Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New “Discover Owensboro” iPhone app now available

Keeping up with Owensboro is now easier than ever with the release of a new “Discover Owensboro” application available for download to users of the iPhone. The free “app” is a project of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation, Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce and the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau and was developed by Agent511, an Owensboro-based technology company.

Apps are software programs that can be downloaded online and then viewed and used anywhere on iPhones and certain ipod mobile devices. Nearly 34 million iPhones have been sold since they were introduced by Apple in 2007 and approximately 6.4 million iPhones are active in the U.S. alone.

“This is an exciting and easily-accessible way for people to participate in Owensboro,” says Nick Brake, EDC president. “This is a great way to promote our community.”

The “Discover Owensboro” app will have six features:

-       Local events
-       EDC blog of economic development news/ideas
-       Chamber member business directory
-       Promotional videos from the EDC
-       GO ChamberBook social media site
-       Map of local industrial sites

“There’s something for everybody on the ‘Discover Owensboro’ app,” says Jody Wassmer, chamber president. “You can find something to do, find a local business, promote your business, read about economic development...the iPhone app is part of a larger effort the chamber will take in 2010 to market the many good things occurring here.”

“We’ll encourage visitors to download the app and discover our events and festivals from anywhere,” adds Karen Miller, CVB executive director.

All three organizations plan to promote the downloading of the app on their websites and in their various publications and newsletters. They also plan to promote it for downloading to visitors at the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport.

“There are a lot of innovative things going on here, and an iPhone app is an innovative way to promote it,” concludes Brake.  

New Theater Degree has Value in the Business World

We received some very interesting feedback from a business leader and employer in Owensboro regarding the new collaborative Bachelor of Arts in Theater announced last week.  The program is a partnership between the RiverPark Center, Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College, and the Owensboro Community and Technical College.  

The business leader's feedback is as follows:  "I have a friend in Indianapolis with a very fast growing sales business.  His favorite place to recruit his salespeople is Theatre Arts Majors.  They treat the sales job as a role and are able to do exactly what they are told to do.  Many are making $50-$100k working for him part time and can still pursue their acting careers.  I will be a recruiter of the graduates." 

There is too often a perception that an applicant for a position in business must have a business degree, when in fact employers may be looking more demonstrated skills and abilities that they need.  Sounds like, at least from the words of one business leader that a degree in Theater has value way beyond the field of arts and entertainment. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Interstate Spurs Driving Commerce to Owensboro

OWENSBORO, KY (WFIE) - Earlier this week Congress approved $375,000 to study changing several parkways in Kentucky into interstates.Now some commercial realtors say Owensboro is starting to get noticed.
"We've been getting calls from large, industrial-type companies looking for 50,000 square feet or more," said realtor Bo Barron.  "Third party logistics companies, distribution kinds of things and that's something that the Owensboro market really hasn't had a demand for."
Local commercial real estate agents say business is picking up thanks to new interstate designations for both the Audubon and Natcher Parkways.
"I think it could be directly tied to the interstate designation," he said.  "Both the calls we've had in the last week I asked them and they said it's been a factor in them looking at Owensboro, western Kentucky, southern Indiana."
"That's the whole idea for converting the parkways to eventually becoming full-fledged interstates is to attract more business, more tourists, more opportunities for Owensboro," said Jody Wassmer, Chamber of Commerce.
Part of changing the parkways into interstates would be some changes like widening some of the medians, raising some of the overpasses as well as lengthening some of the entrance ramps. The Chamber of Commerce says some of the entrance ramps were designed for toll payers to slow down but with interstates, drivers need to speed up to merge with traffic.
"This country travels by the interstate system," Wassmer said.  "Business travels on the interstates and it's just really important in this day and age that you have as much interstate access as you can get."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes Will Visit Owensboro

Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development Larry Hayes will be visiting Owensboro next week to meet with local officials regarding various economic development issues.  
A focus of the visit will be to discuss many of the partnerships that exist between the Cabinet and the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. to promote Owensboro to prospective businesses and site selectors. 
“Owensboro continues to be proactive in its job creation strategy,” said Hayes.  “During my recent visits with community officials, it was evident that they had laid the appropriate groundwork to accomplish their long-term economic goals.”
Hayes will speak with regional leaders at 8:30 am Tuesday, December 22 at the Commerce Center. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

RiverPark Center and college collaborate on Theatre Degree

RiverPark Center, Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College and Owensboro Community and Technical College are pleased to announce they are developing a truly unique partnership – the creation of a Bachelor of Theatre Arts degree. Students enrolled for the degree will have the opportunity to participate in courses at each of the participating institutions.

As the Gateway Planning group analyzed the Owensboro and Daviess County community, they discovered a truly unique and significant arts and cultural environment and suggested that the downtown master plan should include an Arts Academy which would take advantage of the synergy that already exists downtown.  

