Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kentucky economic leaders visit Owensboro

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email | Twitter
OWENSBORO, KY (WFIE) - 2009 could not end soon enough for many economic leaders.
"I think everybody's had a tough year," Larry Hayes, secretary for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, said. "It doesn't make a difference which state you're in or what particular industrial sector might be prevalent in your state. Everybody's had a tough year."
Owensboro has not been spared.
"We've lost our share of jobs," Nick Brake, President of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation, said. "But actually we've lost proportionally fewer jobs than cities like Louisville, Bowling Green and even Evansville so we feel like there's a lot of stability in the economic base we have here."
Owensboro recently has dealt with closures at both the Hon Corporation and General Electric.
The cabinet said manufacturing jobs are disappearing throughout Kentucky but said the emerging biotech industry could give Owensboro a new identity.
"We need to have those manufacturing jobs," Hayes said. "We need to continue in the area of bio to dedicate resources and it's becoming increasingly important so we'll develop a real talent pool here."
The Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet said one of Owensboro's more attractive economic features is the Ohio River.
Now, state economic leaders are looking at riverfront property to market to businesses looking to relocate to the Bluegrass State.
The cabinet said next year can't be any worse.
"I think 2010 is going to be better in the sense that we're probably not as shell-shocked as a country now," Hayes said.

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.

Dana Corp. selling plants to Mexican firm

The Dana Holding Corp. has agreed to sell its Structural Products arm to the largest vehicle frame and structure supply company in Mexico, according to a press release.  The Maumee, Ohio-company has agreed to part with 10 facilities in the United States, Argentina, Australia, Venezuela and Brazil, including its Owensboro plant, according to the release. The sale was agreed upon for $130 million payable at closing, plus an additional $5 million payable a year after closing and $15 million more subject to earn-out, the release said.

The buyer, Metalsa S.A. de C.V., has agreed to shoulder certain liabilities as part of the sale, which is subject to government regulatory approval and other conditions.
Metalsa, which was founded in 1956, has 3,600 employees with a presence in India, Japan and the United States, as well as Mexico.

Nick Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., said the EDC has been aware of the upcoming sale and has been working with Metalsa as part of the transition. "We continue to be in regular contact with the company and don't anticipate any changes," Brake said.

RiverPark Center and Colleges Collaborate on Theatre Degree

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email | Twitter
Posted by Noah Stubbs - email
OWENSBORO, KY (WFIE) - Starting next fall, college students in Owensboro can earn a bachelor's degree in theater arts by attending either Kentucky Wesleyan College, Brescia or Owensboro Community and Technical College and take courses at all three schools as well as the RiverPark Center. The city says the arts help attract talented people downtown.
"It can be a real drawing card certainly for our community to bring in the kind of young people that are interested in a very unique environment," said Nick Brake, Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation.  "An environment I wouldn't hesitate to say doesn't exist anywhere else."
"Attracting that talent is what this how downtown development thing is all about," said Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves.  "At the end of the day it's an economic development endeavor. It's not about just nice and pretty, it's about making this community thrive in the future."
Eventually this new theater program could lead to a new building for a downtown arts academy.
The city says part of its redevelopment plans would be to create an arts district here in the eastern part of downtown and that's where the Downtown Arts Academy could be located in the future.
The RiverPark Center says having a downtown theater program will bring more young people to the riverfront.
"In these old buildings that have second and third and fourth floors that are useless and probably will remain so," said Zev Buffman, RiverPark Center.  "We know what will happen on the bottom floor, retail but on the other floors student housing."
©2009 WFIE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Officials say ballooning property prices reflect high hopes

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Sunday, December 13, 2009 12:00 AM CST

