to invest the initial money over the next three or four years and then do it again, Fosson said.

The company the group is investing in hopes to raise $2.5 million in the next few months before the project is announced, Fosson said.

From Herald Dispatch  |  May 18, 2015