Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Globally competitive high schools key to Owensboro's economic future

The EDC is announcing a partnership with local school districts to provide additional options for local students in many of the job areas most in demand in the local economy, such as health care, advanced manufacturing, and the life sciences.  

The initiative will create new tools for the future of Owensboro’s workforce-- multi-district academies in the life sciences, engineering, entrepreneurship, and the arts--  to complement existing high schools.  These programs will better engage kids and prepare them to be successful in the workforce of the future.  

"The high school is now the frontline in America’s and Owensboro’s battle to remain competitive on the international economic stage," said EDC President Nick Brake.  "This multi-district 'one big campus' approach  will complement each of our existing high schools while creating alternatives for students to better meet their needs and the needs of our region.  We need to complete globally not locally."

"These 21st Century Academies, aligned to regional workforce needs, will be a great enhancement of our already exceptional high school programs," said Brake. 

For more information about this initiative, please visit the following link on the EDC website http://edc.owensboro.com/_documents/communitydrivengloballycompetitivehs.pdf


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hilton"s Hampton Inn and Suites Right Flag for the Downtown Owensboro Hotel

The selection of Owensboro developer Malcolm Bryant Corp. by the EDC as the "preferred developer" for the new downtown hotel will bring a Hilton property downtown linked to the newly planned multi-purpose events and convention center at the corner of Second and Frederica streets.  

The developer and Hilton are suggesting a Hampton Inn and Suites, not to be confused with the Hampton Inn property already in Owensboro located near the By-Pass on Salem Drive.  The Hampton Inn and Suites is a more upscale model than the more suburban-oriented Hampton Inn and a growing mid-market urban brand-- which best fits downtown Owensboro market.   Why a Hampton Inn and Suites?  There are several compelling reasons that were reviewed by the committee which evaluated the downtown hotel proposals.

  1. Hampton Inn and Suites is a growing brand in the mid-market inventory of Hilton properties that fit the Owensboro market better than other Hilton properties.  
  2. The Hampton Inn and Suites is a flexible brand that is an up-and-coming urban hotel found in locations like Beale Street in Memphis, the French Quarter in New Orleans, the Theater District in Chicago, and  in New York City.  It is also becoming a popular link to smaller scale convention or entertainment-oriented properties in cities like Owensboro.  The Hilton Garden Inn, another Hilton brand under consideration, did not offer the same flexibility and urban-amenities, such as the up-scale restaurant planned for the Hampton property.  Take a look at some of the following urban Hampton Inn and Suites, click on "tour hotel."   Beale Street in Memphis: http://hamptoninn.hilton.com/en/hp/hotels/index.jhtml;jsessionid=CCIERWKT4T5MQCSGBJC4LYQ?ctyhocn=MEMPBHX&WT.mc_id=1HX2RE3Hotel4OneTagSol   Downtown Boise: http://hamptoninn.hilton.com/en/hp/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=BOIDNHX  New York: http://www.hamptoninn.com/en/hp/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=NYCCSHX
  3. As a Hilton property, Hampton Inn and Suites is part of the Hilton Honors program, which is an important perk for business and other regular travelers to earn points through the network of all Hilton properties worldwide.  This is an advantage not offered at the Executive Inn, since it was not linked to a national chain of hotels.  

Friday, January 8, 2010

Couples find downtown living appealing

John and Adrienne Condray and Vance and Heather Girten are young Owensboro couples who have lived the urban lifestyle and enjoyed it. In a matter of months they intend to begin replicating that experience in Owensboro.

The Condrays and Girtens are moving into two of four custom condos currently under construction on the second floor of the Smith-Werner Building at 116-122 W. Second St. Larry and Rosemary Conder are renovating the Smith-Werner Building at a cost of $1 million or more.

The Condrays will live above the Gambrinus Libation Emporium at 116 W. Second St., which recently opened, and will operate the business. Adrienne Condray is the Conders' daughter.

One of the oft-stated hopes for a revitalized downtown Owensboro is that a residential element will develop, with people living in loft apartments above businesses and offices. The Condrays and Girtens won’t be the first downtown residents, but the number isn’t great.

The Condrays lived in downtown Memphis before moving to Owensboro to manage the Gambrinus. John, 34 and a graduate of Brescia University, was a commercial credit reviewer for a large bank. She is a teacher.

“We could have lived anywhere, but we got spoiled in Memphis working a block away from where we lived,” he said. “Everything was within five blocks.”

To a lesser extent, the Condrays will have some of the same opportunities in downtown Owensboro.

“We love Colby’s, the Bistro, the Miller House and there’s a pharmacy,” Condray said.

As the downtown area develops, the Condrays expect their living experience to be enriched.