Downtown property values -- or at least the asking prices for downtown property -- are soaring as $120 million worth of downtown projects get started.
The $40 million riverfront redevelopment is well under way, and work should start next year on $80 million worth of projects that include a new hotel and convention center.
"When we have people come in looking for a downtown location, they're finding that the asking price is considerably more than the assessed value," Fred Reeves, downtown development director, said last week.
* Theatre Workshop of Owensboro recently entered into an 18-month lease with an option to buy Goldie's Best Little Opryhouse in Kentucky, 418 Frederica St., for $250,000.
The price also includes the theater's light, sound and video equipment.
But the Opryhouse is assessed for tax purposes at $85,300.
* Don Moore recently announced that the property at 600 W. Second St., where his new vehicle dealership has been since 1945, is for sale for $988,000. He's moving to Kentucky 54.
The downtown property -- on the south side of Second Street -- is assessed at $383,000.
* James L. Yates American Legion Post 9, 118 Veterans Blvd. W., is across the street from Smothers Park and the riverfront development.
It's for sale for $1.5 million. It's assessed at $300,000.
* The building at 420 Frederica St., home of Barney's Cafe & Grill, has an asking price of $200,000.
It's assessed at $85,000.
* The building at 119 E. Second St., home of Bacchus Bar & Grill, has an asking price of $525,000.
The assessed value is $300,000.
* And the building at 111 E. Third St., home of the McCarroll Nunley & Hartz law firm, has an asking price of $575,000.
It's assessed at $225,000.
Asking is not selling
"Asking and selling are two different things," said Terry Woodward, chairman of Owensboro's Downtown Development Corp.
"If you pay too much for property, you'll never make it," he said. "But if they think their property is worth that, I'd assess it at the asking price,"
Woodward said, "When Dad (LeRoy Woodward) was mayor, GE was wanting to expand, but one property owner wanted five times what his property was assessed at.
"Dad went to see the man and asked him, 'Is your property really worth that much?' The man said, 'It sure is.' So, Dad told him that as soon as he got back to his office, he would get the property reassessed for that amount. The man came around really quick then," he said with a laugh.
But assessments don't work that way these days, according to Sandy Dawdy, Daviess County property valuation administrator.
"With commercial property, the use is so important in determining the assessment," she said. "We have a lot of small offices downtown, and some of the buildings are in pretty poor shape. Others have been fixed up really great."
Many times, Dawdy said, "it's the intangibles that give a piece of property more value. With Goldie's, you're buying a piece of history. Everybody knows where Goldie's is," and it's the only privately owned theater downtown.
"With Don Moore's property, $900,000 might seem ridiculous now," she said. "But it could be a bargain in a few years. There's just no way to know."
Assessments are partly based on square footage and the conditions of a building, Dawdy said, as well as recent sales in the vicinity.
Can't factor in speculation
"The only thing we can prove is the physical property, not what it's worth to someone else," she said. "We can't factor in speculation."
Moore hasn't yet sold his property, across Second from the old Executive Inn Rivermont. But he says, "Tax assessments are probably a little undervalued. It's hard to increase it fast enough. The city appraised my used car lot across the street at $595,000."
It's assessed for tax purposes at $126,400.
"Prices are going up downtown now," Moore said.
But Dawdy said a used car lot is basically a paved parking lot.
Rising prices have more to do with what's planned in the area than what's there now, she said.
"In commercial appraisals, we look at what property in that area has sold for and renovations to the property," said Dana Thornberry, a local real estate appraiser. "A lot of what's happening now is speculation. People think something big is going to happen downtown, and that makes the prices they're asking go up."
But she said: "We can't do appraisals based on speculation. We can tell the client and the lender about the plans that have been announced for that area, and they can take it into consideration if they want."
In downtown Owensboro right now, Thornberry said, "The appraised value and the asking price for a piece of property probably aren't the same."
Larry and Rosemary Conder have bought four downtown buildings since 2007.
The Conders bought what's now the Creme Coffee House, 109 E. Second St., for $292,160 and The Crowne at 107 E. Second for $240,000 in 2007.
Last year, they bought the Smith-Werner Building at 116, 118, 120 and 122 W. Second St. from Daviess Fiscal Court for $56,960.
And this year, they bought the building at 221 St. Ann St. from Independence Bank $58,000.
"We thought that was a fair price for a building that wasn't in good shape," Rosemary Conder said of the St. Ann Street property.
"We looked at the Bates Building (at 101 W. Second St., most recently home to River City Church), but they were asking $2.4 million for it," she said. "We couldn't afford that."
Conder said: "I'm sure property owners are trying to take advantage of speculation. There are a lot of differences in property values downtown now. It just depends on the individual property owner and how much they think they can get."
Lots of people are looking
"There are an awful lot of people looking at downtown property now," Reeves said. "I was just on the phone with a developer who wants to buy downtown property.
"I haven't heard of anybody giving up on downtown because of the asking price for property. Nobody has said they can't afford it. But we're finding that people aren't coming down very much on their asking prices. They know something is going to happen, and they're willing to wait for someone who will pay what they want," he said.
Woodward is one of downtown's biggest property owners. He has 15 pieces of property -- mostly east of the Glover H. Cary Bridge.
"Nobody has approached me about buying any of my buildings," he said, "but I'm out of the mainstream down here. The hub will be around the new hotel" at Second and Frederica streets.
"Wait till something starts happening," Dawdy said. "When things start selling, we'll be better able to determine values. It's going to be exciting."
Nominees for top story of the year

By The Associated Press

Published: Monday, December 7, 2009 12:00 AM CST

Downtown Master Plan Approved -- In January, Owensboro City Commission members unanimously approved a municipal order to support the $80-million downtown master plan, which calls for a convention center, hotel, arts academy and other amenities to be built along the city's riverfront. Two days later, Daviess Fiscal Court approved a similar resolution. By year's end, Fiscal Court had approved funding for a downtown convention center, and officials were considering bid proposals for a downtown hotel.

Ice Storm -- A steady rain coupled with subfreezing temperatures led to an ice storm in late January unlike any ever seen in Kentucky, and particularly ravaged the western part of the state. Trees and power lines buckled under the strain, leaving tens of thousands of local residents without power for days, and caused Gov. Steve Beshear to declare a state of emergency and President Barack Obama to declare the state a major disaster area.

Economic Woes -- The Owensboro area, like much of the country, has seen unemployment soar into double digits this year, reaching the highest level in more than 25 years. More than 800 manufacturing jobs have been lost and another 350 or more are already scheduled to disappear in 2010. Two plants that have been part of the local economy since 1945 -- GE and HON -- will close in 2010.

McRaith Steps Down -- After serving the Diocese of Owensboro for 26 years, the Most Rev. John J. McRaith's resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI. McRaith, 74, cited his health as the main reason for his retirement in January. The Diocese of Owensboro covers 32 counties in the western third of the state, serving more than 60,000 Catholics.

Insurance Premium Tax Increase -- The Owensboro City Commission and Daviess Fiscal Court voted in February to raise the city and county's insurance premium taxes to pay for the downtown development project. The city's tax rate increased from 4 percent to 6 percent in 2009 and will increase again to 8 percent in July 2010. The county's tax rate increased from 4.9 percent to 6.9 percent this year and to 8.9 percent next year. The tax applies to auto, homeowners, boat and casualty insurance policies, but not health insurance plans.

City Buys Big E, Then Implodes It -- The Owensboro City Commission approved purchasing the Executive Inn Rivermont property from Marshall Investments for $5 million. In June, a company hired by the city began selling furniture and memorabilia still inside the closed hotel. And in November, a big crowd watched as the Big E was imploded as part of a documentary that will appear on The Learning Channel.

Flights Return -- Commercial air service returned to the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport in February as Allegiant Air began flights between Owensboro and Orlando, Fla. The service proved popular, and by year's end, Allegiant was offering flights for as low as $9.99 in an effort to help the airport reach 10,000 passengers and qualify for a $1 million in federal funds. Later in the year, Kentucky Skies began offering commercial flights between Owensboro and Nashville.

OMHS Honored -- In February, Owensboro Medical Health System received the HealthGrades Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence Award for 2009, an honor that put it among the top 5 percent of rated hospitals in the United States. OMHS was one of five Kentucky hospitals to receive the award.

CATS Overhaul -- The way schools are measured in Kentucky was drastically overhauled in March, when the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1, which eliminated the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System and charged the Kentucky Department of Education with developing new standards and a new test for the 2011-12 school year based largely on lawmakers' mandates.

