Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hollison receives $200,000 investment

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 12:00 AM CDT
The Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. has invested $200,000 in Hollison Technologies, a startup biotech company that will have its headquarters in the Owensboro Centre for Business and Research when it opens later this year.

That comes on the heels of a $50,000 investment from the local Emerging Ventures Seed Fund.

"It's exciting to see that kind of state investment," said Madison Silvert, vice president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. and executive director of its eMerging Ventures Center for Innovation.

"That's a good-sized investment," he said. "It's the largest award we've secured from them so far. We're seeing the emergence of a high-tech atmosphere in Owensboro."

"That was fantastic," Kevin Humphrey of Utica, one of four partners in the company, said of the state investment. "I credit Madison as much as I do our idea."

The Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. describes itself as "a private, nonprofit corporation committed to the advancement of science, technology and innovative economic development founded on Kentucky know-how."

Hollison's Web site says it "provides unique products and services for food protection and the detection of contaminants in the food supply chain, including, but not limited to, farms, bulk storage facilities, commodity transportation, food processing, food distribution and point of consumption."

It has developed technology for the "detection and identification of chemical, biological and radiological contamination in food commodities, processed food and beverages," the site says.

Humphrey said the company can detect salmonella, e.coli, herbicides, pesticides and radiation with a single test.

He said he's been working on the process for the past five years with partners Eric Dodd of Evansville and Doug Wood of Island. They recently added Tony Bashall of Massachusetts as a fourth partner.

The company's name is a combination of Humphrey's daughters' names -- Holly and Ellison.

Humphrey and his brother, David, owned Agri-Tech, a business they opened in Livermore in 1996, specializing in grain-handling equipment, poultry house construction, electrical work and steel building construction.

When that business closed, he started working on Hollison, he said.

The company already has customers lined up and is beginning operations even before its new offices are ready.

"We have to ramp up now and launch a pilot program with one of our customers in the next six weeks," Humphrey said.

Silvert said EDC hosted a reception for investors interested in the company a couple of weeks ago.

"We still need to do a little more work on financing," Humphrey said. "But Owensboro has been fantastic to work with. The business leaders have really stepped up to help us."

The company will start with 1,000 square feet "and a little bit of wet lab space," he said. "But they're leaving us room for expansion."

The transformation of an 86-year-old former tobacco warehouse at 1016 Allen St. into the high-tech Centre for Business and Research is on track to be completed by the end of the year, Silvert said.

Humphrey said the company will need "several" employees in Owensboro as well as sales people in the field.

Silvert said the peanut industry could have saved $1 billion earlier this year during the salmonella scare if it had had the Hollison technology.

"They can sample the air around the dry food for contaminants before its mixed with the larger food supply," he said. "This has tremendous potential."

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com