Friday, December 21, 2007

Quality Retail is Essential to the Attraction of Talent

Tis the season for retail sales! Retail development and the tax increment financing district proposed with the Gateway Commons development was a center piece of discussion in the Greater Owensboro region in 2007. The key element of the proposed development was the expansion of retail in Owensboro.

In 2008 the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation will begin an aggressive strategy to recruit talent to the community. To do this, we have created as a unique tool to identify people interested in finding employment in the region. We have created an infrastructure to support entrepreneurs and high tech startups that will surely draw talent. We are partnering with the Daviess County Fiscal Court on the expansion of public higher education as a way to attract and retain talented young people. And we will play a key role in the downtown redevelopment activities of the coming year. All are important steps, but ultimately we will succeed only if Owensboro is recognized as a place that people want to live.

In the 21st century economy, the most precious resource is human capital. Traditionally, college graduates moved to the city where they could find work. Now, over two thirds of young adults are more likely to choose the city in which they want to live and THEN find a job. The implication is that Owensboro must be an attractive city, not for the jobs we already have, but for the quality of life it offers.

Enhancing retail is a vital step toward making Owensboro an attractive place to live for the talent we seek to attract. Many people simply will not locate to a town with minimal retail opportunities.

Retail opportunities, like downtown redevelopment, are essential to talent recruitment in Owensboro. It is a critical factor in the successful attraction of doctors, researchers, and entrepreneurs—all key target groups in our economic growth over the next several years.

This work will guide the EDC agenda for 2008. Happy holidays!

by Nick Brake & Madison Silvert

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stay the Course with Higher Education Reform

The Postsecondary Education Reform Act of 1997 is the most important economic development legislation this state enacted in the last decade. Therefore, we support and applaud the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce for their recent report, which encourages the Governor and General Assembly to forge ahead with the objectives of higher education reform.

The central theme of the reform was to use Kentucky’s higher education system to transform the state economy, with the overarching goal to achieve a per capita income that meets or exceed the national average by 2020. To accomplish this, the Council on Postsecondary Education created the “Double the Numbers” campaign to increase the number of Kentuckians with bachelor’s degrees by 2020.

While Kentucky has made progress, other states have also improved. Kentucky’s position relative to the national average has changed little over the past decade, the state’s per capita income as a percent of the national average remains about 82 percent.

Significant changes have taken place in the local higher education arena over the last decade, positioning Owensboro for a potential transformation of the regional economy. The reform has had a significant impact in the following three ways:

Double the Numbers Mandate- A decade ago colleges in Owensboro barely enrolled 3,000 students. A plan existed to build an advanced technology center and expand public higher education by relocating the local Western Kentucky University campus to the community college. In 2007 nearly 8,000 are enrolled in Owensboro-based colleges and universities and thanks to the leadership of the Daviess County Fiscal Court a new campus is planned for the expansion of WKU-O. And, as a result of the strong leadership of the presidents, all local colleges are doing their part to “Double the Numbers.” They recognize the role each institution plays in creating a vibrant and growing college environment where a rising tide lifts all boats. But we have a long way to go. Bachelor attainment rates are stagnant. Today only 22% of our working-aged adults have an associate’s, bachelor’s or graduate degree—compared with 35% nationally. The aim is to match the national percentage in 13 years—this will require 10,000 new college degree holders by 2020, including 4,500 at the bachelor degree level.

Creation of Owensboro Community and Technical College- One of the greatest achievements of the reform has been the consolidation of the community colleges and technical schools through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). Since 1997, enrollments in KCTCS colleges have increased 106 percent. The enrollment in Owensboro has jumped to over 5,000 students. There is no better tool to improve the workforce and economic development of a community than a strong community college—and we have one of the best. From the enrollment of high school students through the Discover College program to the customized business and industry training delivered to area businesses, OCTC demonstrates why a strong comprehensive community college and programs such as the Advanced Technology Center is a top priority.

Bucks for Brains- The program to attract the highest possible level of talent to perform life changing research at Kentucky’s two research universities has been an overwhelming success. Bucks for Brains has pumped millions of dollars in research funding into the state’s economy and provided the impetus for economic development while changing the lives of people all around the world. This hits home here in Owensboro, where researchers from the University of Louisville are working on cutting edge cancer research using tobacco to provide vaccines in lesser developed countries to fight cervical cancer and HIV. The synergy between the Owensboro Cancer Research Program at OMHS, Kentucky Bioprocessing, and the University of Louisville is a great example of how university research and talent are the drivers in the 21st century economy.

