Tuesday, December 30, 2008

High Priority in 2009: Reauthorization of the Federal Transporation Bill and Its Impact on Owensboro

In 2009, the United States Congress will be due for passage of another 6-year bill authorizing federal transportation spending.  The federal transportation bill sets both funding targets and federal transportation policy.  Rather than a simple reauthorization of existing policy, the 2009 bill is expected to be a turning point for new policies and funding formulas, in recognition of the urgency of national needs-- everything from obesity prevention, escalating fuel prices, the need for energy independence from Middle East oil, the battle against global climate change, to the aging infrastructure of America's roadways and bridges.

This could be the most significant reauthorization since the President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act in 1956.    This act created much of the world we live in today-- including many of the urgent needs that will impact the new transportation bill.  

In creating the 41,000 miles of Interstate highways, the act opened the door for 
sprawling cities and suburban development and also the expanded carbon footprint.  It led to the growth of increasing affordable single family dwellings and shopping malls ever farther from city centers, which in turn created an even greater dependence on automobiles.  It ultimately led to the creation of a powerful industrial and employment base in the American automobile industry, and a dependence on foreign oil.

The reathorization of the transportation bill could usher in a new paradigm for transportation policy in the future in some of the following ways:
  • Will the new legislation continue to promote an aggressive agenda for building new roads or will environmental issues and energy independence lead to a shift toward rail and mass transit connecting larger urban areas and airports?
  • Will the new legislation allow states and metro areas more freedom in funding and prioritizing projects?
  • The fuels tax that has funded the program since its inception can no longer serve as the sole source of revenue as people drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, how will the new legislation propose to fund transportation needs?
Owensboro missed the opportunity to be a part of the interstate network that was created in 1956.  With the construction of Interstate 69, Owensboro will, after half a century, be a part of the this network.  The reathorization will be critical in completing this task.   Perhaps more critically, it is important not be on the wrong side of the pendulum as it swings toward a new paradigm as we are trying to play catch up with inclusion in the interstate highway network.   If the pendulum swings toward mass transit and rail, we cannot afford to spend the next 50 years becoming a part of that system.  We must present a compelling case for Owensboro being a part of an enhanced mass transit and rail network. 

For example, this region has spent a lot of energy fighting for commercial air service to connect Owensboro to metro areas like Cincinnati, St. Louis, Nashville, or Louisville.  Maybe high speed rail is the answer.  Japan, China, and Europe have shown how effective this form of transportation is for travelers and commuters alike.  It is a more environmentally-friendly model that lessens dependence on foreign oil.  It could even use the low cost electricity generated in the region.  A high speed rail link to just one major metro area could totally transform the region-- it would even be possible for professionals to work in that metro while enjoying the quality of life we love in Owensboro.

The reathorization of the next transportation bill is critical in completing the task of putting Greater Owensboro in the 20th century transportation network, but it is equally critical not to overlook the opportunities that lie ahead in making Owensboro a part of the 21st century transportation network that has yet to be constructed.  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Visit to Greenville, S.C.

In a recent visit to Greenville, South Carolina Mayor-Elect Ron Payne, Judge-Executive Reid Haire and members of the economic development and downtown boards saw the power of public-private partnerships in creating a downtown.

Just 20 years ago, downtown Greenville was in far worse shape that downtown Owensboro.  It was full of blight and infested with drugs and crime in the 1980s.  The city agressively redeveloped the downtown through a series of partnerships in which the city served as a "master developer" in aquiring property, financing catalytic projects, which attracted private

The catalyst for growth in the downtown, like Owensboro, was development along the riverfront, through public investments made in the arts, and by developing retail along the city's traditional "main street."

For more information and pictures, go to the Be A Part of the New Downtown Facebook site.    

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Downtown Owensboro Arts Academy

One of the lesser known elements of the new Downtown Master Plan is the creation of an arts academy in downtown Owensboro. The Gateway Planning team recommends exploring options that would capitalize on the arts and education character of the community focusing on downtown.

With this in mind, the EDC is currently facilitating discussion between the region’s four colleges, universities, and local school systems to create an academy that would offer students an opportunity to study the arts in conjunction with performance and production components at the River Park Center.

The format of the academy will allow to students can begin the program in the junior year of high school and complete the program with a bachelor’s degree from one of the local colleges or universities. The academy hopes to attract students from outside the region to attend as residential students in high school. The program can be an effective tool for the attraction and retention of young talent to the region.

The arts are now one of the nation’s leading export industries. Nationally, there are more than a half million businesses that employ 2.7 million in the U.S. in “creative” industries. These creative industries are a growing part of the economy in Greater Owensboro. The number of creative industry jobs in the region jumped from 375 in 2004 to 446 in 2006, an increase of 18.9 percent. The largest increase in Owensboro came in the performing arts and music.

Unusual among cities of its size, Owensboro boasts a thriving arts life. The River Park Center, whose two auditoriums hosted more than 150 performances and 900 civic events last year, presents a wide variety of entertainment, including productions designed especially for students. The River Park Center is also known as "Broadway West" in the national theater community. Each year the River Park hosts theater companies while they build touring shows like 42nd Street. Some local talent is used in set building, costumes and technical areas before the production launches a world tour beginning with an Owensboro premiere in Cannon Hall.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Forbes Karlgard: Entrepreneurs Make All the Difference

Forbes publisher Rich Karlgard, speaking at last week's Regional Economic Summit in Evansville, emphasized the opportunities that exist in America's heartland--places like Evansville, Henderson, and Owensboro. A key, according to Karlgard, are the entrepreneurs and how heartland communities embrace them.
"Too many communities spend all their energy trying to attract companies to move into their regions and not enough time making their communities entrepreneur-friendly," said Karlgard. He cited examples of how entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit totally changed the face of regions as diverse as Seattle, WA; Fargo, ND; Duluth, MN; and Bozeman, MT.
Karlgard said regions, such as the Evansville, Henderson, and Owensboro area with populations from 250,000 to 500,000 that offer a range of amenities, yet a lifestyle devoid of urban problems will be attractive in the future. "Good K-12 education systems and low crime combined with urban amenities are going to be the keys to the future for regions such as this one," said Karlgard of the Tri-State Region.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We Can Finally Move Beyond the Executive Inn

The closing of the Executive Inn was a blow to the citizens of Owensboro. For decades the hotel was the centerpiece of the downtown. The convention center attached to the hotel was a key part of the tourism and economic development of Owensboro.

Now, less than 6 months after its closing this past spring, Downtown Owensboro is springing to life again with a new Master Plan released Nov. 15 by the Gateway Planning team out of Ft. Worth, TX. The new master plan calls for a 200+ room hotel to replace the Executive Inn.

A new Multi-Purpose Indoor Events Center suitable for hosting conventions and sporting events. The new plan will allow Downtown Owensboro to reach its full potential. The Executive Inn was built as a Las Vegas style hotel model, where patrons drove up and spent all of their time in the hotel complex. The new plan will create a more 21st Century, walkable urban model where the hotel blends into the larger downtown and riverfront.