River Wall Work Begins -- The first piles for the river wall project were driven in April. The wall is the primary component of a project that will triple the size of Smothers Park and include an inlet and waterfall feature and overlooks at the foot of Frederica, St. Ann and Allen streets. By year's end, city officials predicted the entire riverfront project would be completed by 2012.

OMU Rate Hike -- OMU officials proposed a 27 percent increase on residential electric bills in April, but the proposal was met by skepticism from the public and city officials. Eventually, the Owensboro City Commission called for an outside expert to look at the proposal. The City Commission later approved the rate increase, though it was slightly lower than what was originally requested.

Mullen Murder Mystery Solved -- A Christian County jury convicted three men in May for the 1987 slaying of a Central City woman and handed down the maximum possible sentences for each of them.

Former Central City Police Officer Billy Fields, Jeff Boyd and Jimmie Cramer were found guilty on charges related to the death of Corinna Mullen, whose nude, mutilated body was found in the trunk of her car parked behind the municipal garage in Central City, on Oct. 2, 1987. The jury handed down a 60-year prison sentence for Cramer and life sentences for Boyd and Fields.

Gastenveld Replaced, Lawsuits Follow -- Paula Gastenveld was removed as president of Owensboro Community & Technical College in May and reassigned to the offices of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System in Versailles. KCTCS President Michael McCall gave no reason for the change. Gastenveld later filed a lawsuit against McCall, some administrators at OCTC and several local officials. In an effort to learn more about why Gastenveld was dismissed, the Messenger-Inquirer filed several open records requests for documents pertaining to the performance of Gastenveld and others named in the lawsuit, but those requests were denied. The state Attorney General's Office ruled the documents should be made public, but KCTCS sued the Messenger-Inquirer in order to block their release. As of December, both lawsuits are still pending.

Swine Flu -- The H1N1 virus, or "swine flu," was on the minds of health officials and residents alike as the pandemic that hit tens of thousands of people around the United States began showing up locally. In May, Daviess County health officials recorded the first case of swine flu in the county. In August, the H1N1 virus hit Muhlenberg County hard, with about 50 cases reported. And by October, area residents were lining up to get the limited doses of the vaccine for the H1N1 virus.

Riverport Sale Considered -- Mayor Ron Payne announced the formation of a committee in June to study whether the Owensboro Riverport should be privatized. The committee met several times throughout the year, and in December issued a series of recommendations that, while stopping short of calling for the port to be sold, could significantly alter how the port is operated.

Haire Bowing Out -- Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire, who has held the position since 1998, announced in August that he would not seek re-election in 2010. "I sense it's time to transition to new individuals," Haire said.

Ice Arena Opens -- The Edge Ice Center, Owensboro's $6.5 million public ice skating arena between the Sportscenter and National Guard Armory on West Parrish Avenue west of Moreland Park, opened to the public in August.

Muhlenberg Merger -- After months of discussion and planning, the merged Muhlenberg County High School opened its doors to students in August.

Extreme Home Makeover -- Thousands of community volunteers came together with Thompson Homes in September to build a new home for the Steven Mattingly family of Maceo as part of the ABC reality TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Mattingly, a Yelvington volunteer firefighter, was struck by a car in December 2007 while directing traffic at a fire. His wife, Melissa Mattingly, witnessed the accident and used her EMT training to give him CPR and keep him alive.

Bypass Extension Begins -- Gov. Steve Beshear came to Owensboro in September to break ground for the first phase of the U.S. 60/U.S. 231 bypass extension, which will extend the highway from Kentucky 54 to U.S. 60 East near Hawesway Truck Plaza. That phase will cost $34.2 million and should be finished in 2011. When completed, the bypass extension will become part of a new four-lane corridor from Owensboro to Interstate 64 at Dale, Ind.

New Hospital Moves Forward -- OMHS faced several challenges to its plans to build a new hospital between Daniels Lane and Pleasant Valley Road, but eventually those hurdles were crossed and the project continues to move forward. As part of that process, the Owensboro City Commission approved an ordinance giving its go-ahead to OMHS to borrow up to $575 million in state-issued bonds.

Principal Charged With Sex Crimes -- Allison Brant, a former principal at St. Mary of the Woods Catholic school who resigned after allegations were made, was charged in October with rape and sodomy, after police said she had sex with a 15-year-old boy. Police would not confirm if the boy was a student at the school. Brant pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Moving Wall Returns -- The Moving Wall, a traveling half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, returned to Owensboro in November for the first time in 10 years. The Wall, which was set up in Moreland Park, contains 71 names of Owensboro-area men who were killed in Vietnam between 1965 and 1971.

Convenience Store Robbery, Killing -- In November, Suba Singh of Henderson was shot and killed during a burglary of the Bon Harbor Convenience Store. Brock Antonio Hanley, 27, of Owensboro was later arrested in Louisville and charged with murder.

City Buys State Office Building, Ben Hawes Park -- The City Commission reached consensus in early December to buy the state building from the state for $1.74 million. As part of the deal, the city will also take possession of the 553.5-acre Ben Hawes State Park.

The state office building, at Second and Frederica streets, is on the spot where the master plan for downtown revitalization calls for a convention center hotel to be built.

Two developers left in competition for hotel

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:19 AM CST

Local officials are negotiating with two developers to build an upscale hotel in downtown Owensboro, but the decision on which one will be selected probably will not be made by the end of this year, said Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.
Brake said Tuesday that an announcement of the selection is still expected soon after the first of January.
In late October, the committee charged with recommending a developer announced that three finalists were in the running, and all had proposed building a hotel with between 150 and 175 rooms. One of the developers has been eliminated.
"The challenge is the funding," Brake said. "It's a time-consuming deal."
The developers have been asked to provide thorough documentation that they have access to adequate funding to complete the project, Brake said.
"I'm confident we have two very lively candidates that have the wherewithal to do it," Brake said. "It's up to us to decide which is better for the community."
Both finalists have local connections and have relationships with national hotel brands, Brake said.
When the EDC issued the request for proposals for hotel developers, the requirements called for a hotel to have at least 150 rooms but preferably 225 and complement activities on the planned market square plaza with retail, restaurant and other amenities on its ground floor. It was to be a corporate managed, national or international chain-affiliated hotel geared primarily to serve the convention and group-meeting markets with quality on par with convention center hotels in other U.S. cities.
The finalists have not been identified.
Earlier this summer, the EDC said the original proposals came from developers seeking to operate franchises including Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn.
The hotel is proposed for the site the state office building now occupies on Second Street between Frederica and St. Elizabeth streets.

