The nationally respected Citistates group recently returned to Owensboro to update its 1991 analysis of the region by meeting with stakeholders and conducting interviews on the progress of the community since the publication of the Pierce Report 20 years ago.
The 1991 Peirce Report, named for journalist and Citistates group founder Neil Pierce, largely characterized Owensboro as a Heartland city on the verge.
The Owensboro of the early 1990s, reported Peirce and collaborator Curtis Johnson, was a conservative community clearly comfortable with American economic and social convention. It chased smokestack industries, for instance, and disregarded the value of women as community leaders.
The results of the report served as a blueprint for the new economic development strategy the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation presented to the community in 2006. Pierce was highly critical of the region's less than sophisticated approach to economic development that relied solely on the "big catch" in referring to the constant search for the next manufacturing plant to locate in the community.
Rather he suggested that the region use a more strategic approach in cultivating entrepreneurs and focusing on education as the path to prosperity in the modern economy. The report also suggested that the downtown area was an under utilized asset on the road to community improvement.
In 2006 the EDC Board embraced a new strategy that focused economic development efforts on Talent, Innovation and Place. Education, quality of place and growing new companies through the efforts of entrepreneurs began to compliment the traditional industrial recruitment efforts of the EDC.
Since 2006 the region has adopted a comprehensive Placemaking strategy to enhance the quality of place downtown, put in place a one-stop center, eMerging Ventures and created a state-of the-art business accelerator to nurture start-up businesses, and made numerous strides in the access and opportunities in secondary and postseconday education aligned to the workforce.
The challenge with this approach is that it is a long-term strategy. While the results have been very positive, continued long-term support will be important for success.
Click here to read the 1991 Pierce Report. Visit http://civicpact.org/ to read about the current Citistates project in Owensboro.