The proposed location of the new downtown hotel, at the intersection of Frederica and Second Streets, is closer to the action with the $40 million Waterfront Park, Owensboro's highly touted River Park Center arts facility, and the historic core dowtown "main street." The location will activate the market along Veterans Blvd. along the riverfront district, reinvent Second Street, and create a new public plaza connecting the Daviess County Courthouse to the waterfront. This new center of community life, adjacent to the proposed new hotel site, would also house the Farmers Market. This plaza will become the city's "Grand Gesture" to the river, truly connecting Owensboro to its river roots.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Transformation of Downtown Owensboro

Downtown Owensboro is undergoing a transformation. A new proposed master plan, the result of an intensive placemaking process led by the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp and Downtown Development Corp., will result in a significant local investment over the next 5 years to match the $40 million federal investment in the Owensboro riverfront.

The recommended Phase I public amenities and private investment in downtown are based on very rigorous economic analysis provided by the Gateway Planning team from Ft. Worth, TX. Gateway was engaged by the community to complete the downtown master plan.

Transformation of Veterans Blvd. -- Veterans Blvd. will be reinvented to be a pedestrian priority street with specialty paving, flat curbs, on-street parking, and street scape amenities. Infill buildings on Veterans Blvd. should be 3-4 story mixed use buildings with active retail and restaurant uses on the ground floor and residential uses above. Veterans Blvd. would act as a linear plaza connecting the RiverPark Center to the new hotel and Indoor Events Center.

Market Square Public Plaza-- A new public plaza that connects 2nd Street to the Veterans Blvd. and the new Waterfront Park is envisioned. In addition to being the new center of community life in Owensboro, this new plaza would also house the Farmers’ Market. The market stalls, cafe seating, retail sales kiosks will all activate this space. In addition the new hotel and the new Indoor Events Center will all have direct access to this plaza. This plaza is the city’s “Grand Gesture” to the river and truly connects the city to its roots.

Second Street Reinvented -- Second Street will be converted to a vibrant, pedestrian friendly, two-way, main street. With curb extensions, renovated historic buildings, and active ground floor uses, this street will once again become the true heart of downtown.

New Waterfront Park -- The improvements to the Waterfront Park as envisioned in the Riverfront Master Plan will be completed and this park will be a destination park for residents and visitors alike. Together with the metamorphosis of Veterans Blvd., this park will be the cornerstone of a revitalized Downtown Owensboro.

New Downtown Hotel -- A new 225-room downtown hotel is envisioned at the intersection of Frederica Street and Veterans Blvd. Its location will be strategic to take advantage of river views, access to the adjoining Indoor Events Center, and the new Market Square Public Plaza. It will reinforce the activities on the Plaza with retail and restaurant uses on the ground floor.

Multi-Purpose Indoor Events Center -- This will be a major flexible meeting facility and will be have high ceilings that accommodates indoor sporting events and an internal capacity of up to 80,000 sq. ft. It will be located next to the new hotel and Market Square Public Plaza. Users of this facility will have direct access to the new Waterfront Park, Veterans Blvd. and 2nd Street

Frederica Street Redefined -- Frederica Street is envisioned to be a true multi-modal boulevard and gateway into downtown. With a streetcar connecting all the major destinations along Frederica, the street will truly transformed into Owensboro’s “Champs-Elysees”.

East Downtown Cultural Arts District -- Existing historic buildings along East 2nd Street can be the focus of new adaptive reuse for arts and cultural uses. This area would be ideal for the location of the new Arts Education center, a partnership of local arts groups and educational institutions. A vibrant local arts scene would be complemented by residential lofts, studios, apartments, and townhomes transitioning to adjoining neighborhoods.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unilever to Add Jobs at Owensboro Facility

Unilever Foods North America announced today an expansion of its Bertolli Frozen Food line. The original line was opened in 2007, and the additional expansion includes a $49 million capital investment. The Owensboro facility currently employs 450 individuals and plans to add an additional 89 over the next two years. Unilever is a global manufacturer of food and personal care products know by its brand names such as Dove, Degree, Suave, Lipton Tea, Slimfast, Ben & Jerry’s, Skippy Peanut Butter, Ragu and Bertolli.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Allegiant Air Announces New Nonstop Service from Owensboro to Orlando

Low cost airline Alliegiant Air, LLC announced a new nonstop jet service from Owensboro to Orlando, Florida beginning February 18, 2009. The fare for the new service is $69 each way. The new flights will operate twice weekly, with service Wednesday and Saturday. Flights will depart Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport (OWB) at 9:20 am arriving at Orlanda Sanford International Airport (SFB) at 12:20 pm. Flights will depart Orlando at 7:35 am arriving in Owensboro at 8:30 am (all times local).

The self–proclaimed "Official Airline for Sunshine" operates with a travel agency-based business model complete with vacation packages including roundtrip air and three–night hotel stay for as low as $246.

"We are extremely pleased to expand the Allegiant brand of low–fare, nonstop jet service to the midwestern Kentucky and southern Indiana community," Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., Allegiant Air president & CEO, said. "This is an exciting new addition for our airline and our customers as we launch the only nonstop, scheduled air service out of Owensboro."

Reservations may be made through the company’s website at www.allegiantair.com, the airline’s Reservations Center at 702–505–8888 or professional travel agents.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Owensboro Life Science Partnership Getting National Attention

The Owensboro Life Science Partnership is getting state and national attention these days. The Partnership was recently nominated by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development as one of the Southern Growth Policies Board Innovator Awards.

The Southern Growth Policies Board honors Southern initiatives that are improving economic opportunities and quality of life in the region. The 2009 Innovator Awards will be chosen from creative initiatives in the region that encourage economic opportunities relating to bio-products, alternative energy, and/or energy efficiency.

The recent announcement of the partnership between Kentucky BioProcessing and Bayer as well as the announcement of the planned Centre for Business and Research high tech accelerator and research center was picked up by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) as well as various national, regional, and state publications.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Project Lead the Way opens Engineering and Biotech Programs to High School Students

The Owensboro Community and Technical College announced a new partnership this week with the University of Kentucky and area high schools that will create a pathway for high school students to be exposed to college-level engineering and biotechnology curricula.

Project Lead the Way is a well respected program with a national reputation that aligns the OCTC Discover College programs for high school students with 4-year engineering and biotech curricula at institutions such as UK, UL, and WKU among others. The program will create a career path for students beginning the junior year for a high level engineering and biotech courses with dual credit. OCTC is one of three community colleges in Kentucky to recieve funding for the intiative.
"Project Lead the Way is so critical for the future workforce of this region," said EDC President Nick Brake. "Not only will graduates have opportunities in the existing businesses in the region, they will also have opportunities to be the innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs such as those in biotechnology that are currently working with Kentucky BioProcessing in our Life Science Partnership."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hancock County Lands New Alluminum Technology Startup

Rick Lazarou, chairman and chief executive officer of Lazar Anode Technologies LLC, says his Lazar Continuous Carbon Baking Furnace technology will revolutionize the alluminum industry.

The company, registered in Switzerland and currently based in Owensboro, broke ground yesterday for a 45,000-square-foot furnace near Hawesville.

"This is the culmination of many years of working with this company," said Jim Fallin, the executive director of the Hancock County Industrial Foundation. "They could have located in many parts of the world, but chose this region because of the alluminum and the business environment."

Lazarou compares the company's process to a pizza oven. "The best analogy is to a pizza-making machine," Lazarou said. "You put pizza into a long oven, and the pizzas all come out looking and tasting the same time after time. It's much faster and more efficient with the same temperature throughout."