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. continues to play an active role in promoting and integrating the alignment of higher education with local economic development strategy, our work with the memorandum of agreement with WKU is but one example. Such alignment will position Owensboro to be on the cutting edge of the transformation of the state economy and increase the per capita income levels of our citizens as envisioned by the reform.

To Governor Beshear and members of the General Assembly, stay the course to improve access, provide financial assistance, and promote the alignment of schools, colleges, universities, and economic development agencies for the betterment of the Commonwealth. A tall order, but I cannot think of any more important to the future of Kentucky.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Northwest Kentucky: A Center of "Green" Innovation

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation (GO-EDC) and Northwest Kentucky Forward, the regional economic development organization based in Henderson, will announce a new partnership aiming to brand Northwest Kentucky as a center of “green” innovation.

Entrepreneurs, scientists, and investors are finding the area around the Green River including Greater Owensboro, Henderson, and the entire Northwest Kentucky region ripe with assets for innovation in “green” technologies such as plant biotechnology and alternative energy.

The Northwest Kentucky region is poised to lead state and national efforts in “green” innovation. Owensboro is becoming a world center of plant-made pharmaceutical and plant biotechnology through its unique collaborations in bioprocessing, cancer research, and agricultural production. Kentucky is uniquely situated to lead the nation’s synthetic fuels industry. Northwest Kentucky, with its abundance of coal, rich agriculture, and significant infrastructure assets, is positioned to spearhead the Commonwealth’s alternative energy efforts.

The partnership between Northwest Kentucky Forward and the GO-EDC will create the Green Region Innovation Network bringing together higher education, research and development entities, and workforce training facilities to ensure that conditions are right for growth in “green” technologies in Northwest Kentucky. The work of the Network will help diversify the regional economy through support of innovative developments in alternative energy and plant biotechnology.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

EDC's Mountjoy Named to Governor-Elect Beshear's Cabinet

FRANKFORT, KY (November 28, 2007) - Governor-elect Steve Beshear today named EDC Executive Vice President Helen W. Mountjoy of Utica as the new Education Cabinet Secretary.

"Helen has a wealth of knowledge and experience in our state education system," said Gov.-Elect Beshear at the announcement earleir today. "Her commitment to making Kentucky a better place dates back to her service with me on the Kentucky Tomorrow Commission when I was Lieutenant Governor. Her drive, ambition and institutional knowledge make her a welcome addition to the Beshear/Mongiardo Administration."

As EDC Executive Vice President, Mountjoy directed EDC’s efforts in workforce development. She served as the director of the Regional Alliance for Education, the region’s business/ education roundtable. She is the current chair of the Owensboro Advisory Board for BB&T. She serves on various boards, including the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Prior to coming to EDC, Mountjoy served as Chair of the Kentucky Board of Education through the implementation of the Kentucky Education Reform Act.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Daily Flights to Cincinnati Connects Greater Owensboro to Global Marketplace

Commercial air service returns to Owensboro today with daily flights to the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport. Cincinnati is a great gateway for flights to all corners of the United States and a large selection of international flights as well.

As airport manager Tim Bradshaw said, quality air connections are critical to any community that wants to achieve in the global marketplace. Delta Connection flights to and from Cincinnati offer those connections for the Greater Owensboro region.

The connection is critical for many of the Owensboro-based office headquarters and professional service operations, such as Southern Star, Texas Gas, and U.S. Bank, which do business regularly with operations in other U.S. cities.

We hope that Big Sky Airlines will pledge to provide the most convenient times as possible for connections to maximize the efficiency of business travelers out of Owensboro. This added convenience will make the Cincinnati Delta connection a significant advantage for the region in serving the needs of existing employers and at the same time making it very attractive to back office headquarters, professional service companies, and entrepreneurs alike looking to make Owensboro the home to their business.

The airport is also preparing to open its runway extension. Once the extension is complete Owensboro’s 8,000 foot runway will be the third longest in Kentucky, behind Louisville and Cincinnati.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Emerging Ventures Fund will help Attract Companies and Startups to Region

The Owensboro City Commission today created a seed capital fund to help make the region competitive in recruiting high tech and high growth companies to establish operations and headquarters in Owensboro.