Cheryl King, President, Kentucky Wesleyan College said:  “Kentucky Wesleyan College is pleased to partner with RiverPark Center and our sister institutions to provide this distinctive Theatre Arts program. Through a unique collaborative model, our students will have exceptional opportunities for learning and success. There is a lot of excitement on our campus, and we look forward to working with our sister institutions and the RiverPark Center.”
 Father Larry Hostetter, President, Brescia University added:  Brescia has had a long history of excellence in the creative arts. This will be a great "next step" in that tradition. The fact that we are collaborating with our sister institutions and the RiverPark Center makes this effort especially significant. I have no doubt that soon Owensboro will be recognized as the place to receive a theater arts degree.

The Owensboro Community and Technical College will offer a Certificate – specializing in technical theatre – where the vast majority of entertainment jobs exist.  

The program will provide a direct interface between the college students and many of the the touring professionals that often perform on the stage at RiverPark Center through the "Broadway West" program, where shows are built and rehearsed in Owensboro. 

“We look forward to our students creating an “alive” downtown and riverfront – it is our future and we can touch it” said RiverPark president Zev Buffman.  

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Annual survey shows high downtown interest among Chamber members

Thirty-one percent of Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce members say they would “be interested in locating their business and/or starting a business downtown” and 17% say they would “be interested in living downtown” according to the annual legislative and local issues survey this fall.

Thirty-three percent of respondents indicated “their business would not work downtown” while 12% say they “are not in favor of the downtown plan.” Six-percent of respondents had no response to the downtown question. The survey was completed by 23% of Chamber members during September and October.

“That means that nearly half of respondents would like to have a business and/or live downtown,” says Chamber President Jody Wassmer. “That seems to be fairly significant support for what the plans the city and county have initiated in downtown Owensboro.”

The Chamber board of directors voted to support the “place-making initiative” plan last winter and subsequently took several members to Greenville, SC last May to see that city’s proactive downtown redevelopment. The group returned with the belief that Owensboro was on the right track to stimulate private downtown investment that would lead to increased commerce, tourism and economic development for the entire community.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Optimism Abounds for Economic Development Strategy Despite Set Backs

In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. remains optimistic about the economic development strategy created in 2006 to position the region for long-term economic vitality. 

EDC leadership stresses that it is important, now more than ever, to diversify the regional economy. 
“We have been watching this global economy evolve for a long time anticipating that we could be affected,” said EDC Board Chair Darrell Higginbotham.  “We have a three-year head start in adjusting to the shifting economic circumstances impacting us this year. “

The EDC Strategic Plan created a four tier strategy focusing on supporting existing businesses, targeted business attraction efforts, nurturing high technology company startups, and attracting and developing a highly skilled workforce. “Sitting face-to-face with individuals and companies impacted by this global downturn has further motivated us to work harder than ever on a multi-faceted approach to economic development,” said Higginbotham.  

EDC employs a business-attraction strategy, using a targeted approach to recruit new companies.  A thorough data analysis of the region’s economic base, supplier relationships, workforce skill location quotients, and innovations within industries has resulted in a more sophisticated approach in finding realistic targets.  This analysis is followed by targeted marketing efforts of high-growth companies in several sectors of the economy, including energy, advanced manufacturing, and professional services.

“We have conducted three coordinated campaigns this year,” said EDC President/CEO Nick Brake.  “One in green energy hoping to capitalize on stimulus dollars in that sector, one in back office and professional service areas similar to the jobs US Bank has in the region, and one in advanced manufacturing.”   Brake also indicated that EDC is a partner with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Kentucky United, a group of regional economic development agencies that work to promote Kentucky to site selectors. 

Owensboro was ranked eighth last year by Site Selection magazine for most economic development projects among small regions.  Brake said EDC is planning additional targeted campaigns in 2010.  

Communities around the country are shifting economic development strategies in response to the recession.  For example, Atlanta has a new strategy that uses the same targeted approach EDC is currently employing.  Additionally, Kansas City is joining a host of other communities in focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation as opposed to industry attraction. 

“Owensboro continues to be proactive in its job creation strategy,” said Larry Hayes, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.  “During my recent visit with community officials, it was evident that they had laid the appropriate groundwork to accomplish their long-term economic goals.”

Support for existing industries is also a critical component of the EDC strategy.  Nearly two-thirds of new jobs in any given community are a result of existing companies.  In the past 12 months, EDC has worked with 16 companies on expansion projects totaling over $90 million in investment and more than 500 new jobs in the region.  

The existing industry program has also been busy working with companies such as West Irving Die Casting, GE, and Hon who have either shut down or will be closing their doors in the coming months.   The EDC coordinates with the Owensboro Community and Technical College and Green River Workforce Investment Board to assist in providing retraining opportunities to workers impacted by plant closings and layoffs. 

 “Our community college is a huge asset in the work we do with dislocated workers,” Brake said.  “While a plant closing is never a good situation, we’re able to provide affected workers the opportunity to receive free retraining all the way to a postsecondary degree.   This not only benefits the worker, but allows the community to retool its workforce in high-growth areas such as health care and energy.” 

Owensboro is feeling the squeeze that many other parts of the nation have felt with manufacturing.  Brake said the days of Owensboro being solely a manufacturing based economy are over.  “This is why the expansion of the Owensboro Medical Health System is so important.  It will further diversify our economy.”  Brake also says that hospitals and universities are increasingly drivers of small and medium size economies.   “The evidence is pretty clear that health care is no longer just a service industry—it is a significant economic base industry for many of the peer communities that we use as benchmarks.” 