The process now used by aluminum companies, Lazarou said, "heats it in a large pit, cools it down and takes it out. The pit is as big as a football field. It takes a lot of energy to heat, and it wastes a lot of energy." His process, Lazarou said, uses no natural gas and is more efficient. "Our temperature is a constant 2,100 degrees," he said. "With a pit, temperatures vary from the top to the bottom." Wastes, Lazarou said, "aren't expelled into the environment, they're injected into the furnace, which is like an incinerator. We destroy any carcinogens in the process. And we make a higher quality product." His patented process, he said, "is better for the environment and an extremely cost-efficient way of creating aluminum."
"We're hoping this will act as a catalyst for other green-friendly industries to locate in the area," said Madison Silvert, vice president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. "This is a good example of high technology and green technology working together." The Owensboro area, he said, is strategically located because of all the aluminum companies in the area.
Lazarou, a native of Melbourne, Australia, worked for Rio Tinto, one of the largest international mining groups, before forming his own company in 2006. "I traveled a lot with them," he said. "That experience enabled me to put this together." Century Aluminum is an equity partner in the company, with a financial stake in its future, he said. That's why Lazar Anode Technologies is in Owensboro and Hawesville now.
The company, Lazarou said, has both financial and technology partners in the United States, Southeast Asia and Germany. "We will have a lot of visitors from other countries coming to Owensboro and Hawesville in the next few months," he said. The company has four employees today but expects to grow as the project develops, Lazarou said. He said he expects to have 15 employees by February.

Lazar Anode Technologies is already talking about diversifying into the petrochemical industry, he said.

The company has been approved for state incentives through the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority and local incentives through the Hancock County Fiscal Court. They have also applied for funding through the state innovation and commercialization program as a client of the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation in Owensboro.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

EDC and Murray State Partner to Create Owensboro Trade Office

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation (GO-EDC) and Murray State University will announce an agreement to promote international trade among new and existing businesses in Greater Owensboro.

The announcement will take place at a news conference Wednesday at 10 am in the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation and MSU Small Business Development Center located on the third floor of the Commerce Center.

The agreement between the EDC and Murray State University will create the Owensboro International Trade Office. The mission of the Owensboro International Trade Office will be to facilitate international business and stimulate economic development and investment in the Greater Owensboro region. The Owensboro International Trade Office will offer a one-stop-shop for information, education, technical assistance, and networking services that help regional firms succeed in the global market and bring new global business opportunities to the Greater Owensboro region.

Services will include market research and investment climate profiles, cultural orientation, consultation with international business planning, risk analysis, and orientation to international trade issues.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shared Investment Policy to Promote Regional Development

The EDC was asked by local government officials to provide an initial policy framework for local incentives or shared investments. The following is a brief summary. Click here to see the entire policy document.

The overriding objective of the local government shared investment policy is to foster the public benefits of economic development and placemaking that will enhance the overall quality of life of the region. Furthermore, in acting as an agent of the public interest to promote growth and economic development in the City of Owensboro and Daviess County, the local governments take it in their authority to offer inducements to projects and firms that promote the following economic development and sustainable growth objectives:
  • Create jobs, increase investment, enhance property values and tax base which increase the overall economic development of the region;

  • Promote development of venues and placemaking that makes the region attractive;

  • Leverage sustainable growth or redevelopment according to principles of sustainable development;

  • Stem retail leakage, which is a major competitive reality in the Owensboro market area.

  • Improve regional competitiveness;

  • Promote redevelopment and downtown development rather than unplanned suburban development (“urban sprawl”) that is not tied to placemaking.

The shared investment policy is designed to be flexible with the ability to negotiate each deal differently rather than according to a prescriptive program. Rather than a prescriptive approach, policy standards will guide the development of all shared investment agreements including an evaluation of the overall fiscal impact of the development, based on pro forma data submitted through an application process. A scoring mechanism will be used to determine the term and percentage of public investment. All inducements will use a “but for” provision indicating that the project would not take place without the inducement. All shared investments will be performance-based using a reimbursement rather than cash up front. The following types of shared investment inducements will be outlined:

Firm-Based Inducements-To protect, strengthen and expand the region’s economic base, the local governments rely upon the creation and/or retention of high quality, permanent fulltime “primary” jobs for its residents. As such, developments that have the greatest potential in producing these types of jobs shall be given priority when evaluating multiple funding requests.

Project-Based Inducements-While this proposal does not propose to offer inducements directly to retailers, there may be cases where projects that include a retail component should be considered. In particular, mixed-use projects that are "New Urbanist" in character may qualify. Known by a variety of names, the defining characteristics of new urbanist projects appear to be walkable neighborhoods, a mix of land uses that integrate housing, shops, civic facilities, and work places, and preservation and respect for the natural environment in the form of maintaining greenspace.

Current Option—City of Owensboro Annexation Ordinance -- Public infrastructure only, maximum five-year term with incentive parameters that are under the existing ordinance, the disadvantage of this plan is that it only incentivizes suburban development and, possibly, urban sprawl.

New Option 1— Project Redevelopment Financing (PRF)-- Redevelopment of the urban core/ urban central area, including downtown and adjacent downtown areas, the use of public funds are limited to infrastructure or public benefits. The development must conform to the Owensboro Urban Design Principles (see attachment A) and adopt a form-based code.

New Option 2—Project Development Financing (PDF)--Developments in the urban belt and urban growth areas according to the Comprehensive Plan; must conform to the Owensboro Urban Design Guidelines (see attachment A) and adopt a form-based code.

New Option 3—Project Based Financing Districts-- Local governments can opt to spur development in an area of land (district) targeted and identified for redevelopment or new development. Projects that develop within the district may be eligible to use the same guidelines for a PDF or a state blight area TIF (if eligible) as a source of financing. The local government would identify the district and term for which projects could qualify for local incentives.

The proposal also contains current inducements and incentives utilized for entrepreneurs and business startup and inducements specific to downtown redevelopment, many of which will be forthcoming with the downtown master plan being presented to the local governments in November 2008.

Project Evaluation Criteria- The primary consideration when evaluating whether or not to offer a given firm or project a package for relocation/expansion should be the potential economic and fiscal impact on Owensboro. At the same time, the “goodness of fit” of the firm or project with Owensboro should be reviewed, along with consideration of the potential impact on infrastructure and the environment. A scoring mechanism will be utilized by an Inducement Review Committee consisting of professional staff in economic development, planning and zoning, and the local governments. The committee, using the scoring mechanism, will rigorously evaluate the project pro forma based on the following criteria: 1) Overall Economic Impact, 2) Labor Force, 3) Linkage to the Regional Economy, 4) Cultural and Quality of Life, and 5) Environmental Track Record.

Friday, October 10, 2008

St. Louis Fed President to Headline Regional Summit

Business and government leaders from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky will convene in Evansville Nov. 20-21, 2008, to study the new economic model of growth. The 2008 Regional Economic Summit will feature nationally-recognized business experts and economists who will discuss the current economic climate and realities facing a 26-county region and our nation, as well as outline the steps necessary for prosperity, wealth creation and economic vitality in the 21st Century. President of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank James Bullard will serve as the keynote speaker. Bullard will discuss his view of the current economic environment. "We're incredibly fortunate to have a featured speaker of Mr. Bullard's caliber," said Old National President & CEO Bob Jones, a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Board of Directors. "His knowledge and perspective pertaining to today's economy will be extremely beneficial as our region moves forward in working to realize sustainability and growth."