The Emerging Ventures Fund will target companies currently working with Kentucky Bioprocessing, the Owensboro Cancer Research Program at the Owensboro Medical Health System and other high growth or technology-oriented startup companies working with the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation.

The Emerging Ventures Fund is designed to work in conjunction with the state seed capital funds, such as the Rural Innovation Fund and the Commonwealth Seed Capital Fund. The fund would also work in conjunction with private venture capital and angel investors in the region and throughout Kentucky.

The seed capital will take the form of an equity investment into the companies structured as convertible debt with the fund owning shares. The Emerging Ventures Fund will likely be managed by a professional manager, much the way the state seed funds are managed by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation.

The initial City commitment to the fund is $100,000 per year for a five-year period using the dividend paid to the City from the Owensboro Riverport Authority. Additional city economic development funds will be considered at a later date. The overall goal is to accumulate a fund of $1 million in public funds and additional private funds over a five year period.

Venture Club Meeting Thursday

Don't forget the next Greater Owensboro Venture Club Meeting on Thursday, November 15, 2007 from 11:30 to 1:00 at the Springs Conference Center.  The meeting will follow the same format of one minute and five minute presentations of entrepreneurs looking for funds for business startups and a keynote speaker discussing topics related to entrepreneurship.  Please visit our website  for information and to make reservations for the November meeting.

The keynote speaker for the November meeting will be Alan Stein, President/CEO of the Lexington Legends minor league baseball team.  A medical devise company startup and a hedge fund manger that previously managed funds for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be presenting venture funding opportunities.   

You can also sign up for an annual membership in the club for $100 per year, which includes four meetings and lunches at the meetings.  We already have about 35 annual members with more arriving each day.  See you Thursday!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

EDC Executive Vice President Helen Mountjoy Named to Governor-Elect Beshear’s Transition Team

EDC Executive Vice President Helen Mountjoy was named to Governor-Elect Steve Beshear’s transition team. Mountjoy will head-up the team for the Commerce Cabinet.

As EDC Executive Vice President, Mountjoy directs EDC’s efforts in workforce development and is the director of the Regional Alliance for Education, the region’s business/ education roundtable. She is the current chair of the Owensboro Advisory Board for BB&T. She serves on various boards, including the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Prior to coming to EDC, Mountjoy served as Chair of the Kentucky Board of Education through the implementation of the Kentucky Education Reform Act.

For more information about the transition team, see the following link from

Agreement between WKU, Daviess County Fiscal Court, GO-EDC New Model for Higher Education

The recent agreement between Western Kentucky University, the Daviess County Fiscal Court, and the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation regarding the expansion of public postsecondary education with a proposed new campus in Owensboro is significant.

It is significant because it provides a new model for the expansion of public higher education in communities like Owensboro that are without state funded four-year universities. The community shaped its own destiny by identifying the gaps in higher education delivery, invited a regional university to partner with the community in meeting its needs, and provided land and financial support for the establishment of a campus. Never before has this been done in the Commonwealth.

The agreement asks WKU to enhance baccalaureate and graduate degree offerings aligned to local workforce and economic development goals in areas such as allied health, applied engineering, the sciences, and business services. WKU has also committed to supporting efforts to stimulate innovation and the commercialization of ideas through applied research partnerships in conjunction with existing and emerging industries.

As the economic development field adapts to meet the needs of an evolving international economy, regions are increasingly touting strengths in skilled labor to attract and retain innovative companies. In fact, many studies of corporate location decisions have shown skilled labor to be such an important asset that many regions have made it a central theme of regional marketing efforts. Innovative companies chose regions with a reliable and flexible supply of local talent.

Regions cannot develop a skilled workforce without investment in the institutions that create and nurture talent such as universities. Staying competitive in the modern global economy increasingly requires a greater capacity for life long learning and skill adaptation.

The Owensboro community has long recognized the significant role and outstanding contribution that institutions of higher education such as Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro Community and Technical College, and Western Kentucky University- Owensboro have had on the economic development of the region thus far; and that increasing enrollment that will come with this opportunity will benefit all by adding to the synergy of students aged 18-25 that chose live in this community to attend college. A rising tide lifts all boats!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

EDC Website Revamped to Enhance Community Marketing Efforts: New Site includes Community Profile Information available in Six Languages

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. has recently invested in the redesign and development of its web site, creating a global reach and includes the kind of information that site selectors and businesses need to make informed decisions (click here to check it out).