EDC began an emphasis on high tech development and support for entrepreneurs thanks to funding from the state for the Emerging Ventures Innovation Center program headed by Madison Silvert.  Earlier this year, Silvert was invited to speak to the Kansas City EDC about the success Owensboro has had in nurturing entrepreneurs.  In the past three years, EDC has added significant infrastructure to support high tech company development in Owensboro.  Emerging Ventures has been successful in supporting newly formed companies and creating jobs with pay levels well above the median income in the region. 

“Working with entrepreneurs and high-tech startups has gained a lot of momentum with all of the plant biotech activities at Kentucky BioProcessing,” said Silvert.   “Our new business accelerator, the Centre for Business and Research will provide an opportunity of an entirely new dimension of economic development for this region.”

However, Higginbotham stresses that EDC has not put all eggs in one basket.  “Support for entrepreneurs is an important component of our overall strategy.  It just so happens that in times of economic distress, it is small businesses and entrepreneurs who lead the way out of these recessionary periods.”  

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hancock County Using College Credits and New Campus to Address Workforce Needs

As a potential workforce crisis looms in Hancock County, the local school system has created an innovative program to address the needs for a highly skilled workforce.  The needs are well documented.  According to Mike Baker, the economic development director in Hancock County, an aging workforce at many of the large aluminum and manufacturing employers means that as many as 42 percent of the skilled technicians could retire in the next three to five years.

That is a primary reason that Baker and other local officials have worked to create a satellite campus of the Owensboro Community and Technical College in the county.

Hancock County Schools Superintendent Scott Lewis has a vision that the new campus and the OCTC Discover College program that allows high school students to take college courses will mean that new graduates can meet the needs of local industries.

The project also will help the school district fulfill its vision for high school students to be able to take up to 60 college hours and have about two years of college credits "paid for" by the time they graduate, the superintendent said. "We're getting very close to having that plan worked out," Lewis said. "Students can do that now, but they pay for it. This would cost the school district, but it would be free to students."

The goal is for high school students to have the opportunity "to graduate with a vocational certificate and be employable or to have enough college credits to be close to an associate's degree," he said. Currently, students who are dually enrolled are "ones who would go on to college anyway," he said.  Local educators want to see more of their students who may not have thought about college to learn that they can succeed.

"A lot of our kids -- they may be the first in their families to go to college," he said.  The high school already has begun to align its curriculum with OCTC's, Lewis said.  "At the same time, that increases our rigor," he said. "We've done a good job of doing that in elementary and middle school, but our high school had stayed the same until now."

This model demonstrates the role that high school and community college collaboration can play in the economic development of rural areas.

Friday, November 20, 2009

KAN Members Share with Legislators the Importance of Aluminum Industry in Kentucky

Members of the Kentucky Aluminum Network (KAN) discussed the importance of the aluminum industry in the overall state economy to legislative leaders yesterday.  KAN members outlined the core issues and threats facing the industry to the Joint Interim Committee on Economic Development in Frankfort.  Top issues include the availability of cost effective energy, workforce development, facility infrastructure development, and informed and collaborative environmental policies.  Click here to see the presentation.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Business Week Names Owensboro Best Place to Raise Your Kids in Kentucky

The combination of low crime, outstanding school test scores, and a low cost of living that makes Owensboro a great place to raise kids.  Check it out on

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Congressman Guthrie will announce $1 Million Federal Grant for Owensboro Centre for Business and Research

Congressman Brett Guthrie will be in town to announce the award of $986,800 in grants from the Economic Development Administration to the EDC and the City of Owensboro for the purchase of equipment at the Centre for Business and Research.  The grant, which was applied for with the assistance of GRADD, is for communities damaged by Hurricane Ike and the recessionary effects of the market in 2008.

The Centre for Business and Research will contain approximately 30,000 square feet of office space for high-tech business start-ups in the food science and plant therapeutic industries, and will offer companies the ability to rent laboratory facilities "by the bench."  The Centre, scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2010, seeks to be the region's premiere business accelerator for biotech companies.

The announcement will take place tomorrow at 10:30 am at the Centre for Business and Research, 1010 Allen Street.

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Hospital Catalyst in Owensboro's Shifting Economy

The following is the text of remarks by EDC President/ CEO Nick Brake at the Board of Adjustment meeting to approve the conditional use permit for the new hospital on the east-side of Owensboro:

Some in the community are approaching the opportunity of a new hospital from a 20th century perspective. From this point of view the hospital serves the same basic function of a church or a grocery store in providing services to the people that live here. Hospitals are considered strictly a service industry and therefore do not count as economic development.

I am going to challenge us to view this opportunity in the context of our present global economic age—in this environment the drivers of regional economies especially in mid size or small regions are no longer just large companies—they are institutions like hospitals and research universities.

While it is certainly true that our hospital does take seriously their fundamental mission of taking care of our people, like other growing medical systems OMHS has successfully pursued an economic development mission that make it more than just a community hospital. And since we do not have-- nor ever will likely have-- a research university —our hospital is our driver. And as a result they have positioned Owensboro as a regional medical hub with innovative partnerships in research, teaching, and economic development. The location in eastern Daviess County adjacent to the I-65/ I-64 Corridor is the best location for the OMHS to expand for the good of our economy.