"Dr. Bullard joins an accomplished roster of presenters including Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine, as well as experts on the economy, entrepreneurship, work force engagement and numerous other topics of critical interest to business and civic leaders," said President of Regency Properties and Chairperson Jim McKinney. "This timely event will be a guiding light to our region in its efforts toward enhanced economic growth and prosperity for its citizens."

Attendees will have the opportunity during the two-day summit to participate in general and break-out sessions dealing with entrepreneurialism, regional collaboration, building stronger economic development strategies and alignment with the emerging world economy. The final summit agenda is being developed in cooperation with regional advisory councils from each state. One breakout session will involve Kentucky BioProcessing Chairman and CEO Hugh Haydon and Dr. Cheryl King, President of Kentucky Wesleyan College.

Founding sponsors for the 2008 Regional Economic Summit are Old National Bank and Regency Properties. Lead sponsors of the event are the Richland County Development Corporation (Ill.), Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation (Ky.), Northwest Kentucky Forward, Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana and the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana.

For registration information about the 2008 Regional Economic Summit log onto http://www.regionaleconomicsummit.com/ or call 812-463-6102.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Swedish Match to Add Jobs

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved a Kentucky Industrial Development Act incentive program for Swedish Match of Owensboro for an expansion at the Owensboro plant.

Louisville-based National Tobacco Co. will move production of 39 of its products from Louisville to Owensboro next year under a long-term agreement with Swedish Match North America.
"It will definitely mean jobs for Owensboro," Rusty Warnick, vice president of operations and supply for Swedish Match North America, said Friday. "We're not sure yet how many jobs, but I would say a minimum of seven to 10. These are good-paying jobs." The company has about 350 employees in Owensboro now.

A National Tobacco news release says all of the company's loose-leaf tobacco brands will be produced in Owensboro in the future. Those brands include Beech-Nut and the value-priced Durango.

Swedish Match produces such brands as Red Man and Timber Wolf in Owensboro.
"Loose-leaf tobacco is a declining market," Warnick said. "This will help us maintain a number of jobs as well as add more."
Production of National Tobacco products will be moved gradually to Owensboro throughout 2009, he said. National Tobacco said it will "retain all marketing, distribution and trademark rights over its brands. The company will continue to maintain its administrative headquarters at the Louisville facility."

The Owensboro plant, which opened in January 1973, is Swedish Match's only North American smokeless tobacco production facility.

Monday, September 29, 2008

KBP, Bayer Agreement Strengthens Owensboro as Center for Plant-Based Biotech Manufacturing

DUSSELDORF, Germany and OWENSBORO, Kentucky, USA—Bayer Innovation GmbH (BIG), and Kentucky Bioprocessing, LLC (KBP) today announced an agreement under which they will collaborate to develop a facility to provide production services based on Bayer’s proprietary magnICON® technology at KBP’s Owensboro plant. magnICON®, is a transient protein expression system in tobacco plants, for the commercial scale production of plant made pharmaceutical proteins (PMP) and other high-value products.

Under terms of the agreement, KBP will adapt its existing cGMP compliant facility by installing an automated system for high throughput transfection of tobacco host plants. The agreement makes KBP the preferred and recommended production partner for the application of magnICON®, technology and further grants KBP exclusive production rights in certain applications.

This combination of facilities and expertise will accelerate the commercialization of magnICON®-based products by providing all magnICON® users access to a cGMP compliant protein expression and purification facility for product development and manufacturing.
―Bayer has several internal product development projects – for example a vaccine for the therapy of Non-Hodgkin-Lymphoma or an influenza vaccine - based on our magnICON® platform and we are also in the process of licensing out this technology to several parties. To accelerate these projects, we decided to team up with an experienced external manufacturer, and KBP, with its excellent facilities and highly qualified personnel is the best choice‖, said Dr. Detlef Wollweber, General Manager of Bayer Innovation.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Owensboro GDP Growth Rate Higher than Nation

The Owensboro MSA gross domestic product (GDP) based on estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), outpaced growth both nationally and regionally. 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 $275 million between 2005 and 2006. The 7.5% growth is higher than the 3.2% national growth. It was also higher than the 4.1% increase in the Evansville/ Henderson metro and the 6.5% growth in the Bowling Green metro. The Owensboro MSA five year growth was 19.6%.

Industries with the largest growth over the five-year period include health care and social assistance, manufacturing, and private service-providing industries. Private good producing industries, constituted $1.5 billion of the metro GDP (nearly $1 billion of which come from manufacturing), while private service-providing industries were responsible for $1.9 billion. Manufacturing bounced back with its first growth period in five years, an 18% increase. The health care sector continued steady growth, with an 8% increase between 2005 and 2006.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Carnegie Village to Offer Live-Work Space for Entrepreneurs

The City of Owensboro in conjunction with the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. will announce plans today for a new development adjacent to downtown Owensboro called Carnegie Village. The anchor project in Carnegie Village is the Centre for Business and Research. With additional funding from the Daviess County Fiscal Court, the Centre for Business and Research is a 37,000 square foot business accelerator and research facility to meet the growing demand for lab, research, and high technology company space. It would also allow the growth of university level applied research and further cultivate high technology companies through the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation.

Centre for Business and Research will provide infrastructure for prospective high tech companies similar to the way the Mid-America Airpark provides the needed infrastructure for industrial development. The current growth of plant biotech companies associated with Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP) has created a demand for biotech lab space. Area colleges and universities can utilize the new lab facilities to promote applied research and business commercialization.

The Centre is part of an overall proposed urban village development called Carnegie Village, a “hot spot” for redeveloping the downtown adjacent area of the city. The location at 9th and Allen can be a catalyst for the creation of a pedestrian corridor along Allen Street linked to the central downtown district.

The development is located to the east in the same block as the new Ryan Park and the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art. To the west are the planned Police Training Facility, the planned J.Z. Moore Village and Historic District and the new Germantown Park. The historic Union Station complex is to the immediate south of the development. To the north sits Brescia University. The property in the parcels adjacent to the Centre will be developed by the City of Owensboro Community Development Department in conjunction with the Placemaking model created by the Gateway Planning Group. Preliminary plans include the mixed-use residential and commercial developments in a walkable urbanist format giving the entrepreneurs from the Centre the opportunity for a unique living and working experience in an urban environment.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Warehouse Going High-tech

By Keith Lawrence

An 85-year-old former tobacco warehouse near downtown Owensboro will soon be converted into high-tech lab space to search for cures for cancer and other diseases.

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., Kentucky BioProcessing LLC and city and county officials will join with representatives of half a dozen Kentucky colleges and universities at 10 a.m. Tuesday to announce plans for the Centre for Business and Research at 1016 Allen St.

Nick Brake, EDC president, said the 37,000-square-foot building will be the anchor for the Carnegie Village development planned in the area around Ninth and Allen streets. Details will be announced Tuesday. The village takes its name from the nearby Carnegie Building, the original section of the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art.