Websites play a key role in community marketing efforts. Most site selection consultants and relocating companies use the internet for the advanced work in identifying sites and communities, nearly 85 percent of all business relocations begin with a through examination of the website.

The EDC also markets the region by sending materials to site selection consultants in target industries such as advanced manufacturing, distribution and logistics, metals, energy, and bioprocessing. In most cases these targeted materials attempt to direct consultants and potential clients to the web site.

Highlights of the new site include:

  • Availability of community information in six languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Japanese)The site is linked directly to the site/ building and community demographic information from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development;
  • Contains valuable information for entrepreneurs starting businesses and groups in the community recruiting people, such as OMHS, local colleges, and realtors;
  • The site includes updated news and information about activities in the Greater Owensboro region which, along with the entries to this blog, greatly enhance the search hits for our region;
  • The site promotes the overall region, including site information and amenities, such as the Bluegrass Crossings Business Center in Ohio County and the river, rail and highway sites in Hancock County.

The site ( is part of the domain shared with the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce and linked to the chamber, tourist commission, and the transportation sites.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Targets for Business Growth

The mission and vision of the EDC is to create the environment for economic progress in our region. We have identified three targeted areas for business growth—the three T’s: Traditional Industry, Technology, and Talent.

1. Traditional Industry- the approach and marketing methods always used in economic development to attract and retain manufacturing and other large employers. EDC officials work closely with Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development officials and site selection consultants to market industrial sites at the Mid-America Airpark, the airport with its newly expanded runway, Coleman Terminal, and regional sites at Bluegrass Crossings in Ohio County, and river sites in Hancock County, which offer roughly 1,000 acre footprint in each location. Globalization has made this a difficult proposition; however, in the past six months we have worked with dozens of clients that have looked at sites and buildings in the region.

2. Technology-oriented companies- with hopes of diversifying the economy, the EDC has begun the recruitment of small startup companies and high growth companies in variety of high tech sectors, including plant natural product companies that will utilize Kentucky Bioprocessing, renewable energy, and professional service companies providing value-added services in sectors such as finance and health care. So far the results have been very positive; Revasyst, a small company that provides value-added services in health care just located an office here and is growing fast. The EDC is working closely with Kentucky Bioprocessing, Owensboro Cancer Research Program and have attracted attention of numerous small biotechnology companies and startups. One company, Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, recently signed a lease with KBP to locate part of their operation in Owensboro. The tools for this type of recruitment are very different than traditional industrial recruitment. These small yet growing firms are looking for startup capital, a technology infrastructure such as broadband, science labs, and incubator space. The Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation will greatly assist efforts to recruit companies of this type.

3. Talent- plays a much more important role in the success of companies and communities than it ever has. Skilled human capital is at a premium. Not only do employees switch jobs more often, the growth rate of the workforce is slowing and aging. This country is facing a serious workforce crisis in the future. Communities are competing furiously to attract talent. Because of all these factors we feel it is imperative to give equal weight to the attraction, development and retention of talent as has been given to the attraction of new companies. Efforts to recruit skilled people center on the creation of a cool place through the development of quality of life amenities, downtown redevelopment, and the enhancement of college and university programs. is a new mechanism to recruit people, with several groups targeted: entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers, university applied research programs, college students, and foreign exchange students in our Sister Cities.

The EDC has recently assembled a recruitment team, including representatives from regional partner economic development organizations, to work with existing companies, new prospective companies, and the development, retention, and recruitment of people.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wright Appointed to Existing Industry Post

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation announces the appointment of Jennifer Wright as Executive Vice President for New and Existing Industry. Wright’s role will be to advocate for existing business and industry and to assist them in various issues that relate their ability to sustain and to grow. She will also serve on the EDC Recruitment Team.

Ms. Wright brings over 15 years of experience in the regional workforce in a variety of roles from human resource management and organizational development to employee relations. Ms. Wright has a unique skill set due to her vast experience with local businesses ranging from small operations to the largest corporations. She has a rich understanding of what small business means to Greater Owensboro’s long-term economic success.

A vast majority of issues affecting existing industry relates to human resources and workforce development. And the majority of new industry and business prospects focus in large part on our region’s ability to grow and attract people. “Ms. Wright’s experience and understanding of the complexities of these issues will contribute greatly to our capacity in these areas,” said Nick Brake, EDC President/CEO. “She will reinvigorate our Existing Industry visitation program.”