The economic development importance of hospitals is evident in looking at our peer communities. U of L economist Paul Coomes identified these regions for us as a way to benchmark ourselves against like communities. None of these communities have research universities; all are similar to Owensboro in terms of population and infrastructure. We have used these regions as benchmarks in examining the impact of the current recession. Those with a large percentage of workers in medical occupations have significantly lower unemployment rates, 6- 8 % during this recession. Those with the smallest concentrations of medical workers have the largest unemployment rates, between 13 -16%. Owensboro is right in the middle of the list of 12 peers.

A great example from one of our benchmark communities that has transitioned from manufacturing to health care is LaCrosse, WI. They have developed one of the largest medical clusters per capita in the United States. They do not have a research university—they have a regional university campus. We are positioned similarly with the growth of Western Kentucky University-Owensboro and other higher education partnerships, many of which are connected to OMHS. LaCrosse is a couple of hours from the Mayo Clinic and have numerous partnerships much the way OMHS collaborates with hospitals in Louisville and Nashville. The medical cluster in LaCrosse consists of almost 9,000 people; their bachelor degree attainment rate is 27%, a full 10 percentage points ahead of ours. During the recession over the past year their unemployment rate topped out at around 8% and has averaged at 6% for most of the recession. They have an active research and technology transfer component that has lead to the formation of new companies and new jobs. This is a great chance to transform our economy.

Given the way global economic forces have decimated many small regions throughout the Midwest and southeast-- not supporting the expansion of this hospital would be a betrayal to our future economic prosperity. The days of us being solely a manufacturing based economy are over. This expansion will further diversify our economy. We have seen these forces touch us in the past month at Hon and GE. The headline in the paper tomorrow will be about 100 more laid off at Daramic. We have a unique opportunity to retrain our workforce with these layoffs; many are already seeking retraining in the medical field.

The location on the eastern side of the county is strategically superior to the current hospital site on Parrish Ave. The clear opportunity for growth from a community hospital to a regional medical hub exists because OMHS will be in a position to capitalize on the Southern Indiana and north central Kentucky markets further away from Evansville and closer but not too close to Louisville. This location will enhance the hospital’s services as an export industry, which translates into more primary dollars circulating through out local economy.

I want to address the issue of the Parrish Ave campus. If you look at the former Mercy Hospital property on Ford Ave, OMHS has made that property very attractive and a functional part of their health system, focusing on wellness. I know the plans have not been finalized, but certainly there are exciting opportunities for the best use of the Parrish Campus. I mentioned earlier higher education and research—it would be a tremendous way to help aide the further expansion of allied health and applied research programs. The OMHS Campus is close to our new business accelerator the Centre for Business and Research—the Parrish Campus could be a fully functional technology park for many of these companies to grow into—the possibilities are limitless, the commitment from OMHS is strong, and the track record of previous property development is exceptional.

Lastly, I want to address the expansion of OMHS and the potential for planned, smart growth-type expansion along the new corridor. It is not a question of if development will occur along that corridor; it is more of a question of when. Allowing planned expansion of the hospital along that route puts the community in the driver’s seat to leverage sustainable development rather than allowing unplanned suburban expansion to occur as a consequence of a new highway.

The options are clear; if we want OMHS to be Owensboro’s hospital then they can stay where they are presently located. If we want them to be our region’s medical center and the catalyst of an economic change, then approve this tonight so that we that together we can take the next step helping this region be competitive in the 21st Century economy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kentucky BioProcess collaborating in development of anti-rabies antibody with South African-based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

OWENSBORO, KY – Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP) has signed an agreement with the South African-based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to develop a commercially efficient process for RabiVir,—CSIR’s award-winning anti-rabies antibody developed in a start up venture with GreenPharm.

The announcement follows GreenPharm's achievement in the Innovation Fund’s SA Bio Business Plan Competition* at the end of 2008. CSIR plant biotechnologists walked away with an investment indication of up to R15 million (approximately $2 million US) and an opportunity for further training in the USA.

The start-up venture holds tremendous potential for using plants (in particular tobacco) to generate proteins used in preventative post-exposure rabies treatment and other complex therapeutic proteins such as HIV antibodies at a competitive price. Before finalizing the partnership, representatives from CSIR toured KBP.

Contract research and development manager at CSIR Biosciences, Fanie Marais, says, “KBP is well respected for its expertise in producing clinical grade biotherapeutics in plants. It has world-class good manufacturing production compliant (cGMP) facilities and provides contract services for bench scale, pilot and manufacturing process development in this field. cGMP conditions are essential for the production of antibodies that will go into early phase of safety testing.

According to the agreement with the CSIR, KBP will assist in the development of a process for the purification and preparation of clinical grade monoclonal antibodies (i.e high purity antibodies suitable for use in clinical development). The technology will be transferred to the CSIR and as part of the technology transfer process, CSIR scientists will spend time at KBP for training in all stages of process development. The agreement with KBP will help us speed up the commercialization process of RabiVir.