Brake said the warehouse will undergo extensive renovations to get ready for technology-based companies that will use it for research and incubator office space. "Kentucky BioProcessing has run out of lab space," Brake said. "The companies they work with need lab space in Owensboro."
Between 5,000 and 8,000 square feet of the building will be devoted to labs.
The rest will be used for office space for new companies and an accelerator program that lets businesses that start in the center expand into additional space until they are ready to move out into their own buildings.

The warehouse has had a colorful past, serving as home to such nightspots as Rockafellas, Amnezia and The Underground, the YB Corral western dance club and most recently, Common Ground, a Christian teen club.

Now, Brake said, the building will be used to leverage university research in Owensboro.
Western Kentucky University will assign several doctoral-level research faculty members to the facility to work with graduate students, he said.

Western already has a food manufacturing degree that's only offered at its Owensboro campus.
A food lab will be part of the center, Brake said, with an industrial kitchen that can be used for startup companies to test their products and develop them for market.

Madison Silvert, EDC vice president, said local colleges will use some of the space for undergraduate programs. He sees companies being created by former students to develop products they discovered in their research.

The proximity to Brescia University will be helpful, Brake said. "There are business incubators all over the country," Silvert said. "But there are very few business accelerators."
Incubator space is usually only available to start-up companies for the first year, he said.
But the next few years are when companies are the most vulnerable, until profits start coming in, Silvert said.

The accelerator space will give companies room to grow until they're ready to build, he said.
Brake said the center will have high-speed Internet and the type of security that such a building requires. Seven universities and colleges will be affiliated with the center, he said. The list includes the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Western, Murray State University, Brescia, Kentucky Wesleyan College and Owensboro Community & Technical College.
Brake said several clients are already interested in leasing space.

Silvert said EDC is talking with out-of-state venture capital companies about providing grants and loans for businesses in the center. "They tell us this is unique in the Midwest," he said. "Some are interested in office space so they could be near their clients."
Brake calls the project "a 21st century industrial park."

Development will take several years, he said. EDC did a "rigorous site selection search," Brake said. The warehouse is owned by Malcolm Bryant, a developer who serves on the EDC board. Bryant will lease the space to the center. "We considered a number of sites," Brake said, "including building a new facility next to KBP in MidAmerica Airpark."

But the cost of leasing and renovating are much lower than building from scratch and the location near both downtown and Brescia makes the Allen Street site very attractive, he said.
Brake said the Carnegie Village development will anchor the southern edge of downtown and is part of the Gateway Planning Group's master plan for downtown.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Downtown Placemaking as Economic Development

As the focus of the Gateway Planning efforts for the Downtown Owensboro Placemaking initiative move toward implementation, a common question often emerges. How does placemaking impact economic development?

Certainly a revival of any downtown generates economic activity through tourism, retail, and even residential developments, but the real impact is not necessarily about the economic activity, although that is critical. It is fundamentally about talent attraction and leveraging the urbanism in the downtown to distinguish the region from "everytown USA."

Christopher Leinberger says it very well in his recent book, The Option of Urbanism. "All the fancy economic development 'flavors of the month' do not hold a candle to the power of a great walkable urban place. Place-based strategies that create walkable urbanism will attract the broad spectrum of talent required to build a great and vibrant economy. Build a great place, offering the choice of many ways of living, including all kinds of drivable suburban and walkable urban options, and they will come-- young entrepreneurs, the venture capitalists, the skilled technicians, and the school teachers" (170).

Ultimately the Downtown Placemaking initiative is about creating an environment that attracts talented people of all ages.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Downtown Development Grounded in Market Reality

A primary reason that Gateway Planning was chosen to complete the Downtown Owensboro Placemaking initiative is due to their demonstrated effectiveness in marrying downtown development and market forces. This marriage is the essence of placemaking.

Today, the Gateway team unveiled the elements of the downtown development program. The details of the plan can be found at the downtownowensboro.com.

The suggestion of public amenities and private investment in downtown are based on very rigorous economic analysis provided by Gateway team economist Jon Hockenyos. Hockenyos estimates and the master plan design revealed today show design for the downtown reflecting the market reality of downtown Owensboro with the following recommendations:
  • Approximately 300 to 500 residential units, which represents around 10% of the residential units that will be constructed in the metro area over the next 10 years. The design identifies four areas for mixed income housing in the downtown core that would promote a walkable urban envirornment. The plan also call for significant pedestrian linkages and even the possibility of an electric street car to connect downtown to amenities along Frederica street.

  • Approximately 250 to 300 hotels rooms in the core downtown, which would likely come with a new convention-caliber hotel and replace the Executive Inn. The design suggests that this could be leveraged in a couple of areas of downtown, many of which do not include the current Executive Inn property.

  • Approximately 40,000 to 70,000 square feet of convention space in a multi-purpose indoor event center that can accomodate business-caliber conventions and various sporting events. The plan offered various senarios for the location of a convention center, including a deisgn that does not require the Executive Inn property.

  • Mixed-use office and retail space based on market conditions and downtown housing development. The economic analysis suggests approximately 300,000 square feet of office and 100,000 to 150,000 square feet of retail/ restaurant space over the next 10 years, much of it leveraged across from the riverfront development park along Veteran's Blvd. and adjacent to the public amenities such as the convention center and hotel.

  • Public space for a Farmer's Market in the downtown core area that could become a year-round amenity and attract a whole foods shop or small-scale grocery. The design offers several options, including a newly created public green that connects the courthouse lawn to the riverfront park.

  • Museums and movie theatre to add to the entertainment appeal and enhance the retail and restaurant opporutnities. Increased investment in downtown musuems could enhance other elements of the downtown.

  • A privately financed outdoor event venue built to be baseball-friendly, the site plan call for this to be on a mix of public and private property.

  • Arts and cultural education center that would capitalize on the great fine arts education in the local schools, colleges, and universities programed in conjunction with the River Park Center Young Adult Theatre Academy the Owensboro Symphony Academy and other musuems.

To see specific renditions from the Gateway Planning Master Plan presentation, please visit http://www.downtownowensboro.com/

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Decoding the Language of New Urbanism

With the work of the Gateway Planning team on the Owensboro Downtown Placemaking initiative the community has heard a lot of new terminology and new discussion about new urbanist ideas. Concepts like new urbanism, placemaking, walkable urbanism, mixed-use, sustainable development, smart growth, and form-based codes are all key elements of downtown revitalization in cities all across the country. What do they mean?

Known by a variety of names, the defining characteristics of new urbanist projects appear to be walkable neighborhoods, a mix of land uses that integrate housing, shops, civic facilities, and work places, and preservation and respect for the natural environment in the form of maintaining greenspace. The economic and fiscal effects are summarized as follows:

New urbanist developments tend to enhance quality of life, which is crucial to both recruitment and retention of companies;

Mixed-use developments promote greater land-use density, which can help ease the pressure on transportation systems and other infrastructure;

New urbanist developments tend to have a longer “shelf-life” than traditional developments, which will tend to create a greater fiscal impact over the medium and longer-term. A portion of this impact is due to the inclusion of housing in the project, both through direct enhancement of the tax base and the indirect effects of relocating consumers to the central city.