Friday, December 4, 2009

City to buy State Office Building

Published: Friday, December 4, 2009 12:04 AM CST

Owensboro moved a big step closer to getting an upscale hotel and convention center built downtown with Thursday's confirmation that the city will acquire the State Office Building.
Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne confirmed that the City Commission had reached consensus to buy the state building from the state for $1.74 million.
As part of the deal, the city will also take possession of the 553.5-acre Ben Hawes State Park, known primarily for its 18-hole golf course.
The State Office Building, at Second and Frederica streets, is on the spot where the master plan for downtown revitalization calls for a convention center hotel to be built. Three developers have been selected as the finalists to build a hotel with between 150 and 175 rooms.
Naming that developer is imminent, Payne said, and purchasing the state building clears the way for it to be demolished and the hotel project to proceed.
The city will receive the deed to the two-story state building by Dec. 31, and the target date for the state to vacate the building is April 30, Payne said.
"We needed to do this fairly soon because we are selecting a developer for a new hotel," Payne said in his City Hall office Thursday morning. "We'll probably be making that announcement right after the first of the year. Construction of a convention center and hotel will begin next year."
Daviess Fiscal Court is committed to building the convention center west of the proposed hotel. But county government will not be involved in the purchase of the state building or taking over and operating Ben Hawes State Park, Payne said.
"I appreciate the state working with us on this and I also appreciate the help of State Rep. Tommy Thompson because he helped up accomplish this."
The City Commission will formally vote to purchase the state building later this month, perhaps on Dec. 15, Payne said. He said a majority of the commission supports the state building purchase and takeover of Ben Hawes.
The money to buy the state building will come from city's downtown revitalization fund of almost $60 million, made possible by the city's decision 11 months ago to increase its insurance premium tax. Proceeds from the increase are solely devoted to downtown redevelopment.
Ben Hawes Park was developed by the city in 1964 and sold to the state a decade later.
Fred Reeves, downtown development director, said the agreement between the city and the state to transfer the state building to the city is "absolutely huge."
"To finally have it is wonderful news for the community and for the downtown project," he said. "As we have talked to hoteliers, we've never looked at any other site. Now we can talk to them with certainty."
Reeves said he has talked with state officials many times about the people who work in the state building and where they will be relocated.
"They are looking at a number of sites across the community at least temporarily until they can either build a new building or find something that absolutely suits their needs," Reeves said.
Reeves said that it is more likely that the state will build a new downtown state facility because of the lack of a suitable existing building to house the 219 state employees.
City Commissioner David Johnson said he supports the state building purchase because the site is the critical piece of property needed to complete the downtown redevelopment plan.
Johnson said he also supports the city taking over Ben Hawes State Park.
"It allows us to move from a nine-hole golf course (Hillcrest Golf Course) to a 27-hole golf course," Johnson said, noting that Hawes has a regulation 18-hole course and a nine-hole par three course. But Johnson said he is opposed to the city operating both Hillcrest and Hawes golf courses.
Commissioner John Kazlauskas said he supports the acquisition of the state building because of its importance to the downtown master plan. Acquiring Ben Hawes State Park may turn out to be a positive because the city may be able to make improvements there that the state has been unwilling to make, Kazlauskas said.
Payne said converting Hillcrest to a passive city park and using its golf cart paths as walking trails is a possibility. Selling Hillcrest to a private developer is not what he wants, Payne said.
"We will have to look at whether we can operate two golf courses or operate one," Payne said. "I want to talk to the people who utilize Hillcrest. ... What happens at Hillcrest is yet to be determined, but it is an issue whether we can operate two golf courses well."
Under the state's operation, Ben Hawes runs an annual operating deficit of about $500,000. Bill Parrish, Owensboro's city manager, said city staff is already looking at ways to lower costs and raise revenues at the state park.
"We're looking at the things we did at Hillcrest, which is pretty successful, and transfer them to Ben Hawes," Parrish said. "The big push is to increase usage. ... We will push hard on the revenue side. Our staff believes there's a lot more revenue out there."
Lowering the cost to play golf at Ben Hawes will be key as a way to attract more golfers, Parrish said.
Parrish said he was not aware of any restrictions the state will place on the city's use of the park, including the ability of the city to sell it.
"We will look at what they send us, but I don't know of any restrictions," he said. "We will look for it being fee simple, meaning we can do with it what we will."

Steve Vied, 691-7297,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Panel: Riverport should stay private