Ms. Wright graduated from Murray State University with a degree in Speech and Organizational Communication. She is an expert facilitator with numerous training certifications. She is frequently invited to lead planning and decision-making groups at the regional, state, and national level. Her employment will begin on January 1.

“It is certainly an exciting time for economic development in our community,” said Wright. “I am delighted to join the team of professionals at the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation and I look forward to serving the needs of Business and Industry in our area.”

The existing industry position was previously occupied by John Sansom who recently announced his intent to pursue a seminary education.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Vision for Downtown Owensboro

by Nick Brake, EDC President/CEO

One of the most asked questions these days is: “What are we going to do with downtown Owensboro?”

For me the answer lies in reinventing downtown as a “boom” town. By this I do not necessarily mean a place with abundant big box retail space, or a tourist destination for conventions. The Gateway Commons development is going to be a great destination for that niche. By “boom” town—I mean an “urban village” with residential developments for two very important groups to our future—boomers and boomerangs.

First, let me be clear with the labels and language. By “boomer,” I mean baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. Much has been written about this group. There are a lot of them and the first one retired this month—droves of them will soon follow. Many of these retirees are looking for a good location— a vibrant place with four seasons, comfortable, safe, and affordable. They bring an abundance of wealth, talent, and opportunities to contribute to the community as leaders, volunteers or even entrepreneurs. As our medical center grows, Owensboro offers a host of advantages to “boomers.”

Boomerangs are the second group. By this I mean a young professional between the ages of 25 and 45 with a connection to the region and looking to return—hence the name boomerang. This is a highly sought after demographic because they are typically well educated, but unlike the boomers there are not enough of them to go around. Communities are competing furiously to attract them. The “work/ life” calculus of this group is much different from the boomers. Where the boomers readily followed job opportunities or corporate marching orders— three out of four young professionals, in studies published by Rebecca Ryan, Richard Florida, and the Wall Street Journal, say a cool city is more important than a good job. In most cases this age group finds a cool place to live and creates their own job opportunity or thanks to modern technology they have a job that enables them to work from anywhere. While there are differences between both groups, the commonality is that both are looking for the same thing, an urban lifestyle with lots of amenities and a vibrant community where they can make a difference.

We have an opportunity to make our region a magnet to attract both of these groups. Downtown Owensboro is a key. Cities all over the United States are developing “urban villages” dedicated to providing adequate living spaces in the urban core. This approach, which urban planners and geographers call new urbanism, is designed to contain a diverse range of housing and jobs all within walking distance. This exact phenomenon is happening in downtown Louisville and on the riverfront in both Cincinnati and across the river in northern Kentucky.

Downtowns are becoming significant tools for economic development. Increasingly cities are coming up with a slew of innovative ideas and incentives to retain hometown entrepreneurs and attract new ones. Many are using anchor developments in downtown areas such as mixed use residential space, retail, and restaurants to draw talent and people. From the young professional boomerang returning home to the retiring baby boomer, metropolitan regions are creating attractive locations in the middle of the action, walking distance from all conveniences and “third spaces” for people to gather in public. Downtown Owensboro has the potential to become a “boom” town for people to live in a safe, comfortable, urban lifestyle with a vibrant arts and entertainment district and beautiful river.

Great downtowns fill cities with life—the kind of life that attracts people. On the heels of the $40 million investment in the riverfront, the Greater Owensboro region has a dynamic opportunity for a renewed downtown. This redevelopment and revitalization will not succeed or fail on the strength of any single project or venue; rather it will be the product of a long-term sustained commitment prioritizing a downtown vision as a vitally important space for boomers, boomerangs, and citizens of all ages to live, work, and play.

Friday, October 19, 2007 Expands to Henderson and Northwest Kentucky

Economic development officials in Owensboro and Northwest Kentucky have announced a partnership that would expand the Owensboro Works database into Henderson, Union, McLean, and Webster counties. Owensboro is a web-based regional talent pool of more than 5,500 potential employees organized in an interactive, user-friendly database. The expansion to Northwest Kentucky will mean that the talent in the database will be more reflective of the labor market area of the overall region.

The agreement between the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. and Northwest Kentucky Forward, the regional economic development agency based in Henderson, will create two points of access into the same database of potential employees— and offers existing businesses, relocating companies, and small start-ups access to the region’s human capital. It is a unique tool to assist employers, job seekers, and economic development officials to build the workforce of the future. promotes continuing education using the nationally acclaimed ACT Work Keys test to assess skills and knowledge. All job seekers that register must have either Work Keys scores or a minimum of a two-year degree.