Charles Leinberger, in the book the Option of Urbanism, outlines the movement away from the pre-industrial walking city away from urbanism to an era of driveable sub-urban development in the post World War II 20th Century. This shift lead to our dependency on automobiles, gasoline, automobile manufacturing as a base on employment, and ultimately sub-urban sprawl as the preferred development option. This shift away from walkable cities to auto-dependent development in the suburbs is reflected in popular culture on TV with families like those in Leave it to Beaver to the Brady Bunch living in the suburbs.

By the late 20th century the pendulum began to move back to the center with a reemergence of walkable urban developments in many larger cities around the country. Again, popular culture reflected this shift. Rather than the living in the suburbs, TV shows like Seinfeld and Friends were once again set in walkable urban settings.

This does not mean that drivable suburbia and automobiles are becoming a thing of the past. Both will co-exist in cities large and small around the country. With $4 a gallon gasoline and the push for environmental conscious development, the setting is ripe for walkable urbanist development. To read more about New Urbanism, go to the following links. http://www.newurbanism.org/newurbanism/principles.html, http://www.uli.org/, http://www.gatewayplanning.com/Gateway_base_frame.html, http://www.cnu.org/

To see the urban design standards prepared for Owensboro by the Gateway Planning group, please visit http://www.downtownowensboro.com/ and click on Owensboro Urban Design Guidelines.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Be a Part of the New Downtown

Next week is a big week for downtown Owensboro!

The Owensboro Downtown Placemaking initiative, launched by the EDC earlier this year, will reach a climax with a series of town meetings and community design workshops intended to give regional residents opportunities to participate in the "Designing a Downtown for Everyone. "

The process will kick off on Monday, September 9 at 6:30 pm at the River Park Center where Neal Pierce, a well respected journalist and and chairman of the Citistates group, will revisit many of the recommendations he made to the Owensboro region two decades ago, including the importance of downtown development.

The process will continue with a mid-week visual design pin-up session on Wednesday, September 10 at the River Park Center. The final session of the week will be held at noon on Friday at River Park.

The final results will be presented on November 15 from 9 am to noon at Kentucky Wesleyan College.

For more information, or to register for these sessions please visit http://www.downtownowensboro.com/

To read about Neal Peirce visit http://citistates.com/speakers/npeirce/ To review of the Peirce Report as it relates to downtown Owensboro please visit http://www.plfo.org/advocate/volume_5_issue_1/#peirce

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Time is Right for Walkable Urbanism in Owensboro

The following In My View, which appeared in the Messenger-Inquirer, is from Michael Huston, Owensboro native and urban designer currently working with the Gateway Planning team on the Downtown Owensboro Placemaking work.

Having been born in the mid 60’s they tell me that I am a member of Generation X, albeit just barely. Our claim to fame is that we were the first generation to be brought up on an endless stream of television sitcoms and TV dinners. I think you could also say that we were also the first truly suburban, car-dependent generation, and the first generation to grow up without a “real” downtown. Even though there were still a few retail stores here in downtown Owensboro when I was young (Anderson’s, Interstate and Sears to name a few), I never experienced the downtown that my parents and grandparents knew; the downtown full of retail stores, drugstores, diners, movie theaters…and people. The generations that have come after me (and I am starting to lose count), know even less about the thriving commerce, the local meeting places, and the entertainment options that used to be at the center of every town.

It wasn’t in fact, until I began traveling, first within the big cities on the east coast, and then in Europe, that I was able to experience the type of urban vitality than was once prevalent in all U.S. towns and cities. I saw in New York City a series of linked, walkable neighborhoods, each with its own drugstore, grocery store, drycleaners, etc. Later in Europe, I saw that this type of urban vitality can exist even in smaller towns and cities. In all of these places, I witnessed a type of social interaction between people that is all but eliminated as we wiz by in our cars up and down Frederica Street and around the bypass, and I started to feel that we as a society were missing something in our now-suburbanized towns. It was then that I became passionate advocate of downtown revitalization efforts.

Therefore, as an architect and urban designer who grew up in Owensboro, I felt a great deal of excitement and satisfaction when I was asked to join the urban design team with the Gateway Planning Group who is spearheading the development of the Downtown Owensboro Placemaking Initiative. This planning process will go beyond just design by establishing community priorities and outlining public/private investments needed to make it a reality. I feel that the timing has never been better to start such an endeavor. With an aging population, higher gas prices, and the threat of global warming more people are seeking a compact, less car-dependent environment; a perfect fit for downtown. And with the closing of the Executive Inn (as painful as it may be), we have a unique opportunity to reinvent seventeen acres of riverfront property into an even more successful downtown destination.

Yet, some may still ask, why go to all the effort? I think there are many reasons why we should, or perhaps must, take on this challenge. Economically, it is imperative that Owensboro remains competitive in creating and keeping good jobs. To do so, we must maintain a quality of life that is as good as, or better, than our regional competitors. Owensboro already has so much to offer, and a beautiful, thriving downtown would add even more to its appeal. Further, every great town or city needs a strong “center” as a place of identity and a place to come together as a community. The renaissance has, in fact, already begun in Owensboro as can be seen by the sidewalk caf├ęs on Second and Third Streets, the opening of a new dance studio on the east side of downtown, and the imminent renovation of the Smith Werner Building. This plan will help to ensure that the renaissance will continue, and that when the big pieces are added to the puzzle, whether a new hotel, a new convention center, etc., it will be done in a way that reinforces the “downtown experience” as a whole.

Now, back to Generation X. It is my hope that my generation, and the generations that follow, will once again be able to feel the spirit of community and identity that come with having a strong, vital “center.” And that in addition to the option of living in the suburbs, we will have the option to live and work in a beautiful downtown urban neighborhood, in a “not-so-quiet” town on the banks of the Ohio River.

Michael Huston

Michael Huston is an Architect and Urban Designer with the Gateway Planning Group and lives in Miami, Florida. He is a graduate of Owensboro Catholic High School.

Email: mike@gatewayplanning.com

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

HPV Vaccine Deal Huge for KBP, Regional Economy

from Keith Lawrence at the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer

Owensboro's Kentucky BioProcessing LLC has signed a deal that could have a huge impact on the region's economy -- if a new human papillomavirus vaccine is successful. Louisville-based Advanced Cancer Therapeutics has signed a deal with the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center to license its technology for a second-generation HPVvaccine.

And a second deal with Kentucky BioProcessing will allow ACT to use the Owensboro company's patented GENEWARE technology to grow the vaccine inside tobacco plants and to use the Owensboro facilities for commercial production if the new product is approved for the U.S. and world markets. If that happens, "a very, very significant capital investment would be needed" to Kentucky BioProcessing's facilities, Hugh Haydon, KBP chairman, said Wednesday. "But the business would be there to support it."

Haydon said some countries have a shorter window for testing new drugs than the United States. It's possible that ACT could begin production in Owensboro for the world market before it receives FDA approval to sell the product in this country, he said.

KBP, a world leader in the expression, extraction, purification and commercial scale production of proteins and other products from plants, operates a 30,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility with an adjacent 22,000-square-foot greenhouse at 3700 Airpark Drive. It's not large enough for the type of production that would be once," Haydon said. "We would have time to ramp up for production if we get there. And we hope we get there."