“We will also obtain the necessary documentation from KBP as prescribed by the USA Food and Drug Administration to enable registration of the antibodies with the regulatory authorities,” Marias said. “This development bodes well not only for the successful production and commercialisation of clinical batches of an anti-rabies antibody, which would be packaged as a post-exposure prophylaxis, but also for human capital development within South Africa.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

First Centre for Business and Research tenants expected by end of the year

The transformation of an 86-year-old former tobacco warehouse at 1016 Allen St. into the high-tech Centre for Business and Research was originally scheduled to be completed by midsummer.

But Malcolm Bryant, the building's owner, said last week that he still expects the massive project to be completed before the end of the year.

"I would hope to have at least one, if not three, tenants moved in by the end of the year," Bryant said.

Alisha Hardison, owner of Dalisha's Desserts, won the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.'s first eMerging Ventures Challenge. The business plan competition's prizes included a $15,000 investment award and a free six-month lease on office space in the Centre for Business and Research.

And Hollison Technologies, a local startup biotech company, has already leased space in the building.

Madison Silvert, vice president of the EDC and executive director of its eMerging Ventures Center for Innovation, said Friday that he's working with a third company that's likely to lease space in the center.

But if that company commits, he said, "They probably won't be ready to move in until after the first of the year."

Plans for the building call for research space for biotech companies as well as office space for a "business accelerator," a place where new businesses can rent as much space as they need until they're ready to move out on their own.

Seven universities and colleges will be affiliated with the Owensboro center when it opens.

The list includes the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University, Murray State University, Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College and Owensboro Community & Technical College.

Nick Brake, EDC president, said he's still optimistic that the grant, which had been expected in September, will come through.

"It has to be announced by a member of Congress," he said.

The money, which would be used to install "wet labs" in the Centre for Business and Research, would come from federal funds designated for communities affected by Hurricane Ike and its remnants in September 2008.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Downtown Owensboro Hotel Update

EDC President/ CEO Nick Brake delivered the following update on the selection of a development team for the downtown Owensboro hotel:

A review committee, consisting of staff from the EDC and Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves, Judge Executive Reid Haire, City Manager Bill Parrish as well as Gateway consultants, including an economist with extensive experience in vetting similar deals, is working to select a development team from the RFPs received.

The committee is using the following criteria to evaluate the RFP respondents:

  • Adequate financing
  • Experience in construction and management of hotels
  • Providing a full service experience
  • Track record of success on previous projects
  • Willingness to incorporate the design into the Downtown Master Plan
  • Level of involvement with the Convention/Events Center

The committee and consultants identified three finalists. As with other economic development projects, providing specific information about each proposal would jeopardize the deal and result in the potential of the developers from withdrawing their proposal from consideration.

The Committee is recommending a developer and not working with hotel chains. The developers have indicated which hotel flag or flags they could potentially bring to the development in downtown Owensboro. Each proposal comes from highly respected developers that have strong relationships with nationally respected hotel flags.

All three proposals have significant local groups involved with the proposal or have already made significant investments in the local economy.

Given the current economic environment, each proposal brings different mixes of financing options, ranging from publicly supported bonds to private equity financing and traditional financing from banks. The Committee has clearly indicated that public bonding and public financing of the hotel is not an option. All three proposals have asked for public incentives, such as infrastructure improvements.

All proposals have strong urban design components that match the Downtown Master Plan. All have expressed a strong desire for the hotel design to match the design of the convention center/ events center.

All three proposals meet the requirements of a full service hotel, as defined by the Kentucky Tourism Development Act. These amenities include room service, a restaurant and bar on the premises, and the catering services to the convention/ events center. Many of the proposals have innovative ideas for these amenities.

Each proposal indicated their intent to construct a hotel with a range of between 150 and 175 rooms. The average room rates, cited by the three finalists, ranged from $110 to $140 per night for a standard room.

The review committee and consultants have asked each of the three proposals for clarifying information. The committee will receive responses from each of the three over the next couple of weeks, at such time the committee will begin negotiations with those that provide the appropriate follow up information.

The committee expects to have a recommendation to the City Commission in 30 to 60 days.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kentucky Aluminum Network Emphasizes the Impact of the Aluminum Industry in Kentucky

Aluminum industry representatives as well as economic development officials in Northwest Kentucky and Greater Owensboro have formed the Kentucky Aluminum Network (KAN) in an effort to help the aluminum industry remain competitive in the region and throughout Kentucky.

In the seven counties of northwest Kentucky around the cities of Henderson and Owensboro, the aluminum industry employs over 5,000 people at over 30 establishments with an annual payroll of nearly $300 million. With an employment multiplier of about 2.5, the industry accounts for 16,000 direct and indirect jobs in northwest Kentucky alone.

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, across Kentucky aluminium employs nearly 15,000 people in 120 facilities located in 53 Kentucky cities and towns. The average wage of primary metal jobs is $52,336 compared to $33,800 in private sector jobs. Primary shipments totaled over $4.3 billion in 2005 making Kentucky number one in the industry. Kentucky is home to two of the 14 smelters operating in the United States. Century and Rio Tinto Alcan's combined production represents 16 percent of the total production capacity in the U.S.

