CentreWorks given “Spirit of the Bluegrass” Vision Award

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, April 6, 2023

CentreWorks was recently given the “Spirit of the Bluegrass” Vision Award by Bluegrass Tomorrow at their annual awards breakfast on Feb. 24.

Bluegrass Tomorrow is a non-profit based in Lexington that focuses on helping people create better quality of life and a better economy. Their mission is “to connect, unify, and motivate the current and future stakeholders of the Bluegrass Region to preserve, protect, and promote those activities in Central Kentucky that positively affect the Quality of Life,” according to their website.

Each year they recognize people and organizations in the Bluegrass region for work on creating a better future for Kentucky. CentreWorks was recognized along with eight other people and organizations, mostly based in Lexington.

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Honorees include UK President Eli Capilouto, who was honored with the Vision Award for Excellence in Education; Kris Kimel, who founded Space Tango, an aerospace company that manufactures health and technology products in space – products that can only be made in zero gravity. He was given the Bluegrass Legacy Award for Entrepreneurship in Aerospace Technology. Will Arvin, who led restoration of the historic Castle & Key Distillery, was given the Vision Award for Preservation and Adaptive Reuse.

CentreWorks was recognized for their community-building, which has been their main focus since beginning in 2020.

An initiative of Centre College, CentreWorks began as a way to connect the people of Danville, Boyle County and Centre College students. Co-founders Anthony and Andrea Margida have started several community programs since then.

The LIFTOFF program teaches beginner entrepreneurs how to start successful businesses by learning what their potential customers want and need. Graduates of the class have launched 12 local startups. The FUSION program seeks to address challenging issues and involve the community in solving problems.

PURSUIT is a series of events to inspire community-building and lifelong learning. CentreWorks hosted 18 events in 2022 as part of that program. CentreWorks is also a co-working space, and anyone can rent a space for events or meetings.

Andrea explained that the combination of those three major programs enriches the community and creates opportunities for all. Part of their mission statement is to “build an intentionally-inclusive resilient community.”

“When you do that, everyone benefits; that’s what we designed and built here and that’s what was being recognized,” Andrea said.

The Margidas are ecosystem architects, and they custom-designed CentreWorks to fit the needs and desires of people in Boyle County. Starting in the middle of the pandemic, they interviewed many locals about what’s important to them.

“All of these people who took the time to have an empathy interview with us, to let us listen to them about what matters to them, they’re all a part of this, this is a reflection of the community,” Andrea said.

Anthony said Bluegrass Tomorrow CEO Rob Rumpke had been at CentreWorks for a leadership event, and heard all about what CentreWorks was doing. “Spirit of the Bluegrass” was a new award this year to recognize collaboration and partnership in the region.

Andrea said the award is really an award for the community.

“That’s what I’m most excited about with this award, that it is recognizing Danville and these surrounding counties, which are full of some absolutely remarkable people who genuinely want to come together and make things happen,” she said.

While other communities have co-working spaces and community programming, there’s no other organization exactly like CentreWorks, since it was custom-designed.

Lexington and Louisville have entrepreneurial programs, but Anthony explained that not many small communities like Danville have programs like that.

“There’s a lot that’s going on in the entrepreneurship world in urban centers, but this rural innovation opportunity, it’s really a new frontier in a lot of ways,” Anthony said. “CentreWorks was put together to develop an entrepreneurship support program, like LIFTOFF, that’s just for this area. They don’t have programs like that in different centers generally.”

Anthony said they have had other small communities reach out to them who are interested in starting something like CentreWorks. They believe programs like it will expand, but that it won’t be the same for every community.

“You have to take into account what matters to the people in a community, how they do business. So you build something that’s not just the space, but the programming and everything inside, it’s so crucial that everything is designed with those individuals in mind,” Andrea said.

“People need that support, they need a place where they can gather, and where there are meaningful events and programming.”

One upcoming project that CentreWorks is collaborating on involves helping local youth create a Smithsonian rural innovation exhibition. Another upcoming event is Germaine on Main on April 21, which will feature artwork by local artist Germaine Dunn.