ACT isn't the company's only customer. Last year, two start-up companies -- Mapp Biopharmaceuticals and Intrucept Biomedicine -- established a local presence at KBP. Haydon said earlier this summer that KBP is working with a dozen biotech companies on products at its bioprocessing facility. "And we're in discussions with upwards of 20 others," he said. Haydon expects at least one and maybe two more announcements this summer. Pharmaceutical production, he said, isn't subject to boom-and-bust cycles. The demand for medicine never slacks, Haydon said.

The intellectual property to develop the HPV vaccine, licensed to ACT through University of Louisville's Office of Technology Transfer, is based on research by Jenson, Kenneth Palmer and their colleagues. Palmer conducts research at the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, a joint venture between Owensboro Medical Health System and U of L at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center. "We hope that the technology we are using to manufacture this vaccine will yield a product at a cost that will facilitate its use in resource-poor areas of the world where vaccines against HPV are most needed," he said in a news release. "Our research to date indicates that the technology we are using to produce the vaccine protein in plants will be very cost-effective."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Emerging Ventures Year One

By Madison Silvert, EDC Executive Vice President

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation began its entrepreneur and high-tech initiatives in earnest in October of 2007. We opened the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation in February 2008, providing small business support, conference rooms, free wi-fi, and work areas for entrepreneurs. Importantly, we also began work in this region with the state's innovation and commercialization center network, of which we are a proud part.

When we began, it was hoped that this office would work with two clients, fund one company, and help create two high-tech jobs in 2008. Since February, we have worked with ten client companies seeking funding and assistance for their ideas. When our actual numbers came in a few weeks ago, it was clear to us at the EDC that supporting entrepreneurs and small, high-tech businesses was a good use of our time and resources. Our numbers showed that, not only did we work with five times as many companies as we expected, but those client companies created 18 high-tech jobs, another 5 support jobs, and the average salary of those high-tech jobs was about twice Owensboro's median income.

Additionally, one of our client companies, Dewater Rite, received a grant award from the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation. The grant will help refine Dewater Rite's concept for an agricultural waste treatment and processing machine that, hopefully, will lead to manufacturing of the machine right here in Owensboro. We hope to announce another company receiving KSTC funding before the end of the year.

It is through the cultivation of these small high tech businesses that will help grow our local and regional economy for years to come.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Why the city and county should buy the Executive Inn property

By Darrell Higginbotham, President, Independence Bank, EDC Board Chair and Rod Kuegel, Farmer, EDC Board Chair-Elect

Much has been said recently about the fate of the Executive Inn property. Some of the talk concentrates on methods being used to secure the 16.5 acre riverfront site, but very little is said about why it is so important that the property be acquired by the city and county governments.

We do not think the city or county governments should be in the business of re-opening or operating the hotel. The current hotel structure is not in serviceable condition and it should be razed. However, it is a rare opportunity for any community to gain control of 16.5 acres, nearly one-third of a mile, of river frontage. Fortunately, the infrastructure is in place to make the most of this opportunity. Recently, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation in partnership with the Downtown Development Corporation, engaged the services of the Gateway Planning Group, a nationally recognized firm based in Ft. Worth, Texas, that will create a long-term implementation strategy for the rebirth of our downtown.

The urban planners and economists from Gateway Planning refer to the 16.5-acre site as “the cornerstone of downtown redevelopment.” The Board of Directors of the EDC, a group representing major employers and key private sector partners in the region, wholeheartedly agree, and urge the community to rally behind the city and county governments’ efforts to acquire the property.

What our governments recognize is that communities with thriving downtowns are able to attract the talent and workforce necessary to excel in today’s economy. Simply put, downtown redevelopment, including redevelopment of the Executive Inn site, is crucial to our region’s economic vitality.

Development of the property as a public/private partnership will attract private investment that would not otherwise invest without certain public amenities. Once in control of the property it would be in the community’s best interests for the governments to act swiftly, decisively, and prudently on how to best develop such public amenities, while welcoming all private investment that could add to the endeavor. The city and county would then be able to retain the few acres they need for public projects while selling the rest to private developers.

By the fall, our community will have a site plan for the 16.5 acres and adjacent properties that may include a convention-caliber hotel, multi-purpose indoor event center, potential office, retail and other mixed-use space. The professionals from Gateway Planning will work with city, county, and economic development officials to evaluate and analyze the qualifications for developers interested in developing amenities on the property.

Given this opportunity, we are concerned at what might happen if we do not gain control of the property. Some may say that the community should just wait for a private investor to purchase the property. Yet we cannot be assured that a private investor will support the objective of downtown redevelopment or even redevelop the property at all. Without public involvement, the regional market will be diluted with smaller, limited service hotels that will further deter the development of a convention-quality facility. However, if acquired, the convention and visitor business combined with other potential amenities offered through the site plan will lead to a solid return on investment, not unlike that of a large employer for which public dollars are routinely leveraged.

This is a classic example of where it is prudent and, in fact, highly appropriate for local governments to leverage public funds to attract high quality private investment to meet the goals of the region. The importance of this issue goes beyond downtown and the Owensboro city limits; it is an investment in the future of the entire region that will no doubt pay dividends for decades to come.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reaching the Facebook Generation

By Madison Silvert, EDC Executive Vice President

Somewhere in Cyberspace-- By now, many of you have at least heard of social networking sites. Sites such as Myspace and Linkedin are quickly becoming some of the most powerful communications tools on the internet. It is how Generation X, Generation Y and the Millennials choose to stay in touch.

We commonly hear complaints from parents who wish their children would return to Owensboro after college, but do not always find an opportunity or the desire to do so. There are two facets to this problem that the EDC is addressing. Most obviously, the first is job availability. However, of primary importance to the younger generation is livability. They want a community that is fun and inviting with multiple entertainment options. The EDC has been, for several months now, addressing the issue of livability through its Placemaking Strategy.

The question then becomes, how do we engage our younger generation that has chosen not to return home. Enter Facebook, arguably the most popular of the social networking websites. A few weeks ago, I started a group on Facebook called The Society of Owensboro. The Society is dedicated to updating displaced Owensboroans on the continuing development of their former community. After just a few days, The Society of Owensboro claims well over 100 members, including people from Seattle, Birmingham, Louisville and Nashville, to name just a few. The goal is for there to be Society events in the coming year, starting in cities like Nashville and Louisville. Perhaps keeping people engaged in what is going on in Owensboro will lead to some positive results in retention of our young people.

If you or someone you know would like to join The Society of Owensboro, first sign up for a free Facebook account, then click here to join.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Owensboro's Downtown Redevelopment: "It's Smart to Be Dense"

On the heels of last week's visit by the Gateway Planning team working on the Downtown Master Plan to transform Owensboro into a more "walkable mixed-use" urban destination, today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about the national attention Sacremento is getting by creating a similar "Blueprint" for urban redevelopment. The article and a short video can be accessed at the following links: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121538754733231043.html?mod=hpp_us_pageone for the artilce, and
http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid86195573/bclid86272812/bctid1649956635 for the video.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Events of the Week illustrate the Importance of OCTC Grant to "Retool" Owensboro Regional Workforce

A couple of events from this week demonstrate how important the workforce is as a tool for economic development. On Wednesday, Dana Corporation announced that they were eliminating the second shift at their Owensboro operation, resulting in a loss of over 100 manufacturing jobs in the region.