Businesses Benefit from by

  • using the database as a workforce identification and placement tool saving time and money in searching for regional talent

  • customizing their searches from the database to meet specific criteria to fill vacancies

  • listing trainings which may be tailored to their needs and offered on site at their place of business. is a collaborative effort, funded by the Daviess County Fiscal Court and the City of Owensboro and administered by the Owensboro Community and Technical College and the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation.

Northwest Kentucky Forward, through the Four Star Regional Industrial Park, will provide funding to the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. for utilization of the database.

The GO-EDC is currently working with the Green River Area Development District and the Hancock County Industrial Foundation to expand the database into other counties in the GRADD area.

For more information about visit

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Workforce Development- Part I: U.S. Economists Highlight Major Shifts in Job Market

This month the EDC board of directors will begin discussion about the future of the workforce in the Greater Owensboro region. A highly skilled and educated workforce is a top issue for many existing industries in the region. The GO-EDC will implement a number of initiatives in the coming year to address this issue.

Within the past year, three major studies done independently of one another have come to remarkably similar conclusions about the links between education and economic development. The Education Testing Service (the SAT Company) released “America’s Perfect Storm.” The National Center on Education and the Economy published “Tough Choices or Tough Times.” And the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (a coalition of companies like BellSouth, Ford, Texas Instruments, etc.) came forth with its own findings. Their conclusions:
  • The world has changed – and changed dramatically – but our system of education (its goals, approaches, and learning environment) has largely stayed the same. We are essentially preparing our young people to work in 20th century manufacturing jobs – jobs that increasingly do not exist.
  • The US is falling behind other developed countries in high school graduation rates, postsecondary attendance, and reducing inequality. The US ranks 16 out of 21 highly developed nations with respect to high school graduation rates.
  • 40%-60% of the jobs in 2015 do not currently exist. The future lies in creative work: research, development, design, marketing and sales, global supply chain management.
  • Most good new jobs will require at least 2 years of postsecondary education or training. Specific growth sectors include health care and occupations associated with the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
  • A baccalaureate degree is the new ticket to prosperity in the US.

Last week’s (October 11) Wall Street Journal had an interesting page-two story about the vanishing middle of the U.S. job market. As Harvard economists Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin put it, “U.S. employment has been polarizing into high-wage and low-wage jobs, at the expense of traditional middle class jobs.”

The reason—the economic transformation of the economy through forces associated with globalization and technology. The U.S. is losing manufacturing jobs and two kinds of what Ed Learner calls “geek” jobs and “grunt” jobs—or what Richard Florida termed creative sector jobs and service sector jobs. These are challenges that we have nationally and regionally to remain competitive in the future.

Next: Workforce issues in Owensboro and how EDC is working with various partner agencies to address this “Perfect Storm.”

Friday, October 5, 2007

Grow the Future- Part 3: Talent Attraction and Amenities Key Factor in Owensboro Growing Entrepreneurs

Talent and quality of life are two issues that go hand-in-hand in our strategy to attract and grow entrepreneurs in Greater Owensboro. Quality of life and amenities are the Number One Factor in young people choosing a place to live. Greater Owensboro must give equal weight to the attraction, development and retention of a young professional workforce as has been given to the attraction of new companies. To do this the community, through the Grow the Future Partnership, will develop a strategy to both develop and recruit human capital to the region.

Human capital plays a much more important role in the success of companies and communities. Skilled human capital is at a premium. Not only do employees switch jobs more often, the growth rate of the workforce is slowing. Cities today are competing furiously to attract and retain the coveted demographic: highly skilled workers ages 25-44. Research has shown that young professionals such as these look for a place to live first, and then they find a job, as a result quality of life amenities are critical in attracting and retaining this age group.

It is no longer the job that is the lure, it is the community itself. The good news is that many entrepreneurs are choosing smaller towns to avoid business unfriendly environments of large urban areas. But a vibrant scene of entertainment, arts, and a thriving downtown-- with residential areas, loft spaces and an “urban village” --can serve as a magnet in attracting people here. One glance at the Inc. 500 list of high growth companies and you will notice that many entrepreneurs are growing their companies in towns and regions much like Owensboro!