KAN includes members many of the large and small establishments linked to the aluminum. The group is currently formulating a list of priorities to share with local, state, and national elected officials that impact the future competitiveness of the aluminum industry in Kentucky.

Friday, October 9, 2009

EDC Statement Regarding the Closure of Hon Owensboro Facility

HNI, the parent company of the local Hon Company informed employees today of their intent to close the Owensboro Hon facility effective this spring.

"We are saddened by the news about the closing of the Owensboro Hon plant by spring 2010. Our thoughts are with the families of the 145 employees impacted by this decision. The local governments, state government and EDC worked closely with the union leaders and plant officials at Hon Owensboro for many months to fight keep these jobs in Owensboro. We exhausted all alternatives and in the end offered a competitive package of incentives and training grants valued at over $2 million," said EDC President/ CEO Nick Brake.

"Our attention will now turn to helping the members of the Hon family through this transition. We will form a Rapid Response team and work closely with GRADD and the Owensboro Community and Technical College to best meet the needs of these displaced employees."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Emerging Ventures Continues to Have Positive Impact

After two years in operation, the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation has made a significant impact on the entrepreneurial climate in Greater Owensboro.

Second year numbers recently released by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. that oversees Kentucky's Innovation and Commercialization Centers indicate that Emerging Ventures far exceeded the benchmarks set by the state in terms of startup company growth and high tech job creation during last year.

Emerging Ventures located seven high tech companies last year, retained four high tech companies from the previous year, and reported expansions in three other companies. The result was 22 high tech jobs in which the average salary was more than two and a half times the per capita income of the Owensboro metro area.

Additionally, Emerging Ventures assisted companies in raising nearly $1 million in private investment funds from sources such as venture capital and angel investors. Emerging Ventures raised nearly $300,000 in funding from the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. for Owensboro-based high tech companies.

Emerging Ventures, founded in 2007 by the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., provides technical support and startup assistance to entrepreneurs, scientists, and small business people perfecting and maturing their ideas and business concepts. Emerging Ventures is part of the Kentucky network of Innovation and Commercialization Centers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Changes to Downtown Market Square

A change of plans in Owensboro's downtown revitalization could save the city almost two million dollars and lead to enhanced private investment in downtown. Planners are rethinking the market square plans now that the Executive Inn land is giving them more room to work with downtown.

Under the original downtown masterplan, businesses on the block north of the courthouse would be flattened to make room for a market square used as an outdoor event space and farmer's market, but officials say that plan presented too many logistical problems.

The new idea is to create a direct path from the courthouse to the new waterfront through that block.
Downtown development director Fred Reeves says everything that might have been planned for the market square can now go on the Executive Inn property. The path, called a paseo by urban designers, will create opportunities for private development on the block adjacent to the new downtown hotel and along Veterans Blvd. that were not a part of the original plan. In addition to saving money with the redesign, the private investment will keep more downtown property on the tax rolls.

To view the complete redesign of Market Square, please visit the EDC home page at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Expansion of Health Care Industry and New Hospital will have Significant Economic Impact on Region

The expansion of the health care industry through the construction of a new hospital will have a significant economic impact on the Greater Owensboro region, according to an analysis by the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation (GO-EDC).

Hospitals make substantial contributions to local and regional economies through the purchase of goods and services and the employment of large numbers of workers. An analysis of data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics by GO-EDC demonstrates that health care is a base industry in the Owensboro metropolitan statistical area, meaning that each dollar in earnings and jobs for employment create additional earnings and jobs in the region. The investment by the Owensboro Medical Health System (OMHS) in the local economy with a new hospital will lead to 500 new long-term health care jobs over the next five years, which will ultimately translate to a total of 800 net new jobs in the region and over $24 million in new payroll earnings in the five county area. OMHS current annual payroll is $162,936,094, employing 3,147, an increase of 1,000 people since 1995.

The jobs and earnings numbers are not counting the construction phase of the project or the jobs that come along with new physicians recruited to the region as a result of the new hospital. The construction phase alone, according to BEA multipliers, will create over 4,000 jobs, $450,000,000 in new output and $139,000,000 in additional earnings for the region.

“Little attention is paid hospitals from an economic development perspective, and this is unfortunate,” said EDC President Nick Brake. “The lack of attention is, in part; because of the perception that health care is only a locally serving activity that has little impact on driving a metropolitan area's economic prosperity. Evidence from around the country is showing us otherwise. Hospitals are significant contributors to the economic base of regions. This analysis indicates that is the case here in Owensboro.”

Recent research at the University of New Orleans (Nelson, 2009) indicates that hospitals are substantial contributors to the economic base of slow-growth and larger metros. The study indicated that hospitals in small metropolitan regions, such as Owensboro, have the potential to evolve as a significant export industry because they often provide basic care in surrounding geographic areas. The expansion of OMHS as an 11 county regional medical center means that health care will likely grow as an export industry, adding significantly to the regional economic base. For more information about the New Orleans study please visit

Another significant measure of export revenue from the health care industry is the percentage of Medicare received from Medicare patients outside the metropolitan area. According to data supplied by OMHS, roughly $75 million in net payments, or 20 percent, come from patients outside the Owensboro MSA. The median percentage in the University of New Orleans analysis was 12 percent.