Published: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 2:38 AM CST

A special committee appointed by Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne to look into the possible sale or privatization of the Owensboro Riverport Authority recommended Tuesday that the Ohio River terminal remain publicly owned and under the guidance of its public board of directors.
But in what may be a concession to critics who say the nonprofit, tax-exempt port competes unfairly with the private sector, the committee is also recommending that the port's board take a serious look at contracting with a private company to operate the terminal's unloading, loading and warehouse operations.
The committee is also recommending that the riverport continue trying to sell the former Green River Steel property on U.S. 60 East and find a private buyer for three warehouses it owns near the terminal.
Finally, the committee recommended that in the future the riverport create partnerships with private-sector companies by leasing land to tenants who would then own any improvements they make to the property.
The five-member committee discussed the recommendations at City Hall Tuesday before eventually endorsing them, although some of the members seemed less than enthusiastic about the idea of contracting out the port's operations to a private party.
Later Tuesday, committee chairman Alan Braden presented the recommendations to the Owensboro City Commission, which voted unanimously to receive them and forward them to the riverport board for its response to the committee's conclusions.
Payne appointed Braden, a former city commissioner, former City Manager G. Ted Smith, George Hulse, Dean Jones and Suzanne Northern Blazar, a riverport board member, to the Advisory Committee on the Privatization of the Owensboro Riverport Authority in June. Payne's charge to the committee was to decide if the riverport should be sold, what benefits would the city derive from a sale and how would it be done.
Now it will be up to the riverport board to make the next move. City Attorney Ed Ray confirmed that under state law, only the riverport board has the authority to make the recommended changes.
"I am not going to respond to the recommendations at this time," Payne said shortly after hearing them. "I want to hear what the riverport board has to say about it."
Commissioner Candance Brake asked if receiving and forwarding the recommendations to the riverport amounted to ratifying them and Payne's response was no.
To the ultimate question of whether the riverport should be sold outright, the committee was completely opposed to the idea.
"It's very important to retain control," Hulse said.
Hulse was highly skeptical of the idea of contracting the port's operation to a stevedoring company.
"You lose control and minimize the economic development purpose of the port," Hulse said. "There are continuity issues and the possibilities of a work stoppage. I'm against it, but I'm in favor of the board taking a look at it."
Braden said the recommendation to consider contracting the port's operations was not so much about being sympathetic to private sector criticism concerning unfair competition as it was about how well such arrangements work at other public ports the committee studied and visited.
"We just saw how other facilities were handling it and how very successful they were," Braden said.
Ed Riney, president and CEO of the riverport, said he was pleased the committee did not recommend selling the riverport. He said the riverport board has considered contracting operations before and will do so again if it is viable.
"I maintain we have a pretty efficient operation now, which is why the riverport is so successful," he said.
Tom Smith, chairman of the riverport board, said he was pleased with the committee's recommendations.
"I was very pleased with the reaction and recognition that our board has the authority to do this," he said.
Smith told the City Commission that some of the committee's recommendations were already on the riverport board's agenda.
"This board is proactive and progressive minded," he said. "We intend to consider all the recommendations. Most of what is recommended is on our plate already."

Steve Vied, 691-7297,

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.

Among other survey results, healthcare insurance costs and employee verbal and written communications skills were named as top concerns. Most businesses believe state employee public pension costs need to be reformed and local governments should “reduce services and live within their means” and not be allowed to implement local sales taxes to deal with rising costs. Most Chamber members also believe state government should better manage existing revenues and expenses and not implement a sales tax on services.

Fifty-six percent of members are in favor of expanded gaming as a way to raise revenues for the state while 38% don’t favor the issue.

To a question asking which education issue they believe is most important to Kentucky, Chamber members did not have a clear choice. Twenty-four percent favor “accountability through end-of-course exams and performance measures” and 20% indicated “mandatory pre-school and all-day kindergarten.”

In response to a question about the possibility of city-county government merger, 54% said they favor it with 27% indicating they “don’t know enough about it.” Fifteen-percent said they are not in favor of government merger. Those numbers are about a 5% drop in support for merger from the same question last year.

“I suspect the city and county government cooperation on the downtown plan has softened the support for merger somewhat at this time,” says Wassmer.

In questions related to the work of the Chamber, members indicated they believe the Chamber’s most important job is to market Greater Owensboro with legislative advocacy a close second.

“We’re making plans for being very proactive next year in telling the world about all the good things happening in Owensboro and Daviess County,” adds Wassmer.

Ninety-two percent of members gave the Chamber either an “excellent” or “good” grade in its lobbying/advocacy efforts on state and federal issues. 

The complete list of questions and responses can be seen on the Chamber’s website at by clicking the “What do Chamber members think?” link.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Expansions punctuate year

Despite the worst recession since World War II, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. has worked with 16 companies in the past year on expansions totaling more than $90 million, EDC President Nick Brake said Tuesday.

The expansions have created more than 500 jobs, he said.

Sixty percent of the total -- 300 jobs -- are being created by U.S. Bank Home Mortgage during a $14 million expansion in Highland Pointe off Kentucky 54.

"We're a little above the usual number of expansions this year," Brake said. "But we're a little above on the negative stuff, too."

The area has lost more than 800 manufacturing jobs in the past year, and another 350 are already scheduled to disappear in the next year.

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," he said. "It will further diversify our economy.

"We have companies that are in trouble," Brake said, "but we also have companies that are doing really well. Considering that this is a recession year, we're very happy with the number of expansions."

He said the area faces a problem of aging facilities -- many factories are at least 40 years old -- and an aging work force, many of whom will be retiring in the next five years.

"There aren't many production jobs out there," Brake said. "The shift in manufacturing is toward skilled technicians. A lot of our workers are going to have to be retrained."

The EDC list of expansions shows Unilever, $49 million, 59 jobs; Sazerac, $10.5 million, 50 jobs; S&Y LLC, $8 million, three jobs; SFG, $3.7 million, 30 jobs (and 450 saved); Sun Windows, $3.25 million, jobs not available; Swedish Match, $2.2 million, 15 jobs.

Echo Lake Foods, $1.5 million, 40 jobs; Industrial Mold & Machine, $1.3 million, five jobs; MPD, $298,000, 15 jobs; Messenger-Inquirer, $250,000, eight jobs; Canteen Services, $200,000, nine jobs; and Cox Paper & Printing, $30,000.

Brake said EDC is also working with Charles Medley Distillers Kentucky and Phill's Custom Cabinets on expansions. But the dollar amount of those expansions and the number of jobs they will create have not been worked out, he said.

"We have been watching this global economy evolve for a long time, anticipating that we could be affected," EDC Chairman Darrell Higginbotham said in a news release. "We have a three-year head start in adjusting to the shifting economic circumstances impacting us this year."

The EDC Strategic Plan, created in 2006, is a "four-tier strategy focusing on supporting existing businesses, targeted business attraction efforts, nurturing high technology company startups, and creating a community that attracts talent," Brake said.

"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," Higginbotham said.

Brake said EDC has conducted three "coordinated campaigns" this year.

One was in green energy "hoping to capitalize on stimulus dollars in that sector, one in back office and professional service areas similar to the jobs U.S. Bank has in the region, and one in advanced manufacturing," he said.