Finally, our partnership will work to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship in our young people to let them know that they can create opportunities for themselves and compete in a global marketplace right here in Owensboro. Programs such as Junior Achievement- high tech style-- and enhanced opportunities in science, technology, and engineering at our high schools, colleges, and universities will get our young people excited about applying the technology that surrounds them into commercial ventures at home. All will help cultivate an entrepreneurial culture to “Grow the Future.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Grow the Future- Part 2: Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation provides Support for Entrepreneur Growth

Our effort to “Grow the Future” by supporting homegrown high growth companies will gain momentum this fall with the opening of the Emerging Ventures Center of Innovation, part of the Greater Owensboro Commerce Center economic development partnership. Emerging Ventures brings together in one location the resources entrepreneurs need to make their ventures successful.

Emerging Ventures will include the a new Owensboro Office of the Central Region Innovation and Commercialization Center, part of the Kentucky framework that supports high technology development. Linking Owensboro to the state ICC –framework will be critical to growing capacity to support high tech company growth, particularly with the assets and developments in the biotech-oriented plant natural product industry.

The region is building a high tech cluster through Kentucky Bioprocessing and the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, which is a partnership between the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center and the Owensboro Medical Health System. These partners are working together to perform cutting edge cancer research, work with start-up companies developing drugs, and provide full scale bioprocessing of pharmaceuticals and plant natural products.

“Many of the products on which KBP works will be developed by individuals, university researchers and very small companies,” said Hugh Haydon, Chairman of Kentucky Bioprocessing. “This new program is a strong tool in helping to attract and grow these companies and is good news for both Owensboro and KBP.”

Kentucky BioProcessing offers a unique pilot and full-scale bioprocessing facility with the physical, human and intellectual infrastructure in place to complete any processing without excessive experimentation. It offers small start-up companies huge savings in capital expenses. KBP has created a program that can work with multiple companies and start-ups in the life science industry.
Emerging Ventures will provide technical support and start-up assistance to entrepreneurs, scientists, and small business people perfecting and maturing their ideas and business concepts. It will be located on the Third Floor of the Commerce Center with an anticipated opening in the Fall 2007.

Emerging Ventures is a public-private partnership. Private investment has come from the Owensboro Medical Health System, U.S. Bank, and the Messenger-Inquirer. Public funding has come from the City of Owensboro, Daviess County Fiscal Court and the Central Region Innovation and Commercialization Center.

In addition to the Central Region Innovation and Commercialization Center, Emerging Ventures will include the office of the Owensboro Small Business Development Center operated through Murray State University, and the Owensboro Chapter of the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE). For detailed information about the services provided by Emerging Ventures, please visit the website

Friday, September 28, 2007

EDC Welcomes Madison Silvert, October 1

On Monday the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. will welcome Madison Silvert as the organization’s first-ever vice president focusing solely on entrepreneurs, high growth and high tech business development. For a review of Silvert’s background, click here to read Keith Lawrence’s Messenger-Inquirer article about him being named to the position.

Silvert will head the newly formed Emerging Ventures Center of Innovation, part of EDC’s “Grow the Future” partnership. As this work begins to take shape, we will include several entries reviewing the “Grow the Future” partnership.

Grow the Future- Part 1: Home Grown Strategy to Make Owensboro Place “Where Entrepreneurs Grow”

At the August Rooster Booster Breakfast the EDC and Chamber of Commerce unveiled a new partnership working to make Owensboro a place “Where Entrepreneurs Grow.” The partnership includes agencies, schools, colleges, and economic development organizations called “Grow the Future” to support homegrown high growth companies competing in a global marketplace. The partnership is the result of months of planning and discussion with local entrepreneurs about the benefits and barriers to doing business in the region. The Partnership will focus efforts on four broad areas:
  1. Providing supports for entrepreneurs and innovation
  2. Implementing strategies to develop and attract talent to the region
  3. Focusing on improved amenities and quality of life that will attract talent
  4. Organizing community seed capital and assets to support business start-up.

