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:

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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Owensboro's Emerging Infrastructure to Support Life Sciences and High Tech

Continuing from the BIO Conference in San Diego...

A key result of the first two years of implementation of the Life Science Strategy for Owensboro has been the development of an infrastructure to support the growth of high technology companies in the region.

At the inception of the Strategic Plan, Owensboro had very little in the way of infrastructure to support high tech development. Since 2006 the following high tech infrastructure has been implemented:

Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation part of the state Innovation and Commercialization Center framework helps meet the needs of the plant biotech and other high tech companies connecting them to local, state and national resources. This connection has served several companies utilizing the expertise of the Kentucky BioProcessing facility, thus far five KBP client companies have applied for state funding.

Emerging Ventures Fund created in 2007 by the City of Owensboro, utilizing funds from the Owensboro Riverport Authority. This seed capital pool supports the relocation and growth of high tech companies in the region.

Greater Owensboro Venture Club provides an angel investor network, access to local and state venture funds for life science companies. KBP collaborators and potential customers have presented or are considered likely future presenters to club members.

Northwest Kentucky Green initiative is a regional partnership with Northwest Kentucky Forward, the economic development agency based in Henderson focusing on diversifying the regional economy through support of innovative developments in renewable energy and plant-made natural products. The initiative is serving as a model for regional rural innovation-based economic development around the Commonwealth (

Higher education research and workforce development partnerships- GO-EDC has worked with local and regional postsecondary institutions to develop the future workforce needed for growing biotechnology companies. Last year the Owensboro Community and Technical College received an $800,000 Department of Labor grant to enable the college to recruit high school students and link the two-year degree program in biotechnology to the bachelor’s degree program at Western Kentucky University. The expansion of the WKU undergraduate and graduate degree biotechnology program in Owensboro will also open the door for applied research opportunities in the future.

Owensboro Biotech Alliance Agriculture Database- The regional agriculture industry is engaged in the partnership through the Owensboro Biotech Alliance. Regional farmers are experienced in biotechnology related production and enjoy a national reputation for compliance with USDA regulations. In 2007 OBA completed a comprehensive database of local farmers that have the expertise and willingness to grow crops for plant biotechnology companies.

Next up: Accomplishments in the biotech industry in Owensboro, including KBP, the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, and two new companies in 2007! Click here for more information on the Greater Owensboro Life Science Partnership.

Monday, June 16, 2008

BIO Conference Kicks Off in San Diego

This is the first of a series of blogs from the Biotechnology Industry Organization Annual Conference in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO— Two years after advancing a strategy to lure high tech life science companies, significant infrastructure is in place for Owensboro to be an epicenter for plant biotechnology. The infrastructure has already attracted two plant-oriented biotech firms to locate operations in Owensboro during 2007.

This week local officials will take their efforts to the international stage at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Annual Conference in San Diego. The BIO International Conference is the biggest gathering of biotech leaders, public officials and companies in the world. With over 20,000 attendees from 70 countries, 1,900 exhibitors will participate. Over 300 public officials, including Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, will attend.

In 2006 the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation released A Strategic Plan for the Development of the Life Sciences in Greater Owensboro. The report offered recommendations focusing on high technology developments in the life sciences as a new economic development approach. Since then significant strides have been made in by major players in the industry and in creating an infrastructure supporting high tech company development.
Next: Accomplishments of the Strategic Plan after two years. Click here for more information on the Greater Owensboro Life Science Partnership.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Executive Inn closing presents region with an opportunity

Comments from Dr. Fred Reeves, Director of the Downtown Owensboro at Monday's press conference regarding the community response to the closing of the Executive Inn:

"The swift closing of the Executive Inn presents us enormous short term challenges. However, given the commitment of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce I have great faith that they will have a significant positive outcome on many of these challenges.

At the same time I hold the view these very events present us a great opportunity to realize long term benefits for the community on that 17 acre property.

Prompted by work of the Downtown Development Corporation’s 2007 downtown study recommendations, the City’s recent Strategic Planning process and other downtown advocates, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation assumed the leadership to launch our “Downtown Place Making Initiative.” That initiative is focused on creating a vibrant downtown that will attract talent to our community.

To that end we have engaged the Gateway Planning Group from Ft. Worth, TX to guide us in the development of a downtown master plan that is implementation-based. This process is significantly different than anything undertaken in the past. as it will provide us a step by step approach to working with private sector investors to develop both the public and private amenities that will once again make downtown Owensboro the envy of our region.

Since the beginning of our discussions with the Gateway Group they have emphasized the importance of the Executive Inn property and its future development. Jon Hockenyos, the lead economist with the Gateway Team, has consistently referred to the Executive Inn property as the cornerstone to our future downtown development.

Our “downtown place making initiative” will guide us as we work with developers to make sure that in the very near future Owensboro has a state of the art convention center hotel complex that will serve our community for the next several decades as the Executive Inn has in the past. The Gateway group will also provide guidance and prudent fiscal analyses to insure that the taxpayers’ investment in amenities and other necessary infrastructure appropriate to leverage maximum private development.

Thankfully, the public and private leadership of the community had already anticipated the need for this progressive approach to downtown development and we have that process already moving forward to insure we proceed with both determination and wisdom."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Glory Industries returns to the Greater Owensboro Venture Club: New Breakfast Format on June 11 at 7:30 am

The recent article in the Messenger-Inquirer about Glory Industries is a testament to the value of the Greater Owensboro Venture Club for entrepreneurs in the region. Dan and Patty Ogles owners of Glory Industries, a company that makes easy-to-replace mud flaps for semi-trucks, made a one-minute pitch at the inaugural Venture Club meeting in spring 2007.

At that meeting Ogles met Ankur Gopal, a local entrepreneur who made a pitch for his company. The connection made at the Venture Club proved to be beneficial to both. Gopal later worked with Glory Industries assisting with the development of their business plan.

"Ankur brought us his business expertise," Dan Ogles told Keith Lawrence of the Messenger-Inquirer. A class on entrepreneurship that Gopal was teaching at Kentucky Wesleyan College helped design a marketing campaign for Fast Flap.

"They didn't even know what a mud flap was on the first day," Ogles said. "But in a couple of days, they were on fire, coming up with all kinds of ideas for us."

The marketing is paying off. At the recent Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville in March, the Fast Flap caught the attention of CMT's popular "Trick My Truck" cable series. Ogles is hoping the product placement will help the young company capture the attention of the nation's trucking industry.

It all began at the first Venture Club meeting last spring. On June 11, Ogles will return to the Venture Club to be a featured presenter in hopes of raising the $200,000 that they need for the tooling and molds of the product line.

The June Venture Club meeting will also feature a presentation by a Texas-based medical devise company. Both companies that presented to the Venture Club in the spring recieved funding!

The meeting includes a new breakfast format beginning at 7:30 am at the Springs Conference Center. The cost for admission is $10. To make a reservation for the meeting, please contact Melissa Shelton at 270.926.4339 or via e-mail at Reservations can also be made online at