By Kayla Lasure
Starting his software development business in Breathitt County wasn’t easy, said Mike Bryant.
Less than 10 percent of those aged over 25 have a bachelor’s degree or more. And, nearly a third of the population of Breathitt County lives below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census.
However, Bryant has sustained his software business in Breathitt for about 10 years. He and his wife decided to move back home after nine years away in Atlanta so they could raise their children with family.
“We wanted to raise our kids in a non-city atmosphere,” Bryant said. “The hard part moving back here was there’s not a demand for a lot of computer related stuff here. Kentucky isn’t a real high-tech state. The more rural you get, the less need there is for computer software.”
In places where large corporations are less likely to open shops and create jobs, locals have to figure out a way to make business opportunities for themselves.
“Entrepreneurship by local eastern Kentuckians is the key to fighting poverty here,” said Tim Robinson, owner of Addiction Recovery Care LLC. “This is especially in areas like addiction.”
Robinson, a recovered alcoholic, saw a significant need for drug and alcohol treatment centers, which is why he decided to create his business.
“You have to have passion for any business to press through the struggle of birthing a new business,” Robinson said. “The toughest thing for rehabs is that communities don’t always want them in their towns.”
His organization operates locations across eastern and central Kentucky with corporate offices in Louisa.
On the other hand, most of Bryant’s are from out of state. He started out doing small contract jobs designing computer applications here and there to keep his business afloat. As they only employee of his company, everything depended on him going out to find work.
“Finding work is the hardest thing,” Bryant said. “You do small projects for low pay and kind of prove yourself which is what I did. Even though I have a resume from a number of companies, it’s a new area, especially in eastern Kentucky. I had to prove myself.”
Then, he started working for companies in places such as New York, India, Cincinnati, and currently doing work for a company in Atlanta. He now creates software for web applications.
Bryant said he loves owning his own business because he is his own boss and set his own hours.
“I work from home but also have an office in Jackson,” Bryant said. “There’s no one over your shoulder telling you what to do. You have to have the ability to make yourself work and not blow off the day. The downside is not a steady income if no one is having you work.”
Bryant said the upside to living in Kentucky but getting work from out of state is still being able to give to the Kentucky economy.
“Basically, with the way I’m working, I live here and I spend my money here,” Bryant said. “The money comes from out of state. That’s still money coming into our economy. The more capitol there is in the local economy, the more you can see that it becomes a much stronger thing.”
Bryant said he understands that going out of Kentucky to find work may seem more appealing to graduating students but that starting your own business in the state isn’t impossible.
“To be fresh out of college and start your own company is going to be challenging,” Bryant said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It’s just going to be more challenging. I moved away but then came back. You may move away for a couple years but you can come back. The one thing we don’t need is where everyone just leaves and there’s nobody left.”