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