Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Speaker: City has 'buzz' statewide

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 1:02 AM CDT
"You've got an incredible amount of opportunity here," Mike Mangeot, president and CEO of the Kentucky Association for Economic Development, told the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau on Tuesday.

"There's a buzz about Owensboro out in the state," he said. "There's a lot of talk about what's going to happen with the Executive Inn property."

The city bought the property last spring for $5 million, but no decision has been made on how it will be developed.

The hotel is slated to be razed next month.

The Kentucky Association for Economic Development, formerly the Kentucky Industrial Development Council, is a private, nonprofit organization that works to promote industrial and economic development, according to its Web site.

"The old-school economic development people always looked down their noses at tourism," Mangeot said. "Most people still think of economic development as industrial recruitment."

But, he said, "quality of place" is becoming more important in site selection. Companies are asking, "Is this somewhere I want to live?" Mangeot said.

Jobs, he said, follow people today. And that's where tourism comes in.

"Quality of place is what tourism is all about," said Mangeot, a former state deputy commissioner of travel. "Tourism is picking your pocket and making you feel good about it."

Everything in Kentucky is down this year, he said. "Nobody is pulling the trigger on any new projects right now. Kentucky always lags the nation by six to eight months in coming out of a recession."

Owensboro, Mangeot said, doesn't have enough hotel beds now that the Executive Inn is closed to go after the big conventions it used to attract, "but you're still successful."

Hotels may never see the level of business travel they saw before Sept. 11, 2001, he said. "I don't know that it will ever be back to where it was then" because more companies are communicating electronically today.

But, Mangeot said, "There will always be conventions."

He told the bureau's board of directors, "You're doing a great job here. I often use Owensboro as a great example of what's happening in the state."

Festivals, Mangeot said, "play a big role in tourism. They give people an opportunity to get together."

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,