To remain competitive Owensboro must think differently about how to foster sustained economic growth in these ultra-competitive times. Regions like Owensboro cannot count on business recruitment or outside investment as the only means for economic growth in the future. In today’s worldwide marketplace, competition no longer comes just from the business next door or county down the road. Competition can come from any person, anywhere on the globe with a good education, a good idea, and a good internet connection. For decades this region has pinned hopes for economic prosperity on landing the big one--on recruiting the big industry which will offer lots and lots of jobs. This model was quite effective, until globalization. Unfortunately, in recent years it has led to slow job growth, declining business start-ups, a reduction in the percentage of young adults in our population, a decline in the percentage of citizens with four-year college degrees, and ultimately, the feeling of powerlessness. It's time to take control of our destiny and to stop relying on Frankfort, or Washington, or a corporate CEO 2,000 miles away to ignite our economy! Greater Owensboro must give equal weight to the attraction, development and retention of a young professionals and entrepreneurs as has been given to the attraction of new companies. To do this the community will need a strategy to both develop and recruit and nurture the development of innovation and entrepreneurship. The best long-term strategy in light of the evolving economy is to build on the talent and skills already existing in the region through a homegrown strategy to support people with dreams of starting new businesses or expand existing businesses. Make no mistake; the EDC is not backing away from working to attract companies to locate in Owensboro. We will continue to work with the state and others to recruit and try to attract outside investors to our region. The recruit and grow strategies must work together—the more the region grows through our entrepreneurial efforts, the more companies and investment we can successfully recruit.

Next week: Part 2- Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation To read more about economic development strategies based on entrepreneurship please go to the following links: Economic gardening; National Assessment of Entrepreneurship; Economic Development Administration; the Future of Economic Development Today

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Owensboro MSA Shows Slow, Steady Five-Year GDP Growth

The Owensboro MSA showed slow, steady growth of gross domestic product (GDP) based on estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The GDP of a metropolitan area is defined as the market value of all final goods and services produced within that area for a given period of time. GDP is the most comprehensive measure of economic activity for a metropolitan area.

Owensboro’s GDP grew by $556 million between 2001 and 2005. The 15% growth over the five-year period and 3.7% growth between 2004 and 2005 were in the lowest quintile of U.S. MSA’s. Industries with the largest growth over the five-year period include health care and social assistance, manufacturing, and private service-providing industries. The largest yearly growth was in performing arts, museums and related industries, with nearly a 30% increase between 2004 and 2005. Private good producing industries, constituted $1.3 billion of the metro GDP (nearly $1 billion of which come from manufacturing), while private service-providing industries were responsible for $1.8 billion.

Estimates can be found on BEA’s Web site at

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Announcement an Example of Owensboro’s Competitive Advantage in Plant Natural Product Production

The announcement last week that Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc will expand operations to the Kentucky Bioprocessing (KBP) campus in Owensboro is a good example of the potential Owensboro has to become a world center of plant natural product production.

Mapp will utilize the facility and the workforce at KBP as part of its focus on development of a commercial scale production platform for its products. Headquartered in San Diego, CA, Mapp has developed and is currently producing several different plant derived products for use in small volume trials. The expansion to the KBP campus is intended to allow Mapp to leverage the unique expertise and capability of KBP to develop full scale production methods for its products, enabling clinical trials and ultimately product commercialization.

What does all this mean? It means that KBP in Owensboro, Kentucky offers to this company-- headquartered in the heart of one of the world’s most fabled biotech clusters-- a competitive advantage that no one else in the world offers: the ability to develop commercial scale production of plant derived products. The competitive advantage is the KBP facility, its personnel, and intellectual property. No other place in the world can successfully bring to commercial scale a plant-based product as efficiently and effectively as in Owensboro, Kentucky.

KBP offers clients and collaborators access to controlled plant growth facilities along with bench, pilot and full scale processing facilities all capable of production. In addition to its own capabilities KBP is able to leverage the experienced staff and facilities of the Owensboro Cancer Research Program and provides linkages to the considerable plant made product expertise of the Owensboro area agriculture community and to other services offered throughout the region designed to support research, development and growth of a plant made product business cluster.

In the 21st century innovation-based economy, the fact that we have the facility, the people and the intellectual property is significant. Make no mistake; we are not trying to become a biotech cluster to compete with the likes of San Diego or Boston. But we can succeed in creating a cluster of companies focusing on the utilization of our strengths, plant pharmaceuticals and plant-based natural products. In this area between KBP, the Owensboro Cancer Research Program and the partnership with the University of Louisville, and our regional agriculture community, we have a competitive advantage not found anywhere else. For more information about the Owensboro Life Science Partnership please visit

Thursday, September 20, 2007

EDC Blog Kicks Off

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Owensboro EDC Blog! The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation is launching EDC Blog to share the work we are doing to build a better community and improve the quality of life of our citizens.

We will publish the blog on the EDC homepage ( with new entries being published regularly. To comment on the blog, feel free to e-mail us at We look forward to your comments!