That announcement was followed by the release of a report from the National Commission on Adult Literacy lead by Owensboro's own Dr. Cheryl King. The report illustrates once again what a deep crisis our nation faces with the workforce keeping pace with an ever evolving global economy. What is being done locally to "retool" the workforce in the face of this crisis?

The Owensboro Community and Technical College was recently awarded a competitive three-year $1.9 million U.S. Department of Labor grant. The college, along with the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation co-hosted a Manufacturing Industry Workforce Competitiveness Summit in order to gauge the need of local industry and better plan utilization of the funds.

More than twenty business leaders representing a variety of manufacturing related companies participated in the April 2008 summit. The following issues arose as major concerns for employers:

Operational and technological challenges, qualified entry-level line/labor employee shortages, qualified technically-skilled occupational employee shortages, employee effectiveness, qualified supervisory-level candidate shortages, supervisory-level employee effectiveness, engineering and business administration occupational employee shortages

In response to these issues, the EDC and OCTC held a follow up to the Summit last week to introduce and refine plans for the grant focusing on three key areas: underemployed, incumbent, and dislocated workers; new-career seekers and entry-level workers; and underrepresented groups (females, minorities, youth and veterans).

The college presented options currently available as well as future plans for increasing enrollment and retention of manufacturing students. Through OCTC’s Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED), college staff will continue working alongside local companies in order to develop the high quality, customized programs needed to reach these goals. Ranging from leadership development to specialized technical training, options include short-term Welding Training, a Team Leadership Certificate, Apprenticeship programs, mobile training labs, and the IMAC (Industry-based Modularized Accelerated Credentials) program. The tools and capacity of the newly opened Advanced Technology Center (pictured above) will also be leveraged to support the needs of existing employers.

The Owensboro region is blessed with a diversity of manufacturing operations from automotive to food processing and high tech. Such diversity postion the region to handle disruptions and layoffs such as the one announced this week. The Department of Labor grant is an important tool in helping create the manufacturing workforce of the 21st Century-- a key in retaining and growing the diverse existing industries in the region for years to come.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

As BIO Concludes Focus Shifts to Next Steps for Biotech in Owensboro

The BIO conference came to an end yesterday in San Diego. In concluding reflections on the progress made in the life science sector over the past two years in Owensboro, the following are some implementation steps for the coming years:

1. Centre for Business and Research- an announcement is forthcoming for a 40,000 square foot research and business park facility to meet the growing demand for lab, research, and high technology company space. It would also allow the growth of university level applied research and further cultivate high technology companies through the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation.

2. Place Making- GO- EDC will embark on an effort to improve the entrepreneurial climate of the region and promote the development of quality of life amenities to assist in the recruitment of young entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs and life science companies are attracted to infrastructure and amenities. During the past two years we have built a competitive infrastructure to attract entrepreneurs and their companies. It is now time to focus on amenities and quality of life factors.

3. Green Innovation Network- Nurture the Northwest Kentucky Green partnership with regional economic development agencies to expand the scope and area to include other counties in the region focusing on high tech development in the life sciences and include developments in alternative energy. Such a structure would enable the region to better compete for funding and enlarge the political support for the efforts of this plan at the state and national levels.

4. Explore Other Life Science Areas- Through the expansion of OMHS, efforts will be made to explore other areas in the life sciences for potential economic growth and development in the Owensboro region. Developments to explore include: bioinformatics, medical devises, and alternative energy.

5. Build Support and Seek State Funding for the expansion of programs to support life science and entrepreneurial development in the Owensboro area and statewide. The success of the past week, with Governor Beshear and members of his staff attending KBP events in San Diego, help distinguish Owensboro as a nucleus of Kentucky's life science industry.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Governor Announces at BIO New Funds to Support High Tech Business in Kentucky

Continuing from the BIO conference in San Diego...

Governor Steve Beshear announced yesterday a new round of funding for the state’s highly successful Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants. The matching funds program is unique to Kentucky. The announcement came as the governor hosted a reception at the BIO International Conference in San Diego.

“This is an excellent opportunity to talk with companies about what Kentucky has to offer and give them the news that we are ready to match, dollar for dollar federal SBIR and STTR grants,” said Gov. Beshear. “This means that small, high-tech companies in Kentucky, and those who are looking to relocate to our state, can potentially double their federal grant awards. We’ve already seen the positive results of this program with more than $7 million awarded to 31 companies. Obviously, Kentucky is backing up its commitment to research and development with money, not just talk.”

Many of the companies that Owensboro is cultivating in the plant biotech cluster being built around Kentucky BioProcessing, including Mapp Biopharmaceutical and Intrucept, will be eligible to apply for the new funds.

“These are the types of companies and jobs that we are actively seeking as we talk with groups here in San Diego,” said Gov. Beshear. “In economically difficult times like we face today, Kentucky must seek a more diverse workforce and the companies that bring these jobs here. Companies like Alltech, with its recently opened Center for Animal Nutrigenomics, Kentucky BioProcessing in Owensboro, Coldstream Laboratories, Advanced Cancer Therapeutics, Scout Diagnostics and many others are great examples of how Kentucky can move forward in the bio-tech field.”

More information about Kentucky's SBIR-STTR Matching Funds, which is funded by the Cabinet for Economic Development's Department of Commercialization and Innovation, and other business support programs, is available online at: www.ThinkKentucky.com/dci/sbir1.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

KBP, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Partnership a Key Link to the Plant Biotech Cluster in Owensboro

Continuing from the BIO Conference in San Diego..

On Wednesday night San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceuticals hosted a delegation from Kentucky BioProcessing, the Owensboro Medical Health System, the EDC, and Governor Steve Beshear at a dinner to discuss the partnership between Mapp and KBP. Mapp is one of the two small biotech companies that established operations in Owensboro in 2007.

Mapp utilizes the facility and the workforce at KBP as part of its focus on development of a commercial scale production platform for its products. Mapp has developed and is currently producing several different plant derived products for use in small volume trials.

The second company, Owensboro-based Intrucept Biomedicine is a product-focused enterprise whose mission is to discover and develop novel antiviral biotherapeutics. Intrucept has a license from the National Institutes of Health to a plant-derived, broad-spectrum antiviral protein that is one of the most potent antivirals known and can be readily produced using plant-based biomanufacturing at Kentucky Bioprocessing.

Remarkable progress has been made during the past two years in the Owensboro biotech industry thanks to the work of KBP and OMHS.

KBP, the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, and the Owensboro Medical Health System’s Mitchell Cancer Center 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. Their joint efforts have the potential for moving Owensboro into international prominence as a center of the plant made pharmaceutical and the natural product development and production industry.

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.

KBP recently completed acquisition of the GENEWARE® intellectual property platform designed and created to enable the expression of genes and the proteins which they encode in plants.

The GENEWARE® system is widely recognized as one of the world’s most potent, robust and effective plant-based gene expression systems. Its acquisition complements KBP’s existing facilities, expertise and intellectual property portfolio. KBP can now operate as a single source provider for anyone interested in the expression, extraction and purification of a therapeutic protein or other high value product for commercial purposes.

Next: implementation steps for the future. Click here for more information on the Greater Owensboro Life Science Partnership.