EDC was ranked eighth last year by Site Selection magazine for most economic development projects among regions the size of Owensboro.

Brake said EDC is planning additional targeted campaigns in 2010.

Nearly two-thirds of new jobs are created by existing companies, he said.

Brake said the Emerging Ventures Innovation Center program headed by Madison Silvert has recruited 13 technology-based companies to start up in the region.

Earlier this year, Silvert was invited to speak to the Kansas City EDC about the success Owensboro has had in nurturing entrepreneurs, Brake said.

Looking ahead to next year, he said: "We're optimistic. We're working with a couple of existing companies looking at expansions and we're optimistic about some new companies."

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

OCTC Campus in Hancock County Critical Tool for Regional Economic Development

Hancock County leaders are taking a different tack to secure work force training and other postsecondary education opportunities closer to home.

A delegation representing Hancock County met last week with Gov. Steve Beshear to seek his support for state funding to cover start-up costs for an Owensboro Community & Technical College satellite campus.

The satellite community college campus is regional in its scope, said Mike Baker, executive director of the Hancock County Industrial Foundation.

"The project involves a real cross section of the community, and we were all there to meet the governor with a common vision," Baker said of the meeting with the governor. "That's one of the aspects that really resounded with him."

Attending the Frankfort meeting, in addition to Baker, were Jack McCaslin, Hancock County Judge-Executive; Scott Lewis, superintendent of Hancock County Public Schools; Dave Whitmore, Century Aluminum manufacturing manager; Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.; and Larry Durrence, interim president of OCTC.

"Some of the governor's staff asked Mike (Baker) for more information, and he is getting that," McCaslin said. "I think once they get some numbers, we'll see some things start happening. ... He (Baker) got the ball rolling."

The on-site training is critical to preserving high-wage, aluminum and energy industry jobs and attracting more industries to Hancock County, officials said.

The satellite location also will help high school students get a leg up on postsecondary training and education.

"What we have learned is that Hancock County's existing work force is getting older, and a large percentage, perhaps more than 40 percent, could retire in the next three years," said Durrence. "If they lose that much of their work force, it will be critically important to have trained employees to replace it."

A lack of ready and trained workers could cause industries considering Hancock County to look elsewhere, Durrence said.

"This is a great opportunity to accelerate the training opportunities in the community," Baker said. "These industries work 24/7, and having training available closer to home can have real value."

OCTC has no money to lease a building, and it takes years to get a building approved in the state capital budget process, Durrence said. Plus, the state does not have money for new projects.

The consortium has located a building in the Lewisport Shopping Center on U.S. 60 that could be remodeled, Baker said.

That led to the meeting with the governor.

The satellite campus would allow Hancock County to bring classes for high school students and local industries under one roof, Baker said.

"When you have a project and you are looking for several million dollars to build buildings, there is a right and wrong time to do that," Baker said. "We decided to take a different approach to accomplish the same objectives."

Hancock County Fiscal Court and the business community would share in the expenses. The group is seeking state funds for the facility's lease, utilities and other costs.

"Fiscal Court is very excited about this project," McCaslin said. "We've been trying to get state funds for a technical school on our high school campus for years, and every time we rise to the top of the funding pile, the bottom falls out of the economy."

The OCTC campus would help to supply existing industries with a skilled work force, the judge said.

"The big thing is that we have about 3,000 jobs for, not only our county residents, but also the surrounding counties," McCaslin said. "Sometimes we tend to forget our existing industries, and we don't want to do that."

The county government, school system, community college and industries "will all throw some money into this," he said.

"Even though we (OCTC) have no money for a facility, we are committed to providing the instructional aspects of the satellite campus," Durrence said. "We want to be a good partner with them."

OCTC will provide some equipment and instructors, he said.

"I really hope we can keep this moving forward," Durrence said.

More college credits in high school

Lewis is excited about the potential for Hancock County High School students if a satellite community college campus is established.

"This is my fourth year as superintendent, and getting a vocational school has been a priority for me because of the industry we have here," Lewis said. "We want to make sure we graduate our high school students and they have the opportunity to stay here -- and that we continue to have those high-paying jobs for them."

The OCTC satellite campus would allow local industries to train their employees close to their jobs and not have them gone all day, Lewis said.

The high school now has three vocational courses -- information technology, nursing and mechatronics.

"We added mechatronics last year in our maintenance garage because we don't have room," Lewis said.

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."

Joy Campbell, 691-7299,

Hollison Technologies Await Opening of Owensboro Centre for Business and Research

Kevin Humphrey, president of Hollison Technologies LLC, is anxiously awaiting the opening of the Centre for Business and Research at 1016 Allen St.

His company is ready to open a 1,000-square-foot office and lease lab space in the center as soon as it opens.

"We're hoping to move in in January," Humphrey said Friday. "Over the next 12 months, we'll be needing to hire as many as 10 people trained to do what we're doing."

That includes people to go into the field and monitor the company's equipment as well as an office manager, a research and development team, tech people to repair and service equipment and sales people to work the telephones, he said.

Hollison is a high-tech company that says its product "enables continuous sampling of food commodities with state-of-the-art detection of contaminants ranging from chemical to biological and radiological. The technology also allows food producers to follow commodities through a web-based software tracking capability."

Sampling, detection and tracking can take place much faster than traditional approaches, while also operating outside a conventional lab, the company says.

In September, the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. announced an investment of $200,000 in Hollison Technologies. That came on the heels of a $50,000 investment from the local Emerging Ventures Seed Fund.

"We're a five-year overnight success," Humphrey joked.

He said he's been working on the process for the past five years with partners Eric Dodd of Evansville and Doug Wood of Island. They recently added Tony Bashall of Massachusetts as a fourth partner.

The company's name is a combination of Humphrey's daughters' names -- Holly and Ellison.

Humphrey and his brother, David, owned Agri-Tech, a business they opened in Livermore in 1996, specializing in grain-handling equipment, poultry house construction, electrical work and steel building construction.

