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.