“There’s already an entertainment district with the RiverPark Center,” Condray said. “We’ve seen what a downtown can be like and what it can hold. We really think Owensboro can be that at a smaller level. We’re within walking distance of several great restaurants. We want to complement everything else, not be a competitor. We want to attract more people downtown.”

Condray, who said he hasn’t felt the desire to mow grass since he was 15, said downtown living may not be for everyone.

“You have to have a desire to be more urban,” he said. “There’s not an urban feel to Owensboro, but maybe there will be once you get people down here and see what it can be like. ... You can have a nice house in the middle of everything else. Right now the people it’s most desirable to are empty nesters who want to downsize.”

Condray has a vision for what he’d like downtown to become.

“A corner grocery would be great,” he said. “We’d love more restaurants. We don’t have a problem with pubs and bars. I’d like it to be a shopping and dining district with locally owned pubs and bars... there’s tons of room to grow. When we heard about the master plan, that was a key component for us. We would have loved to see a baseball park, but we’re excited to see the hotel and convention center.”

Adrianne Condray is looking forward to watching the downtown evolve.

“It’s exciting to see changes and be here from the beginning and see people migrate downtown,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to live in the city. In Memphis, it was a community within a community. It didn’t feel like a huge city.”

The Girtens share a rural background. She’s from Hancock County. He’s from Union County. But after living in an urban setting in Lexington while in pharmacy school at the University of Kentucky, the idea of living in an apartment overlooking Owensboro’s Second Street is especially appealing for the couple.

It helps that Owensboro is about halfway between their families. Heather Girten is a pharmacist at a local supermarket. Vance Girten is on schedule to graduate from UK’s pharmacy school in May and intends to work at an Owensboro-area pharmacy.

“We plan to stay in this area,” Girten said. “We got Rosemary’s number and she had something planned and we stayed in touch. We liked what they had in mind. We like where they are going.”

The Girten’s are interested in the downtown Owensboro redevelopment project and want to be a part of it, Girten said.

“We’ve seen the poster boards,” he said. “It looks like a pretty big development. It will be a neat experience to see those changes.”

Girten said he appreciates history and the community’s decision to reinvigorate its downtown riverfront area interests him.

“They are bringing it back to the way it should be,” he said. “That’s why Owensboro is here. (The river) is still very important.”

Mainly, the Girtens are seeking an urban lifestyle.

“Stepping out the door and grabbing a cup of coffee or walking to dinner is definitely attractive,” he said.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Site Selection Lists Owensboro-Daviess County as One of Top Counties along Ohio River Corridor

Site Selection Magazine has listed Daviess County as one of the top counties along the Ohio River corridor in terms of new plants and expansions from July 2008 to August 2009.

The economic development trade magazine, published by Conway Data, listed 230 projects in the counties adjacent to the Ohio River throughout six states.  Despite the sour economy, that total approaches the totals seen during the same months in 2004-2007 and is up from the 190 projects tracked during 2007 to August 2008.

Topping the list are the major metro areas along the Ohio River, including Allegheny County, PA (Pittsburgh), Hamilton, OH (Cincinnati) and Jefferson, KY (Louisville).  Daviess County ranked sixth among more than 70 counties that border the Ohio River with seven projects during the 12 month period.

The entire story is available at http://www.siteselection.com/portal/

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Year End Numbers Reflect Mixed Result for 2009

The headlines in 2009 may have focused on the looming plant closing in Owensboro of GE, Hon, and West Irving Die Casting, the numbers reflect a mix of good and bad news for 2009.

Overall, the impact of the recession in Owensboro has not been good, but it was far worse in other places.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Owensboro lost 1,400 jobs, a decline in overall employment of around 1.6 percent.  Yet, this loss is less than Bowling Green, which lost 3,500 jobs and Evansville, which lost over 5,000.

Unemployment has been at its highest point in 20 years, but 8.9 percent (12 month) rate has hovered right around the national average most of the year and has never been as high as the Kentucky rate through the two years of the recession.  Compared with Owensboro's 10 peer regions, Owensboro has ranked in the middle of the pack.

Existing industry projects were a bright spot in 2009.  The EDC worked 16 projects that resulted in over 500 new jobs and over $90 million in new investment.  The year also saw eight new technology-based businesses locate in Owensboro with average salaries at three times the per capita income level of the Owensboro metro region.    The city reports that business licenses increased 4.3 percent and occupational tax receipts rose 1.4 percent.

With large numbers of layoffs, workforce retraining programs were a hot item and critically important for 2009.  GRADD reports $2.5 million in retraining funds supporting 461 displaced workers.

The EDC worked 22 qualified new industry leads in 2009 from three coordinated marketing campaigns.  These translated to five industrial projects with the potential of 400 jobs and $80 million in new investment-- a couple of the projects will remain active in 2010.  The economic development office also reported  an average of 1,100 web hits to its website per month in 2009, down approximately 100 from last year due to the recession.