When that business closed, he started working on Hollison, Humphrey said.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Prospect of new downtown event center drawing interest

Once Owensboro breaks ground on a new downtown events center, the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau expects to be able to sign large cheerleading, dance and tae kwon do tournaments.

"We're still negotiating with them," Jared Bratcher, the bureau's sports marketing director, told Tuesday's board meeting at the Visitor Information Center. "But they're extremely excited about the new events center and I think they'll sign as soon as ground is broken."
Bratcher said the city might be able to attract a few smaller events from those groups at the Sportscenter before the events center is open.
"But the Sportscenter is an outdated facility," he said. "They want to be in a state-of-the-art center."
Bratcher said Owensboro has landed the Baseball Players Association's world series for 8, 9 and 12 year olds for July 21-25 and the National Softball Association's Class E men's world series for Sept. 17-19.

"Class E is the lowest (skill) level," Bratcher said. "But it brings in the most teams. We should have at least 50. They'll spend more money in town and have more fun than the professional players."
The bureau's calendar already shows 36 tournaments for 2010 with more to come, he said.
The city is doubling the number of football tournaments -- from two to four -- next year, Bratcher said.
Bowling Green announced this week that the Amateur Softball Association had awarded it six tournaments for 2010 and 2011 that should pump $18 million into that city's economy.
Bratcher said he's still working on the economic impact for the 2010 tournaments here.
"But it'll be way more than that," he said.

Bratcher told the board that the sports industry has not seen the collapse that other parts of the economy have experienced.

"But it's getting so competitive" to land tournaments, he said. "Every city has a new park or they're throwing lots of money around. It's a real competitive atmosphere. But our reputation sometimes lifts us over the money."

"Everybody wants to be Owensboro," said Karen Miller, the bureau's executive director.
She said the bureau is working on creating a regional cycling event for next fall.
"We have to put our best foot forward when these teams are in town," said Brian Smith, co-owner of Diamond Lake Resort and treasurer of the board. "We can't rest on our laurels. We have to keep fighting."

Bratcher said he's working to attract hockey tournaments to the city's new ice center.
"We can't get the really big tournaments because we only have one" playing surface, he said. Louisville, Lexington and Evansville have two.

"But I believe we'll get the state hockey tournament in a few years," Bratcher said.
He's also working to get a sport stacking tournament in town. Sport stacking involves stacking plastic cups in as little time as possible.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

Owensboro named best place to raise a family

Business Week Magazine has rated Owensboro the best place to raise a family in Kentucky.
The magazine mentions Owensboro's low crime rate, outstanding student test scores and low cost of living as reasons why it ranked the city number one in the Commonwealth.
Some Owensboro folks said that's no surprise.
"Certainly those of us already raising children in Owensboro know it's a great place to raise kids and so this is really a great opportunity for us to get some national attention about something we already know about here, what a great family town this is," Nick Brake withGreater Owensboro Economic Development said.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Aluminum producers seek signature industry

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. and Northwest Kentucky Forward, an economic alliance of Henderson, McLean, Union and Webster counties, have joined with area aluminum producers to form the Kentucky Aluminum Network.

"I think it has the potential to become a statewide organization," Mike Baker, Hancock County's economic development director, said last week. "When you look at the footprint aluminum has here in Kentucky, it definitely has the potential."

Baker retired in December as general manager of the Aleris International plant in Hancock County after 25 years in the aluminum industry.

"We want to raise the awareness of the people and especially the elected officials," he said. "There are 120 aluminum and aluminum-related facilities in 53 cities in Kentucky. Most people readily acknowledge the horse and bourbon industries as signature industries. We want to get aluminum placed in that category."

The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development says, "As measured by the value of shipments, Kentucky ranks as the number one state in the primary aluminum industry."

Kentucky's advantages, the cabinet says in a recent report, include low utility cost, a central location, a quality work force, ports along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and a significant presence of the automotive industry.

The report says:

* There are 120 aluminum-related facilities with 14,771 employees in Kentucky.

* There are 9,244 primary aluminum industry employees in Kentucky.

* Primary aluminum shipments totaled more than $4.3 billion in 2005.

* In 2007, the median wage for primary metal industry employees in Kentucky was $52,336 a year and $38,983 for the fabricated metal industry.

* Gibbs Die Casting in Henderson is one of the largest aluminum employers in Kentucky with 800 workers.

* Alcan Ingot in Henderson and Century Aluminum of Kentucky in Hawesville are two of 14 active aluminum smelters in the U.S.

* Century Aluminum and Alcan Ingot combined have a production capacity representing around 16 percent of active smelter production capacity in the U.S.

* The Owensboro Riverport is one of only two licensed warehouses approved by the New York Mercantile Exchange to serve as the delivery point of primary aluminum traded on its COMEX Division aluminum futures contract.

"We want to get out in front of state leaders with this," said Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro EDC. "We want to get as many members as possible before the legislature convenes in January. We'll be recruiting members from across Kentucky."

KAN, he said, is a nonprofit membership organization for producers.

"A lot of the (aluminum) facilities in this area are around 40 years old," Brake said. "A lot of the work force has been there that long. They're going to be needing fresh talent in a few years."

"The facilities' infrastructure is one of the biggest threats," Baker said.

When companies have limited dollars for capital expenses, he said, they find themselves having to decide whether to invest in new technology or renovate older plants.

"We need to raise awareness of aluminum's importance to Kentucky," Baker said. "It's a huge part of the economic engine in Hancock County. When they're running at capacity, the plants here employ more than 2,000 people.

"The area between Hancock and Henderson counties has more than 30 plants and more than 5,000 aluminum jobs with a $290 million payroll," he said.

KAN's goal, Baker said, "is to bring producers together with customers and suppliers. We want to have a unified voice when we look at the threats to the industry. We need cost-effective energy."

Baker said most aluminum plants aren't visible from Kentucky's major highways.

"Aluminum casts a long shadow in Kentucky," he said. "The plants are out there, you just don't see them from the main roads."

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Centre for Business and Research Receives $1 Million in EDA Funding

The U.S. Economic Development Administration says Owensboro's Centre for Business and Research will eventually create 50 jobs and generate $20 million worth of private investment in the community.

