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, 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.