Additional data analyzed from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a stronger concentration of health care related occupations in the Greater Owensboro region than nationally, another indicator of the significance of the health care sector to the overall regional economic base. The average salary for health practitioner occupations in the Greater Owensboro region is over $52,000 per year, more than double the median income of the Owensboro MSA.

Click here to see full analysis, including BEA multipliers and BLS location quotients.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hollison investment demonstrates high tech potential in Owensboro

The latest investment by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. of $200,000 in Hollison Technologies, a startup biotech company that will have its headquarters in the Owensboro, shows just how far Owensboro has advanced in developing the infrastrcuture to support high tech company growth.

Hollison's Kevin Humphrey indicates it was the infrastructure in Owensboro that made the difference for the company. "That was fantastic," Kevin Humphrey of Utica, one of four partners in the company, said of the state investment. "I credit Madison and eMerging Ventures as much as I do our idea."

The Emerging Ventures Seed Fund, created two years ago by the City of Owensboro, invested $50,000 in Hollison. That investment opened the door for the KSTC investment of $200,000 and has created other opportunities. The EDC hosted a reception for the company to help identify additional angel investors.

Hollison will also be a tennent in the new Centre for Business and Research, the 37,000 square foot high tech business accelerator located in a former tobacco warehouse on Allen Street. The Centre is scheduled to open later this year.

Hollison has developed technology for the detection and identification of chemical, biological and radiological contamination in food commodities, processed food and beverages.

"It's exciting to see that kind of state investment," said Madison Silvert, vice president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. and executive director of its eMerging Ventures Center for Innovation.

"That's a good-sized investment," he said. "It's the largest award we've secured from them so far. We're seeing the emergence of a high-tech atmosphere in Owensboro."

An emeging high tech atmosphere --thanks to investments by the local community in infrastructure such as the eMerging Ventures Seed Fund, the Centre for Business and Research, and the eMerging Ventures program at EDC-- will help Owensboro to nurture the growth of high tech startup companies like Hollison.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Governor: "There's no place in Kentucky that has more going on right now"

"There's no place in Kentucky that has more going on right now than you all," Gov. Steve Beshear told a crowd gathered in Ownsboro on Wednesday to watch him break ground for the first 2.3 miles of the long-awaited bypass extension that will create the new I-64/ I-65 Corridor.

He was talking about the $120 million worth of construction planned for downtown Owensboro which includes a new hotel and convention center, a new $385 million hospital planned between Daniels Lane and Pleasant Valley Road, the emerging plant biotech cluster being created around Kentucky BioProcessing and the newly planned Centre for Business and Research, recent expansions at US Bank, Unilever, Swedish Match, and Sazerac, the soon-to-be-completed Western Kentucky University-Owensboro Campus as well as the $37.6 million road project.

Thank you Governor for your investments in our region! Thank you for recognizing our willingness to invest in ourselves!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Governor Beshear publicly signs landmark business incentives bill in Owensboro

OWENSBORO, Ky. (Aug. 12, 2009) – Accompanied by community and business leaders in Owensboro, Gov. Steve Beshear today took part in a bill signing for House Bill 3, which includes new and expanded business incentive programs to encourage job growth and capital investment in Kentucky.

“This landmark legislation demonstrates Kentucky’s willingness to adapt to current economic conditions by updating the state’s economic incentive toolbox to reflect the needs of both new and existing businesses,” said Gov. Beshear. “We are committed to keeping our economic incentive programs on the cutting edge.”

The Incentives for a New Kentucky bill, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Thompson of Owensboro, streamlines and modernizes Kentucky’s business incentive programs including the consolidation of four long-standing programs, Kentucky Rural Economic Development Act, Kentucky Industrial Development Act, Kentucky Jobs Development Act, and Kentucky Economic Opportunity Zone Act, into a single, more flexible tax incentive program called the Kentucky Business Investment (KBI) Program.

The Governor chose the Owensboro River Park Center as a venue, since the facility has been successful in attatracting Broadway production companies assembling shows on the stage in Owensboro. House Bill 3 will provide incentives for creative industry development for programs like the one at the River Park Center as well as incentives for films and television production.

Monday, August 3, 2009

EDC Receives Five Proposals for Downtown Convention Center Hotel

Five proposals have been received by the EDC from private development groups willing to invest significant private dollars into a downtown hotel attached to the publicly funded downtown Owensboro convention/ events center. The proposals come from nationally respected development groups that have access to significant capital for private investment.

Nationally known and respected hotel flags are included in each proposal willing to operate a franchise in downtown Owensboro; the flags include Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Hampton Inn, and Holiday Inn. All proposals are willing to provide full service, convention class hotels with between 150 and 250 rooms, based on market analysis. There are local development groups and service providers involved in more than one of the proposals. Several developers have pledged to use local labor and contractors provided they are competitively priced.