That's why the agency is pumping $986,000 into the center to buy wet lab equipment.

During a news conference at the center Thursday, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie said the community won the federal grant by "having the best idea" for how to spend the money.

"It was a competitive grant," he said. "Owensboro was competing against other cities."

High-tech companies "don't like stuffy office buildings," Guthrie said. "They like interesting buildings."

And the idea of using an old tobacco warehouse to, among other things, search for cures for cancer was intriguing to people in Washington, said Guthrie, a Bowling Green Republican.

The 37,000-square-foot brick warehouse at 1016 Allen St. was built in 1923 for the Southwestern Tobacco Co.

Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire said the city has invested $2.5 million in the center and the county has put up $500,000. With the federal money for the wet labs, the project is already approaching $4 million.

And Haire said he's hoping the state will also come up with some financial support for the center.

Madison Silvert, vice president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. and executive director of its eMerging Ventures Center for Innovation, said the first two tenants -- Dalisha's Desserts and Hollison Technologies -- should be moving into the building by the end of December or early in January.

He said he's also working with two other possible tenants and hopes to have announcements about them soon.

Silvert said the estimate of 50 jobs and $20 million in private investment is based on a similar facility in Bowling Green.

He said EDC has set a goal of having 10 companies in the center within three years.

"I think things will really pick up after we go to the BIO International Convention in Chicago in May," Silvert said.

The wet labs, to be funded by federal dollars, should be ready to open by February, he said.

"No startup company could afford some of the equipment we'll have in the wet labs," Silvert said. "Without this grant, they would have to go somewhere for the equipment."

EDC actually has a list of $1.9 million in lab equipment that it wants for the center.

The list of 60 items needed for the wet lab includes a $300,000 mass spectrometer, two $10,000 microscopes with cameras, two $8,000 biological safety cabinets, two $12,000 freezers that cool to 80 degrees below zero and $60,000 worth of general laboratory equipment.

The wet labs make it more likely that some high-tech startup companies will locate in Owensboro, Silvert said.

The federal money comes from a pot allocated to communities that had severe damage from Hurricane Ike in September 2008. Guthrie said the idea is that while such communities were spending time and money on recovery, they fell behind on economic development.

Although the announcement was made Thursday in Owensboro, the EDA actually announced it in Washington back in September.

An announcement for the week of Sept. 18-25 says the Owensboro grant was one of 69 EDA investments of more than $100,000 during the week.

The grants totaled $104.8 billion for projects totaling $170.2 billion.

Henderson received a $921,000 grant from the EDA that week for dredging and widening the North Branch of Canoe Creek.

Malcolm Bryant, who owns the tobacco warehouse and is renovating it for the project, said the building will be unique to Kentucky. He expects it to attract a lot of attention.

The center will include 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.

Bryant said he's expecting approximately 20 tenants when the building is full.

Silvert said he expects several of the companies to grow large enough to move out into other office buildings in the community and make space for newer companies.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

OMHS receives approval to move forward with construction of new hospital

The Owensboro Metropolitan Board of Adjustment granted two conditional use permits to Owensboro Medical Health System on Thursday, November 5th, a significant legal and regulatory step to construct a replacement hospital.  The new facility will provide medical treatment to patients living in more than 11 counties in Kentucky and Indiana and employ a growing workforce now at 3,200.

The permits provide official authorization to construct a 477-bed hospital on a 147-acre tract of land owned by OMHS on the city’s east side—bordered by Daniels Lane, Pleasant Valley Road and the planned US 60 East Bypass extension.

“Getting the go-ahead from the Owensboro Metropolitan Board of Adjustment allows us to move forward with building the new OMHS hospital,” said Jeff Barber, president and CEO. “We have obtained the necessary approvals from local, state and Federal authorities to begin the development process, and remain fully committed in every way to constructing and operating our region’s new home for quality care.

 “Over the last three years, thousands of patients, employees, physicians and members of the community have attended forums, sent emails and participated on patient experience teams to help us develop the ideal environment for patient care,” Barber said. “We also want to thank our board of directors, and all local, state and Federal officials who have labored with us to arrive at this point.”

OMHS has also built mock-up patient rooms and operating room suites in its Business Center at 2511 Frederica. Architects and other members of the New Hospital Design Team will use them to adjust and refine design elements with the input obtained from community feedback.

“The project is rolling,” said David Carter, of KLMK Group—the project manager for hospital construction. “Our entire design team is working daily toward a March 2010 groundbreaking with a projected opening in 2013.”

Monday, November 2, 2009

Owensboro International Center will Welcome Refugees from Iraq

OWENSBORO, Ky. -- A Bowling Green nonprofit that relocates refugees has received federal approval to open a satellite office in Owensboro.

The Bowling Green International Center will begin relocating refugees to Owensboro later this year or early next year. The Messenger-Inquirer reports that officials from the international center and local volunteers have been working for more than a year to make the city a satellite location.

"It is so exciting," said Suzanne Rose, a local volunteer and associate English professor at Kentucky Wesleyan College. "I can't believe after all the waiting, here we are."

A site for the office has not been selected. Rose said she plans to meet with the Rev. Larry Hostetter, president of Brescia University, about placing the office in space the university owns.

Some Brescia students might also be working with the refugees, Hostetter said.

James Robinson, executive director of the international center, said he believes the organization will be resettling refugees by January.

"That will give us time to get organized," Rose said. "If we need to change anything, we'll have opportunity."

Robinson said the international center has a lot of ground work to do now that the satellite office has been approved by the federal government.

"We're in the helping profession," Robinson said. "The more places we can go and the more tools we can use to help people, then that's good. We want to extend help in every way we can. ... Owensboro gives us an extra vehicle to help more people."

Refugees are expected to come from Iraq and Myanmar, and volunteers have learned about the cultures of those countries. They will help refugees find housing, furniture and jobs, and help children enroll in local schools.

Refugees are given some money to help them get started, but they have to eventually pay back their travel expenses to the government.

Refugees are also required to go through extensive background checks before they are permitted to enter the country.

Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer,