Launching a new business venture in a county purported to be one of the worst in America is not something you’d ordinarily expect from a successful entrepreneur, especially one who lives nearly three hours’ hard drive away. What about all those dreary stats the New York Times assembled? Poor educational attainment, household income, jobless rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate… how could an entrepreneur possibly be expected to assemble a stable workforce from this depressing mass? “Baloney,” says Tim Robinson, dismissively: “Jackson County was one of the most welcoming communities our company has worked in. Educated and healthy workers come ready to work, the community is supportive, the natural beauty helps us; it’s just a wonderful place to locate a business.”
Tim Robinson is another eastern Kentucky entrepreneur who could be any number of places. He graduated from Law School at the University of Kentucky and does business in cities like Lexington, KY; Huntington, West Virginia; and Ashland, KY, all of which have far better stats than Jackson County. But when Tim found out that a small drug rehab facility in the Jackson County community of Annville was in danger of closing, he didn’t hesitate to make the trip there to make a proposal: Tim’s company, Louisa, Kentucky-based Addiction Recovery Care, would take over management of the facility, keep its employees, and grow it, to boot!
The facility was named in honor of a late, recovering addict named Beth. Beth’s sad story might be one that would have been covered by the New York Times, but there was also a more hopeful chapter to her life: as she fought to recover, she became known throughout the area for her compassion and willingness to help others. Though she ultimately lost her struggle, she inspired others to pick up the task of helping addicts.
The friends and family Beth inspired found a willing partner in the Annville Institute, a faith-based campus founded by a missionary over a hundred years earlier. The campus, home to more than a dozen various faith-based initiatives, provided the house in which Beth’s Blessing was launched and now resides.
“The missionary tradition in eastern Kentucky has a long history,” says Tim, “but people forget that evangelizing often takes a backseat to enterprise-growth and entrepreneurial-development. Great missionaries have been as much Bill Gates as they have been Billy Graham.” In other words, they see a need and fill that need through savvy and entrepreneurship.
Tim continues that tradition in Jackson County and his other locations. His is a business that’s both licensed for insurance and, simultaneously, faith based. “We are very much a business that believes in staying on the cutting edge. We use the most modern, board-certified methods for drug recovery. But we don’t check out faith at the door: we find a way to weave it into what we do.”
Tim says that the key to helping alleviate eastern Kentucky poverty is empowerment. Recently, he and his wife (and business partner), Lelia, have been experimenting with an art gallery at their parent organization. “We want to teach these folks who are recovering to channel their experience and pain into something meaningful, like art. We actually have several paintings in the gallery painted by them.”
Tim smiles a bit sheepishly when asked if any have sold: “Honestly, we’re still working on that- so far, we can’t get any of them to give us permission to sell them; they’re too proud of their work to let them go.”