The EDC will be facilitating the process of due diligence with a committee of staff members including the city and county government. The committee will be making a recommendation to the Owensboro City Commission by late fall. A development agreement could be in place by the end of the year.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

City of Owensboro moves ahead with Local Incentive Program

The Owensboro City Commission took a step toward creating an aggressive local incentive program. The Local Government Shared Investment Policy is a public private partnership between local government and developers to foster the public benefit of economic development for the region.

The approach represents a policy shift focusing on ways to incentivize redevelopment, infill development in the urban core, and smart growth tactics in the suburban areas rather than solely incentivizing unplanned suburban expansion as is the practice with the current annexation incentive on the books. The proposed policy would not eliminate the use of the annexation-based incentive; rather just add a robust tool to the incentive arsenal representing major shifts occurring in the world of commercial real estate and residential development.

This new direction comes in response to events occurring in real estate markets as a result of the Global Financial Crisis. The crisis has hit suburban markets in many parts of the American landscape. While Owensboro has not suffered as significantly as other areas, some potential development has been impacted. Areas that are especially hard hit are office parks, shopping centers, big box retail, and apartment complexes. Many of these developments are ripe for transformation into more dense mixed use development.

Urban Land, a leading commercial real estate publication, writes in the June 2009 issue that “now is the time and this is the opportunity for municipalities, planners, real estate developers, and economic developers to come together to reshape development patterns of sprawl.”

One of the major trends in real estate development that support business recruitment and economic development is the retrofit infill projects of existing strip malls and big box retail centers into mixed use developments with office space. Owensboro has numerous locations where this could occur, but have no incentive package or zoning policies to support developers to do this kind of infill development.

Next: Details about the Project-Based Inducements proposed in the new Shared Investment Policy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Downtown Design Standards Translate into Investment Security

Officials from the Gateway Planning Group told the Owensboro City Commission on Tuesday that having design standards for buildings will spur private investment downtown while protecting the investments of people who open businesses in the area.

Gateway officials said having design standards for renovating downtown buildings has been the deciding factor in other cities that wanted to draw investment back to the city's core.

"What we're most interested in ... is design compatibility," said Scott Polikov, Gateway's president.

The plan breaks downtown up into several districts -- the historic core, downtown core, riverfront core, riverfront edge, downtown transition, Frederica Street corridor, downtown campus and fringe neighborhoods. Each district will have set design regulations governing building size, height per floor, setbacks from the property line and other items. Other regulations will cover parking and the types of signs that are allowed.

The goal is create buildings that are designed in such a way that, if a business were to close, a new business could move in without changing the character of the district, and the "beauty of the (neighborhood) remains constant," Polikov said.

"We're more concerned with: How does it feel as you walk down the street?" Polikov said.

The plan calls for a downtown design administrator to be appointed by the city manager. The administrator will work with a committee made up of city staff and members of the Owensboro Metropolitan Planning Commission, and the body will be tasked with reviewing development plans to ensure they conform with the design standards.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Owensboro welcomes researchers from around the world

The pharmeceutical industry is one of the fastest growing industries in America -- and with the rising cost of healthcare -- companies are looking for money-saving technology. They may be able to find it in Owensboro, Kentucky.

A group of researchers from all over the world paid a visit to Kentucky Bioprocessing in Owensboro to learn more. KBP's research entails using one of Kentucky's signature crops, tobacco, to manufacture medicine, especially vaccines -- the scientists here are pioneers -- conducting trials for an HPV and HIV vaccine. They are also partnered with Bayer giving them another industry-changing advantage; they have the potential to produce drugs in large quantities and at low cost.

These scientific advances aren't just making an international name for KBP but for Owensboro as well. The city is currently building infrastructure to complement the growth of the pharmaceutical industry -- it's called the Center for Business and Research -- and officials say it will be ready in time for whatever is next in the Owensboro science community."

Researchers are now planning to meet in Owensboro every two years for an international symposium.
Until now, the gathering place for plant-based pharmaceutical scientists has been in Italy -- now Owensboro is the designated center for North America.

Seven different nations were represented at the symposium discussing the future of plant based pharmaceuticals. KBP is a key element in the formula.

"I think it's the beginning of a real revolution. Owensboro is perfectly positioned to take full advantage of it," said German Dr. Yuri Gleba, managing director of Icon Genetics and affilate of Bayer.

With the first plant based drug only projected a few years away from going on the market, many international companies have to get their clinical materials through KBP, placing them right on the world circuit.

"When we talk about plant made pharmaceuticals, we talk about coming here because we know this is one of the innovators in the world that can actually make a commitment to supply what we believe will be FDA approvable products," said CEO of CBR International Corporation Dr. Jeanne Novak

Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation president Nick Brake likes Owensboro's position.

"It's a unique opportunity because it's an opportunity to really build an emerging industry. An industry that's growing and is really set to take off anytime now, making Owensboro the epicenter for that type of growth," said Brake.

"There's no doubt that they can scale it up if necessary to be a real manufacture when the products are approved by the Federal Drug Administration," said Gleba.

Dr. Novak says the local support from government and farmers will be what keeps KBP in the forefront internationally with plant based drugs.

Click on the following links to see TV news reports of the Plant Therapeutics Symposium at KBP

To see a summary of Owensboro's Plant Therapeutics Infrastrucutre on You Tube, click the following link: