Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EDC releases Dates for Inaugural Economic Development Citizen Academy

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation has released the schedule for the inaugural Economic Development Citizen Academy. The schedule is as follows:

January 27, 2011 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Commerce Center- topics include an overview of the Owensboro economy and new business attraction

February 17, 2011 6:30 to 8:30 at the Advanced Technology Center at OCTC- topics include existing industry retention and workforce development

March 17, 2011 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Centre for Business and Research- topics include business startup and incubation and placemaking

The Academy is an effort to continue to encourage public involvement and understanding of economic development. EDC President/CEO Nick Brake said over 20 citizens have already signed up for the program, but spaces remain.

The program is modeled on the successful Citizen Academy programs used by the City of Owensboro and the Owensboro Police Department.

The sessions will offer comprehensive insight into the strategies and ideas of modern economic development. Participants will get a behind the scenes view of the economic development process, dialogue with leaders from local businesses about the regional economy and visit amenities such as the Centre for Business and Research.

The EDC anticipates offering the academy program annually. For more information or to sign up for the Economic Development Citizen’s Academy visit http://edc.owensboro.com/about/Citizen_Academy or call 926-4339.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jagoe Homes honored nationally

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Sunday, December 12, 2010 12:04 AM CST
Jagoe Homes has been named national Builder of the Year for 2010 by Professional Builder magazine.

Owensboro brothers and partners Bill and Scott Jagoe are featured on the cover of the December issue available Wednesday.

The Jagoe Homes team has focused on processes over the years, and that has allowed the company to deliver more value than customers saw years ago.

And they've done it during a national recession while continuing to beat industry benchmarks for net margins.

That's Bill Jagoe's take on what caught the attention of the magazine's evaluators.

The company was in contention with eight to nine companies nationwide for the honor.

The builders were surprised to earn the title even though they have caught national attention before with "six or seven articles written about us in national publications over the last two to three years," Bill Jagoe said.

The Jagoes confirm what the magazine article points out -- that the Owensboro region is not typical of the national housing market.

"We didn't have the fast appreciation of homes and the flipping, and our foreclosure rates were not as high as other areas," Scott Jagoe said. "Foreclosures have increased, but they didn't double. In some areas they doubled and tripled."

In addition, while Owensboro has suffered significant unemployment, the region has not had the staggering job losses that other parts of the country have endured.

"For every new job that's added, there's a home built," Scott Jagoe said.

Even though the company has been cost-effective for many years, the continued work to streamline processes over 10 years or more has resulted in eliminating unnecessary steps and waste, the Jagoes said.

"When you pull out costs or waste, you can add value back in," Scott Jagoe said.

At a time when homebuilding is less than robust across the country, Jagoe Homes' market share is increasing, the brothers said.

Just a couple of years ago, 2.1 million to 2.2 million homes were built annually in the U.S. About 400,000 were built this year.

Many companies either retracted or closed up shop altogether. Bill Jagoe estimates there are at least 40 percent fewer builders today than before the recession hit.

In 1985 when the Jagoes started the business, the company built from 30 to 40 homes in that half-year cycle.

This year, it will finish about 280 homes selling in the range of $130,000 to $450,000

The number of homes built has gone up and down with the market. The company completed its highest number, 365, in 2003-04.

Today, Jagoe's builds primarily in Owensboro, Bowling Green, Newburgh, Ind., Evansville and Louisville. Annual revenues are about $47.3 million.

Jagoe Homes stays on top of its industry through market research and consulting, the brothers said.

Examples of value-added items for homeowners are EnergyStar certifications and sodded lawns -- which are included in the price, the brothers said.

"There are 15 items required to get a home EnergyStar-certified, and they add cost," Scott Jagoe said. "But we added EnergyStar without costing the homeowner an extra cent."

The Jagoes are fourth-generation builders. Both remember starting on job sites with their father at age 12. Scott was tasked to pick up trash. Bill said his first job was working with a bricklayer.

Both are Daviess County High School grads. Bill went on to Murray State University, and Scott earned a degree in real estate and construction management from the University of Denver.

Jagoe Homes has 56 employees. Counting subcontractors, it takes from 300 to 350 tradespersons to build a home, Bill Jagoe said.

Scott and Bill Jagoe say they likely will increase the amount of building on-site in the coming year.

The company also is developing the 650-home Deer Valley subdivision on U.S. 231. That project was shelved for three years when Jagoe's seized an opportunity to build in Lake Forest, Bill Jagoe said.

The streets and storm/sanitary sewers are now under construction.

Other opportunities also have surfaced including development of Paradise Garden in Newurgh, he said.

The Jagoes expect to expand within their markets and continue with the successful business model the company has developed. That includes bringing trades partners into the process and ensuring that they understand the expectations.

"We always seek out the best possible financing for our customers and shepherd them through the process," Scott Jagoe said. "We have five to six lenders we work with."

"We make the process easy for our customers. We took out the things that were clogging the system up," Bill Jagoe said.

Both Jagoes said they are starting to hear from builders across the country who want to see what they're doing.

They said they expect to continue to learn from their colleagues as well.

Joy Campbell, 691-7299, jcampbell@messenger-inquirer.com

On the Web

* Jagoe Homes - www.jagoehomes.com

* Professional Builder magazine - www.housingzone.com/pb/pubhome/

Red Pixel owners get Third Street property

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Saturday, December 11, 2010 12:00 AM CST
Brothers Eric and Jason Kyle, owners of Red Pixel Studios, have bought the property at 111 E. Third St. and will move their company to the second floor of the 6,720-square-foot building.

The new owners paid $420,000 and closed the deal on the downtown building Thursday, spokesman Rob Howard said.

The Owensboro-based company formed in May 2001 and provides Internet solutions and design work for its customers. It is currently in rented space at 309 E. Second St.

"We've seen what's going on with downtown, with the (planned) convention center and riverfront and some restaurants opening up, and we're excited about the changes," Howard said.

Red Pixel Studios will move into the second floor with plans to rent the first floor. The investment in the building is a big step for the company, he said.

"A neat part of this story is that a couple of guys from Owensboro who were educated in Owensboro are investing in downtown Owensboro," Howard said.

The Kyles started Red Pixel as a printing and website design company, and over the years has developed numerous websites in western Kentucky and across the country.

This year, the company started developing iPhone apps (applications), launching the first one in February. Clients have included the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Owensboro Catholic Schools.

Red Pixel now has about 20 apps in the Apps Store.

"We're excited with the success we've had and with the opportunity that's there," Howard said.

The company built an app framework called infoApp that allows it to produce "powerful apps and customize them efficiently, quickly and inexpensively" for customers, he said.

The majority of the apps developed so far have been for Kentucky tourism destinations. Red Pixel got the nod from the Kentucky Tourism Council and the Kentucky Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus to offer their member organizations customized iPhone apps.

The company also has developed apps for Owensboro restaurants The Miller House and Gambrinus and for The Chocolate Bar's two locations in Cleveland, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y.

"Considering how early we are in the development of the product, we are very pleased with our success," Howard said.

Howard is one of seven employees -- including Gustavo Ariel Molina Sequra, who is under contract and is clearing the way for Red Pixel to do business in Argentina.

Another Red Pixel employee, Pablo Gallastegui, came to the U.S. from Argentina to go to college and chose to attend the Kyles' alma mater, Brescia University. He has worked at Red Pixel for about four years.

Gallastegui introduced the Kyles to his friend, a computer programmer who has identified a market for Red Pixel in the Argentinian tourism industry, Howard said.

"Pablo is there in Argentina now visiting family and finding out what we need to do to legally do business there," he said. "The nice thing is that because our infoApp is flexible and powerful, we can develop apps for a wide variety of clients."

Fiscal picture 'very healthy,' Barber says

By Rich Suwanski, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Friday, December 10, 2010 12:54 AM CST
Owensboro Medical Health System is in stronger financial shape than it was a year ago, according to the consolidated financial statement released at its annual Report to the Community on Wednesday morning at the HealthPark.

OMHS showed a profit of $40.1 million in the fiscal year ending May 31, up $27 million from $13 million profit the previous fiscal year. Additionally, OMHS' investment portfolio showed an increase of $56 million as the market improved over the previous year.

"We're generating enough revenue to easily pay back our bond debt, and the interest and principle on that," said Jeff Barber, the hospital's president and CEO. "And we're continuing to build our cash-on-hand, which is important for hospitals.

"We're economically and financially very healthy, and we perceive that it will continue to be that way for several years."

Barber said it established a process that improved patient outcomes and helped control costs. He said better patient care resulted in fewer complications.

"When people don't get sicker in the hospital, those costs aren't there and that eliminates a lot of cost," Barber said. "And when you have people who are well-trained that do a better job a lot more efficiently, you don't have extra costs."

Total gross revenue for the 2010 fiscal year was $813.2 million, an increase of almost $91 million over the 2009 fiscal year. Net operating revenue was $416.3 million in the 2010 fiscal year, an increase of just over $43 million from 2009 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, OMHS' Community Benefit Program provided $16 million to the area in programs, health services, education, research and charity care. Representatives from two organizations receiving funds from the Community Benefit Program praised the hospital's work beyond its own walls.

Two Rivers Buddy Ball organizer Billy Shain told the 125 people in attendance at the morning gathering that OMHS' financial support enabled special needs children to play baseball and other sports.

"It's a social situation for them, to interact with kids like themselves," Shain said.

Dr. Mike Johnson, an Owensboro dentist, said the hospital's funding helped the Community Dental Clinic at Mayfair Square meet the needs of children and adults with limited resources.

"The hospital saw the need for it and funded it, and the children in Daviess County are eternally grateful," he said.

Barber trumpeted OMHS' quality accomplishments, including HealthGrades' report that listed it as one of 16 U.S. hospitals recognized for excellence in clinical, safety, women's health and patient satisfaction.

He said OMHS has continued growing as a regional health care option by, among other things, opening the Center for Women's Health and three clinics at Walmart stores in Owensboro, Henderson and Newburgh, Ind.

Barber also said OMHS offers a facility such as the HealthPark and programs to improve the community's health.

"Our goal is to keep you out of the hospital," he said.

Last year, OMHS had 482,000 outpatient visits, 17,000 hospital admissions and nearly 19,000 surgical procedures. The hospital employs 3,218 people, the largest employer in the state west of Louisville, he said.

"We're a growing organization, and we'll continue to grow because demographically, that's the way it is," Barber said.

Earlier this year, OMHS began construction on a new hospital at Pleasant Valley Road and Daniels Lane, due for completion in 2013. Construction manager Merrill Bowers of Turner Construction said the project is on schedule.

While many people bemoaned the summer's dry weather, it helped Turner excavate and erect steel.

"We've poured the first piece of the second floor (on Wednesday)," Bowers said. "The weather is a little cool now, so we've taken measure to take care of the concrete. The visible parts of the building are coming along.

"And we were able to pave the main roads before the asphalt plants shut down."

Bowers said to date, $46 million worth of material, equipment and contracts have been awarded to firms that have a Kentucky address and are within 50 miles of the job site. And even those that don't have an Owensboro address are using local labor.

Thursday's program also included Christmas songs performed by the Sutton Elementary School chorus.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Century will add jobs

By Beth Wilberding, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:27 AM CST
Century Aluminum of Kentucky will add about 100 positions at its Hawesville smelter after announcing plans Tuesday to reactivate a curtailed potline.

Employees will be recalled, and new hires will be made for the positions, the company said. The potline, which is one of five at the plant, was curtailed in March 2009. At that time, about 120 union and nonunion workers were laid off.

The decision to restart the potline came because the Hawesville smelter is facing competitive cost pressure, according to Michael Dildine, a company spokesman.

"This was an important step in helping the Hawesville facility lower its costs on a per-ton basis and improve competitiveness," he wrote in an e-mail.
The potline is expected to restart in the first quarter of 2011.

Century Aluminum had shut down the potline "as a consequence of the cost structure of the plant and depressed aluminum prices," according to a company press release.

The company expects to have about 750 employees once the smelter is at full capacity, and about 600 will be represented by United Steel Workers Local 9423, Dildine wrote.

Most of the workers who were laid off in 2009 have been recalled.

The Hawesville smelter has a rated capacity of about 250,000 metric tons of primary aluminum annually from five potlines, the press release said. Restarting the idled potline is expected to increase primary aluminum production by about 4,370 metric tons per month.

"Bringing the Hawesville smelter back to full operating capacity will improve our competitiveness and help sustain continued operations," Hawesville Vice President and Plant Manager Matt Powell said in the press release. "We will begin preparations for restarting the idled potline immediately."

Hancock County Judge-Executive Jack McCaslin said the announcement was "kind of like an early Christmas present."

"With the occupational tax ..., it's going to boost our county up in getting some more taxes," he said. "It's hurt us, not only Century, but some of the other plants had some slowdowns in different areas. We've done way short of what we've normally gotten."

McCaslin estimated that the county has lost from $200,000 to $250,000 in occupational tax revenue because of unemployment. The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training said Hancock County's unemployment rate was 8.1 percent for October -- down from 10.7 percent in October 2009.

"It's wonderful news," McCaslin said. "It's going to really help our local businesses."

McCaslin and Mike Baker, executive director of the Hancock County Industrial Foundation, both said they hoped the potline restarting means the company has more business or new clients.

Century Aluminum and Local 9423 are still negotiating a new contract for the plant. Members of the union rejected the company's most recent offer in October, and Dildine said the company can't comment on the status of the negotiations.

The most recent contract expired at midnight March 31, and contract extensions expired May 6.

Officials tout 3G network arrival

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 12:49 AM CST

AT&T officials confirmed Monday that its 3G, or third generation, mobile broadband network is now available for its Owensboro region customers.

And efforts already are under way to make the 3G network even faster with a data access upgrade at the end of this year with a 4G rollout planned for 2012.

The current upgrade means AT&T customers now have access to the nation's fastest 3G network, which is 10 times faster than the 2G network they've been using, according to Jim Thorpe, vice president and general manager for consumer and mobility markets, AT&T Tennessee and Kentucky.

AT&T enhanced 28 cell sites in the region to be able to offer this latest progression of the mobile broadband network, he said.

Thorpe and other AT&T officials spread the word about several changes the company has made to its services during a news conference at The Centre for Business and Research.

Economic development leaders and city and county elected officials at the announcement praised the communications investment as a key to regional jobs growth in an information-dependent economy.

"Like highways are important for moving goods for the manufacturing industry, this technology is essential for so many information-based businesses," said Nick Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.

A new mortgage loan processing center under construction in the airpark, the hospital and other health care businesses are examples of the kinds of employers that need access to high-speed communications, he said.

The technology is an essential tool for the modern economy that is developing in Owensboro, Brake said.

Being able to have the 3G infrastructure is important to the kinds of start-up businesses that will be locating in the Centre for Business and Research, said Madison Silvert, the EDC's executive vice president.

"Corporations need this broadband service to grow their companies," Silvert said.

Hollison Technologies, the Centre for Business and Research's first tenant, has released an iPhone application that can test for food safety, he said. Other tenants scheduled to move in soon need the capability of communicating fast, he said.

Mobile banking is gaining popularity, and 3G service is essential for customers who want to use their cell phone technology in that capacity, said Darrell Higginbotham, Daviess County president of Independence Bank and past EDC board chairman.

For most customers, the 3G upgrade is all about what AT&T service allows them to do through their cell/mobile phones.

In addition to adding speed, these upgrades make AT&T's 3G network the most flexible, Thorpe said.

For example, if a boss calls an employee and wants a copy of a report, that employee can surf the Web, access e-mail accounts to find and send the report while continuing to talk to the boss.

Using competitors' services, the employee would have to hang up from the boss, find and send the data, and then call the boss back to confirm its receipt, Thorpe said.

"I've seen the advertisements, but our competitors can't do this," Thorpe said.

Other competitors have been offering 3G service in Owensboro for some time -- some for several years.

Thorpe also talked about why it took AT&T so long to offer 3G.

The Federal Communication Commission required the company to divest its spectrum in order to create a competitive wireless system. In doing that, AT&T didn't have enough capacity to keep its 2G customers going and to initiate 3G as well.

The spectrum is limited, and AT&T had to buy it on the open market -- essentially from a competitor.

"The network is here; it's late, but it's the best network you can have," Thorpe said.

In three years, data usage on AT&T's network has increased 5,000 percent, he said.

"This positions us on a level playing field with our competitors in Kentucky, Tennessee and across the country," Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire said. "The businesses that have expressed interest in the centre have owners who are younger and are acutely aware of the importance of communicating. Their business depends on it."

AT&T also will be expanding its Wi-Fi network and will be making the 3G network even faster with another high-speed data access upgrade at the end of this year and 4G, or fourth generation wireless technology, rolled out sometime next year, Thorpe said.

The company also is opening a new 5,000-square-foot store at 5115 Frederica St. with 25 sales and customer service employees. It will be a device-support center where customers can ask questions about their phones.

"This is a first for Kentucky and Tennessee," Thorpe said.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farmers Market Moving Downtown

OWENSBORO, KY (WFIE) - The farmers market in Owensboro may move to a new location that officials say will make it more convenient and provide a better shopping experience.

The same consultants conducting a feasibility study on the Bluegrass Museum will also make a site plan on moving the Farmer's Market Downtown.

City leaders say they are looking into having the market on the north end of the state office building property.

One idea is to build a long pavilion with a canopy. County officials discussed funding the project $25,000 to get electricity and water lines to the facility once built.

Other funding will come from the state and ag-extension agency. The industrial development authority believes moving the farmer's market downtown will draw big crowds and become an asset to downtown's environment.

Many shoppers say the market's current location on old Hartford road is too far away.

Owensboro resident Shawn McHenry says, "It's kind of far out and it's really not accessible to a lot of people here in town and I think downtown it's on more of a bus route and for people that can walk can get to it."

Owensboro resident John Storm says, "I live on third street so it's not that far from my house anyway so it would be a great location for me."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Brake, others praise Community Campus

By Beth Wilberding, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:12 AM CST

About half of the jobs the country will need in 2015 have yet to be created -- but students are still being prepared for 20th century jobs that increasingly do not exist, according to Nick Brake.

The president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. discussed the need for a change in how students are educated at a news conference on the Community Campus program Monday in the Advanced Technology Center at Owensboro Community & Technical College.

The Community Campus is a partnership of several area school districts, the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, OCTC, the EDC and several private sector entities.

Many in-demand skills can be part of a curriculum that blends the last two years of high school with the first two years of postsecondary education at a community or technical college, Brake told the group.

"The high school is now the front line in America's and Owensboro's battle to remain competitive on the international economic stage," Brake said.

A highly skilled work force is needed for the community to survive, Brake said. "We don't need to compete locally," he said. "We need to compete globally."

Community Campus is part of The Partnership for Next Generation Learning, a national initiative to rethink education.

The Stupski Foundation partnered with the Council of Chief State School Officers to create The Partnership for Next Generation Learning with the goal of transforming and improving public education, the Messenger-Inquirer previously reported.

The partnership created the Innovation Lab Network in six states: Wisconsin, Maine, New York, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. The Stupski Foundation has secured the financial support of several major corporations, including Microsoft, Cisco, Intel and Apple, the Messenger-Inquirer reported.

Daviess County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton said during the news conference that Community Campus is one of the most exciting things he's seen in education. "We have all of the resources behind us to make this successful," he said.

Five academies will be featured through Community Campus: Theatre Arts; Science, Technology and Engineering; Entrepreneurship and Business; Construction, Trade and Energy and Life Sciences.

"They would compliment each institution while creating alternatives for students to better meet their needs and the needs of our region," Brake said.

The Theatre Arts; Construction, Trade and Energy; and Science, Technology and Engineering academies are scheduled to begin in the 2011-12 school year, according to Community Campus' website. The Life Sciences and Entrepreneurship and Business academies will begin in the 2012 school year.

The program is open to high school juniors and seniors in Owensboro Public Schools, Daviess County Public Schools, Owensboro Catholic Schools, Hancock County Schools and Trinity High School in Whitesville.

Students will continue to take some classes at and be involved in extracurricular activities at their "home" high schools.

All of the academies will use OCTC's Discover College program, which offers dual high school and college credit, Brake said. He said it is important for students to receive at least some postsecondary education.

Forty-two percent of the adult work force in the Owensboro area has some form of postsecondary education, which is 21 percent behind the national average and 12 percentage points below the projections for Kentucky in 2018, Brake said, citing a study by Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University.

Based on those projections, the Owensboro region will have to increase its population with postsecondary education by 8,000 to meet the state projections and 15,000 to meet the national projections, Brake said.

Hancock County Schools Superintendent Scott Lewis said he hopes the program will help some of his county's students be better prepared to work at local industries.

Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent Larry Vick said Community Campus will give students opportunities that the schools can't provide individually.

To learn more about the Community Campus, visit www.communitycampus.me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Daviess jobless rate dips to 8%

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

Nov. 25--Daviess County's unemployment rate dropped to 8 percent in October -- the lowest level here in nearly two years, the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training said Wednesday

The county's jobless rate hit 10.7 percent in June 2009 -- the first time it had been in double digits since July 1987.

It's been gradually falling since then, hitting 8.5 percent in September.

The last time Daviess County saw a rate lower than 8 percent was in December 2008 when it was at 7.1 percent at the beginning of what would become the Great Recession.

"That is good news," said Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.

The good news should continue into 2011, he said.

"We've remained a bit below the state and national rates most months," Brake said.

The state rate was 9.3 percent in October. The national rate was 9 percent.

"Some of the increase in employment is from all the construction jobs in the county," Brake said.

Major projects include a new National Guard armory, U.S. Bank Home Mortgage call center and the hospital Owensboro Medical Health System is building.

"We're not satisfied yet," Brake said. "We're still working to get more jobs."

Only the Lexington metro among Kentucky's five metropolitan areas had a lower unemployment rate than the Owensboro metro in October.

Lexington's rate was 7.6 percent. Owensboro's was 8 percent.

The Louisville metro had the state's highest metro rate at 9.4 percent.

The state says the Owensboro metro area -- Daviess, Hancock and McLean counties -- has added 700 jobs in the past year.

The biggest growth, it said, was in government jobs -- up by 400.

That was followed by professional and business services, 200 jobs, and manufacturing, educational/health services and "other services," 100 each.

Some of those gains were offset, however, by the loss of 200 mining, logging and construction jobs here in the past year, the state said.

State records show a work force of 48,801 in Daviess County in October. Of those, 44,903 were working and 3,898 were searching for jobs.

All five counties in the Owensboro area saw unemployment rates in single digits in October. Muhlenberg was the only area county with a rate of more than 9 percent.

Ohio had an 8 percent rate; Hancock, 8.1 percent; McLean, 8.4 percent; and Muhlenberg, 9.3 percent.

The state said jobless rates fell in 113 of the 120 counties last month.

Woodford County recorded the lowest rate at 6.6 percent. Webster County had western Kentucky's lowest rate at 7 percent.

Magoffin County had the state's highest rate at 16.8 percent. Grayson County had western Kentucky's highest rate at 12.8 percent.

Statewide, "Six consecutive months of year-over-year job growth provides additional evidence of revitalization in the economy," Justine Detzel, the state's chief labor market analyst, said in a news release.

Unemployment statistics are based on estimates and are compiled to measure trends rather than actually to count people working, she said.

Across Kentucky, the professional and business services sector has added 8,600 jobs in the past year.

That's followed by manufacturing, 6,900 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities, 5,300; leisure and hospitality, 3,000; "other services," 2,200; educational and health services, 2,000; and mining and logging, 400.

But the construction industry lost 7,100 jobs in the past year, while government lost 4,200; financial activities, 2,100 and information, 600.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quest to design convention center just starting

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:20 AM CST
About three years from now, the downtown Owensboro convention and events center is scheduled to open. But what the $27 million facility will look like is unknown. Even Trey Trahan and Leigh Breslau, the men who will lead the team that will design it, can't say.

"We just don't know," Trahan said. "It's unpredictable."

"We don't know the palate or shape, we've just really started," Breslau said. "There are lots of options with the site and a number of ways to respond to the riverfront and the rest of downtown. ... We're in the predreaming stage."

What Trahan and Breslau will say is that the building will be highly functional, appropriate for Owensboro, reflective of the culture and history of the community and will embrace its surroundings, especially the sweeping curve in the Ohio River that it will overlook.

And one more thing: It will be "exciting."

"We really want to create a building that is inviting to people and exciting," Breslau said. "That will take time."

The clock has started, and the design work that's expected to be completed about a year from now has begun. Trahan and Breslau, the principal members of Trahan Architects of Baton Rogue, La., and Chicago, and some of their associates on the project were back in Owensboro last week, talking to people, walking around the city and looking once more at where the convention center will be built, on the site formerly occupied by the Executive Inn Rivermont.

The Trahan architectural firm was selected in late October to design the convention and events center. Trahan is the principal architect in charge of the project. Breslau is the project architect.

Until a few months ago, Breslau was a design partner for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill architects of Chicago, where he led the arts and assembly design studio, focusing on performing arts and public assembly projects. He now oversees Trahan Architects' Chicago studio.

Breslau had a long and distinguished career at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. He led the design work on Millennium Park in Chicago and led the design teams for the 1.3-million-square-foot Zhongshan International Exhibition Center in southern China, the $254 million McCormick Place Phase 2 convention center expansion plan in Chicago (1.6 million square feet), the 800,000-sqaure-foot Suzhou, China, International Expo Center and the 558,000-square-foot Tanguu Hotel and Conference Center in Tianjin, China.

Breslau also led the team that designed the award-winning, $212 million, 500,000-square-feet-plus Virginia Beach Convention Center, which is considered a big success in that coastal city.

The Virginia Beach Convention Center is a glass-encased collection of structures, one with an elegantly curved exterior evocative of an airplane's wing. Every day, scores of military jets from nearby Navy bases streak across the sky above Virginia Beach. Inside the convention center are elevated meeting rooms covered in wood that suggest the shape of ships that are part of the city's shipbuilding heritage. Entering the convention center, visitors walk across wood planks, a nod to the docks that once were so much a part of the city's oceanfront landscape.

None of those elements are close to gimmicks, the architects insist, and gimmickry will not be a part of the Owensboro project.

"It's not about taking icons and attaching them to walls," said Trahan.

Or, as Breslau put it, Daviess County's tobacco-growing history will not lead to tobacco plants hanging in the lobby.

Actually, Trahan said the convention center will look more to the present and the future rather than the past.

"It should reflect this time, not times past," he said. "It should look forward. We hope time moves toward it. Grand Central Station in New York was considered a modern abomination, but now it's considered traditional and beautiful. I hope we can create something that is connected to place, uniquely reflective of the community."

"Looking forward is an optimistic view," Breslau said. "Some people are feeling optimistic about Owensboro, that Owensboro seems to be on the move. The RiverPark Center, this project and the downtown master plan, they are all very optimistic. This building should be the same."

Trahan said it is personally interesting to him how the Ohio River has carved a deep bend in its course at Owensboro, which may somehow be incorporated into the convention center's design.

From a purely practical standpoint, the design will emerge from an "architectural program" for the building, which defines what it must contain. It will identify spaces and how they should perform and function.

David O'Neal, chairman of Conventional Wisdom Corp., a consulting company that is working with Trahan on strategic planning for the Owensboro project, compared the architectural program to a recipe's list of ingredients. From those ingredients, the architects create a solution which becomes the convention center's ultimate design.

"Having done this before with David, we generally know what the pieces are," Breslau said. "We find our work in general emerges from what makes the building work. The design comes from that."

Some of what the convention center should contain is known. CityVisions of Louisville and ConsultEcon of Boston, consultants advising the city on the project, have recommended a building containing up to 138,350 square feet and featuring a 40,000-square-foot, dividable convention space, four ballrooms totaling 14,000 square feet and a lecture hall with tiered seating. A dramatic "river room" built on the former Showroom Lounge platform that projects over the Ohio River is a key element.

The architectural program will give the designers an early indication of its final cost.

"It allows us to address the budget, size and square footage," Trahan said. "Without designing a thing, we can know what the cost will be."

Spectacular views of the Ohio River from within the convention center is a central goal, the architects said.

U of L chief touts partnership

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Saturday, November 13, 2010 12:02 AM CST

Owensboro start-up companies in life sciences areas such as health care, food service and agriculture will have a greater shot at success with a new partnership between the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. and the University of Louisville.

The resources of Nucleus, the Life Science Innovation Center at the University of Louisville, now are available to help in forming and growing more companies that start at The Centre for Business and Research in Owensboro, U of L President James Ramsey and other officials announced Friday.

The Centre, still under development itself at 1010 Allen St., is an incubator for high-tech, life science companies. Companies can rent office and lab space there.

"We want to make it easier for start-up companies to be successful," Ramsey said following a news conference to announce the economic development partnership.

The EDC and U of L will identify opportunities for collaboration. In addition, new companies can harness the buying power of U of L to help control expenses in areas such as health insurance.

Nucleus will provide resources for fledgling, high-tech companies in areas of business planning and information technology.

U of L already has strong ties to Owensboro Medical Health System with a bachelor's degree RN program and ongoing cancer research through the Owensboro Cancer Research Program at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

The university also is a partner for drug development through Kentucky BioProcessing, a full-scale processing facility that extracts purified proteins and other value added products from plants and other organic materials.

In addition, about 270 students from Daviess County attend U of L.

The new relationship is a logical outcome of both partners' missions, said Vickie Yates-Brown, Nucleus president.

The partners will be able to "commercialize the research" that's already being done, allowing it to "go from the mind to the marketplace," Yates-Brown said.

Since the Bayh-Dole Act of December 1980, universities have become driving forces in economic development, Brake said.

That legislation gave universities and other entities control over their research and intellectual properties. Before that law, ownership of the patents or properties was always questioned.

The top 10 locations on any economic development ranking/index are around large research universities, Brake said.

Without the potential of gaining a research university, Owensboro began looking for partnerships, he said.

"We're thrilled to adopt U of L as our research university," Brake said.

Ramsey called Owensboro "a community that gets it."

Jobs of today are different than jobs of yesterday, and investment in education is necessary to be successful, he said.

The partnership is about positioning the community and the state to grow and prosper.

Owensboro still is seeking manufacturing plants that bring large numbers of jobs, Brake said.

Those companies benefit from tax breaks, while start-up, entrepreneurial companies need different support such as the fastest Internet connections and IT services and ways to control costs.

"It's a whole different model," Ramsey said. "That's what I like about Owensboro. It's here."

Ramsey also made visits to OMHS and several high schools on this trip to Owensboro.

The Centre for Business and Research won't officially open until next spring, but its first tenant, Hollison Technologies, already has moved in. Two more companies are expected to move in by the end of the year, with six established by the official opening.

At least one company already has heard about the new resources U of L is bringing to the Centre and wants to learn more, Brake said.

Brake said the next step for this economic development tool is to finish the facility.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Official: Company might add more than 500 jobs

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010 12:27 AM CDT

The 500 jobs that U.S. Bank Home Mortgage announced in July it will add to its growing Owensboro work force "may not be enough" by 2014, and even more jobs may be added, Bob Smiley, executive vice president of U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, told the Owensboro Noon Rotary on Wednesday.

"As long as the economy continues to improve, we have real high hopes here," Smiley told the crowd of about 50 at the Owensboro Country Club.
The total compensation for the new U.S. Bank employees will be $12 to $14 per hour including benefits, base and incentive pay, he said.

Smiley said in an earlier interview that to get state incentives, U.S. Bank had to agree that 90 percent of the 500 employees would earn at least $10.88 per hour in base and incentive.

"We have an unbelievable professional staff, and most have been here a long time," Smiley said. "We hope we are giving opportunities to a lot of people here in the city."

The company's Owensboro work force numbers are at more than 1,000 not counting the 500 new jobs expected.

Hiring is expected to start next spring for the new location on 13 acres at Tamarack and Carter roads.
The expansion announced this summer was the second local work force growth spurt for the company in less than a year.

U.S. Bank built a 50,000-square-foot office in Highland Pointe off Kentucky 54 to accommodate many of the 300 employees hired in that earlier expansion.

The company's market share "is closing in on 5 percent," Smiley said.

"Behind that number is my group," he said. "When a loan is originated, we service that mortgage for the life of the loan."

In 2007, the mortgage loan company hit the $100 billion mark in mortgage loan servicing volume.
Last fall and again in December, company officials reviewed its rapid growth and work force numbers.

"In July, we hit the $200 billion mark, doubling in three years," Smiley said. "We were fortunate enough to get in touch with Nick Brake (CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.) and city and state officials, and they put together an unbelievable incentive package."

The city is building an 81,000-square-foot facility in the Mid-America Airpark, which the mortgage service division will lease.

U.S. Bank will invest more than $14.1 million over several years with this addition, officials said at the announcement. The package of state and city tax incentives together is valued at more than $6 million.

U.S. Bank is the sixth-largest mortgage lender in the country with $208 billion in loans and 1.4 million customers.

He told the Rotary group that U.S. Bank Home Mortgage traces its Owensboro roots back to 1976 with Lincoln Service Mortgage Corp., Firstar and Great Financial.

U.S. Bank Home Mortgage did not participate in the host of new subprime mortgage products that hit the market, such as "no document loans" in which lending companies didn't verify incomes or jobs.

Architect chosen for convention center

Virginia Beach Convention Center designed by Trahan Architects

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Friday, October 29, 2010 12:12 AM CDT
The architectural firm that led the $200 million renovation of the Louisiana Superdome after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and also designed the $212 million Virginia Beach Convention Center was selected Thursday to design the downtown Owensboro convention and events center.

Trahan Architects of Baton Rogue, La., and Chicago was chosen from among 26 firms that sought to design the $27 million Owensboro facility that will sit near the Ohio River on the site of the former Executive Inn Rivermont.

Trahan's fee has not been determined. Negotiations to determine how much money Trahan will be paid to design the building, either on a percentage of construction cost or flat fee basis, will begin now and take up to six weeks to complete, Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves said.

But Trahan will actually begin working on the convention center design immediately, Reeves said.

At a meeting Thursday morning at City Hall, the Downtown Events Center Steering Committee voted unanimously to recommend Trahan to design the facility. Immediately following that meeting, the Owensboro-Daviess County Industrial Development Authority met and approved the steering committee's recommendation.

Trey Trahan, principal architect in charge, Leigh Breslau, project architect, and Brad McWhirter, project manager, all of Trahan, were on hand for the meeting. David Gamble, principal architect of the urban design firm Gamble Associates of Boston, and Edward Kruger, architect and project manager for Bravura Architects of Louisville, were also at the meeting.

Gamble Associates, which specializes in urban design, and Bravura are among the several firms that will team with Trahan on the Owensboro project. Bravura has a history with several downtown Louisville projects.

Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire, chairman of the steering committee and a member of the subcommittee that recommended Trahan to the full committee, said Trahan was the clear choice of the subcommittee.

Four firms were brought to Owensboro for interviews.

"At the end of two days, the subcommittee was unanimous for this firm," Haire said. "We were extremely excited and energized by them."

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne, a subcommittee member, echoed Haire. "This is a very exciting day," Payne said. "We are finally launching a project to replace the Executive Inn Rivermont and put something back on the river."

Barry Alberts, managing partner of CityVisions, the consulting firm that is assisting the steering committee throughout the planning and construction of the convention and events center, praised the selection of Trahan. "You really did find a firm that was right for your aspirations," he said.

Breslau, who led the design work on Millennium Park in Chicago, said the design for the convention center would be done by the fall of next year, making it possible to put the project out for construction bids in early 2012.

"We understand the urgency of the project," Breslau said. "As early as the fall of 2011 our documents will be complete. ... That is quick."

Trey Trahan said the team his company has assembled will focus on authentic architecture that reflects the identity of the community.

"We believe in embedding ourselves in the community with real, authentic architecture that is informed by the people," he said. "It will truly represent the community."

Breslau said the company intends to learn more about the area's history, culture, ecosystem, environment, important and historic buildings, the downtown revitalization project, traffic patterns and parking as it develops a design unique to Owensboro.

Trahan did not list any local partners, while some other firms did, Haire said. But Haire said the preparation Trahan put in gave it an advantage.

"With their ties to the southern part of the United States and their Chicago involvement ... we have some of the brightest individuals in the country to make this project succeed," he said.

Reeves would not identify the other three finalists for the design contract. Only one of the 26 proposals had a local firm playing a lead role, but several of the proposals contained involvement of local companies.

Breslau led the design team for the 1.3-million-square-foot Zhongshan International Exhibition Center in southern China, the $254 million McCormick Place Phase 2 convention center expansion plan in Chicago (1.6 million square feet), the 800,000-sqaure-foot Suzhou, China, International Expo Center and the 558,000-square-foot Tanguu Hotel and Conference Center in Tianjin, China.

CityVisions and partner consulting firm ConsultEcon of Boston have recommended a convention center containing up to 138,350 square feet and featuring a 40,000-square-foot, dividable convention space, four ballrooms totaling 14,000 square feet, a room overlooking the Ohio River and a lecture hall with tiered seating.

The request for qualifications from architects contained six specific goals for the convention center. They are:

* To create a highly competitive public assembly venue that will provide modern, state-of-the-art meeting and exhibition facilities superior to comparable communities in the region and attract the potential markets as specified in the feasibility study.

* To contribute to the transformation of the former Executive Inn site and reconnect this portion of downtown with the river.

* To institute a strong visual and pedestrian axis along Veterans Boulevard to the RiverPark Center that reinforces the downtown core.

* To serve as an icon for the community that celebrates the vision, vitality and progress of Owensboro's downtown revitalization.

* To optimize the efficiency of the facility's operations and maintenance.

* To emphasize sustainability and environmentally responsible construction and operational materials and systems.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Editorial: Insight Needed into Economic Efforts

Messenger-Inquirer Editorial, October 23, 2010:

The economic downturn has turned up the rhetoric this campaign season about job creation through economic development -- even more so than during a typical year. Owensboro and Daviess County have fared better than many similar communities during this recession, though has still suffered from job loss and the sagging economy.

Economic development is a broad term that encompasses everything from direct incentives to bring companies to an area to more indirect methods that encourage the development or retention of businesses. Elected officials and candidates routinely state that economic development is a priority, but often that assertion is accompanied by few specifics.

Though generally agreed upon as the top goal for any community, many in the public know little about what generally and specifically economic development entails, or how to go about spurring on the economy, encouraging job growth and actively recruiting business.

That makes a new citizens academy established by the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. an asset for this community and its understanding of how to approach economic development. EDC officials announced this week they will mirror citizens academy programs at the city and the Owensboro Police Department, with sessions beginning in January.

Because economic development is a diverse and broad field, any effort that better explains the processes this community uses to help propel the economy and encourage job creation is a benefit. Hopefully the sessions will offer more in-depth explanations of programs and processes like the ones used to help bring a new U.S. Bank Home Mortgage facility to Owensboro and with it up to 500 jobs. The public would do well to understand the variety of factors that go into promoting job creation and the attraction of new companies, like those factors at work in the downtown master plan and the "place-making" initiative.

Many of the deals worked out between the EDC and private businesses take place away from the public eye, often for good reason. Economic development officials frequently hold back details as deals are in the works -- perhaps unnecessarily sometimes -- and there is frequently little public understanding of how these deals are crafted.

But these deals routinely involve the use of the public's tax dollars, and this academy can bring a greater understanding to the public of why such incentives are needed, how the public investment is determined, and what the long-term payoff might be. At the very least, the opportunity for the public to learn more about economic development is likely to generate more interest in these activities in the future.

Economic development has changed in the past several decades, with a shift in focus away from attracting large-scale industrial companies as the economy itself has changed.

"Economic development" will continue to be a popular catch phrase, particularly for those running for office. A program like this can help ensure voters can better challenge candidates on what they mean by economic development, and how to bring it about.

This new citizens academy program should allow the public to better understand how this community can adapt to a changing economy, and can encourage residents to be more involved in the broader economic goals of where they live.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EDC is launching citizens academy

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:12 AM CDT

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. is launching a citizens academy this winter.

The academy, which EDC President Nick Brake says is intended to encourage public involvement in and understanding of economic development, will be the third such venue for public engagement.

The city of Owensboro has one, and so does the Owensboro Police Department.

The EDC's plan is to accommodate all residents who sign up. Brake expects to see interest in the sessions, but he doesn't think the numbers will be unmanageable.

"I think there will be a lot of interest; jobs are always a concern," Brake said. "And economic development has changed considerably in recent years."

The EDC will use the city's two programs as a model, offering three two-hour sessions from January to March.

Participants can expect to learn more about the strategies and ideas of modern economic development including a behind-the-scenes look at the EDC's process.

They also will talk with business leaders about the economy and visit the Centre for Business and Research and other EDC resources.

Brake hopes the academy will yield ambassadors for the EDC and have success similar to the city's programs.

The second goal is to inform.

"There are a lot of things nowadays that can be done to promote economic development by the average person sitting at a computer," Brake said. "We live in a networked world, and you never know when somebody may have an interest in investing in Owensboro or marketing Owensboro."

The citizens academy is an outgrowth of the EDC's strategic plan process that involved meetings with target groups and the public, board chairman Rod Kuegel said.

It is expected to be an annual program.

The EDC is a public-private partnership with an annual budget of about $600,000. About half of its budget is from public dollars. In recent years, the private sector has contributed about $150,000 to $200,000.

Joy Campbell, 691-7299, jcampbell@messenger-inquirer.com

To Attend

To sign up for the new Economic Development Corp. Citizens Academy, visit www.edc.owensboro.com or call 926-4339.

Owensboro taking steps toward bluegrass center

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:12 AM CDT

A feasibility study with a breakdown of the costs of turning the state office building into the proposed International Bluegrass Music Center won't be ready until March.

But Mayor Ron Payne still wants the board of trustees of the International Bluegrass Music Museum at its Nov. 6 meeting to approve in theory relocating the museum to the state office building, three blocks west of the current museum.

"All we can do now is just give them our blessing to keep going forward on it," Terry Woodward, vice chairman of the museum board, said recently. "We can't make a commitment until we have better numbers on what it's going to cost."

He added: "At this point, all we can say is we're intrigued with the idea. Certainly, we hope to be part of it. We encourage them to move forward with planning."

"We haven't found anything that would be particularly expensive," said Barry Alberts, managing partner of CityVisions Associates, the Louisville company working on the plans for the bluegrass center.

"It looks like costs will be reasonable," he said.

Payne said once he gets the blessing of the museum board, he wants to appoint a national -- or possibly international -- panel to plan the bluegrass center.

"I'm asking them (the museum board) to come up with names of people to serve on a committee to be in charge of planning the center," he said. "I'd like seven from Owensboro and five nationally."

That panel would work with Alberts, Payne said.

"Hopefully, they could start by the first of the year," he said. "I don't know how long it will take."

The panel would also work on fundraising and planning a marketing campaign for the project. "This could be the biggest thing we do downtown," Payne said.

A preliminary drawing by CityVisions shows the parking lot of the state office building covered in grass with seating space available for about 1,000 people.

"There's no place in Owensboro to listen to bluegrass on a regular basis," Alberts said. "We want to change that."

Indoor/outdoor stage

An indoor/outdoor stage is on the northeast corner -- Frederica Street side -- of the building.

Inside would be room for 250 to 400 people at a concert.

In good weather, a door on the back of the stage could be opened and the stage turned for an outdoor concert, Alberts said.

"This will be a bluegrass cultural center," he said. "It's more than a museum. We're looking at things that would complement bluegrass -- a restaurant, clothing store, an instrument store, things that celebrate the bluegrass culture. We want to highlight bluegrass as a brand."

Woodward said he's a little concerned that the parking lot isn't large enough for concerts.

"I'm not opposed to the design," he said, "but if you don't plan big enough, you can have problems later."

On the northwest corner of the building, the drawing shows a restaurant with outdoor seating.

The city wants a barbecue restaurant included in the bluegrass center -- combining bluegrass and barbecue in one location.

"We've had informal discussions about a restaurant," said Fred Reeves, the city's downtown development director. "We would like to have a barbecue restaurant downtown. It's dedicated space that the city would lease. The museum doesn't have the staff or the expertise to handle leases."

He said the architects went on the roof of the building "and they say we can do something as exotic as a rooftop restaurant if there's interest in it."

Dan Hays, executive director of the Nashville-based International Bluegrass Music Association, lived in Owensboro for 12 years when the IBMA was headquartered here.

He likes the idea of putting a barbecue restaurant in the center.

"We're food people in general," he said of bluegrass fans. "But bluegrass and barbecue share a cultural connection of being natural and real. This bluegrass fan definitely loves barbecue."

"A lot of people come here for bluegrass and barbecue, and having them in the same place would be good," said Gabrielle Gray, the museum's executive director.

Woodward said a barbecue restaurant "would draw people to the center every day and every night. We don't have barbecue downtown now."

That side of the building would be just across the street from the proposed Hampton Inn & Suites and one block from the planned convention center.

Naming rights possible

"I think naming opportunities (for different parts of the center) are possible," Woodward said. "It will be unique and one of a kind. We've never gone to Cracker Barrel, Martha White Flour, Martin Guitars with a presentation.

"They want large numbers of people and with 25,000 people a year now at the museum, we're not large enough," he said. "But the bluegrass center could attract a couple hundred thousand people a year."

"Naming rights are not only possible, but highly likely," Gray said.

"It's a difficult economy," Hays said. "But everyone is looking for creative ways to market and to brand what they are doing. We're increasingly seeing those connections (between corporate America and bluegrass) grow."

Corporations, he said, want to know what they'll gain by putting their name on part of the center.

Payne, Woodward and Reeves took a drawing of the proposed center to the IBMA convention in Nashville last month.

Reeves said he later ran into a bluegrass musician in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

"He was coming from the IBMA convention." Reeves said. "He said there were broad smiles after we made our presentation."

"There was a tremendous amount of discussion at IBMA," said Gray, who had information about the bluegrass center at the museum's booth at the convention after Payne's group left.

"We generated more traffic at our booth with those signs than any other booth," she said. "There's been nothing but positive energy."

"People were excited that the development was happening and had a bluegrass focus," Hays said. "The vision is exciting. The ideas are exciting and made an impression. There is a significant amount of buzz in the industry."

Giant instrument on corner

The drawing of the center shows a giant musical instrument -- probably at least 30 feet high -- on the corner of Second and Frederica streets against the building.

It would be a sign, similar to the 120-foot, 68,000-pound bat outside the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Louisville, Alberts said.

The instrument, which would be visible for blocks, would help attract people to the center, he said.

The bluegrass museum has an Internet radio station.

Alberts wants to see it on the ground floor of the state office building with a window so people passing on the street can stop to look in at what's happening.

The drawing shows a steel structure on the Veterans Boulevard side of the block with stalls to be used by the farmers market.

Payne said the stalls could also be used for other things, such as an art festival.

The roof could have balcony seating for concerts, Alberts aid.

"It's a plain-looking building," he said of the state office building. "But we can animate it. Physically, we could redo the building in 12 to 18 months."

That would put its opening at about the same time as the hotel and convention center.

"This could put Owensboro on the international map," Payne said. "Over the next three to four years, we'll really transform downtown. The excitement is building."

"People are saying I can't wait to help," Gray said. "We'll have a lot of volunteers coming in to help. The bluegrass community is very grateful."

"People say it's time we acknowledge how important bluegrass music is," Reeves said.

"The feasibility study will look at possible grants and fundraising opportunities," he said. "We'll have a nice presentation piece to take to Frankfort and Washington when we approach them for money."

Bill Monroe, "the father of bluegrass music," was born and is buried in Rosine, about 40 miles southeast of Owensboro.

The city's drive to capitalize on bluegrass began 25 years ago when what was then the Owensboro-Daviess County Tourist Commission launched a drive to create a bluegrass festival, a professional bluegrass association, a convention, an awards show and a museum.

The tourist commission was a founding member of the IBMA that fall and persuaded the organization to move its headquarters to Owensboro the following year. It moved back to Nashville in 2002.

The museum opened on a part-time basis in the RiverPark Center complex in 1992. But it was 2002 before it opened full-time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Survey shows more than half of Kentucky manufacturers plan to hire in 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 20, 2010) — Gov. Beshear today announced that 57 percent of Kentucky manufacturers surveyed for the recently conducted 2010 Annual Manufacturing Wage and Benefits Survey said they are planning to hire between one and 19 employees in 2011, a 16 percent jump from last year’s results. The annual report, sponsored by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet’s Department of Workforce Investment and the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM), was released today.

“The results of this survey are good news for Kentucky businesses and Kentucky families,” said Gov. Beshear. “Growth in the manufacturing industry will be critical to Kentucky recovering from the global economic crisis, and this survey shows that manufacturers find Kentucky a positive place to do business. In addition, businesses across Kentucky are able to maintain or add new jobs by taking advantage of the new incentives the state offers under my administration.”

The survey showed that, for the first time, the average annual wage of manufacturing employees in Kentucky broke the $50,000 mark. Manufacturing employees made an average of $51,771 in 2010, up from $48,277 in the 2008-2009 survey, for an increase of 7.2 percent. Compared to 2010, the average annual manufacturing wage has jumped from $34,736 in 2000, and it has increased each year since 2000. Sixty-three percent of the 177 manufacturing job categories recorded a higher average wage in the 2010 survey.

“The fact that wages went up 7.2 percent from the last survey was a positive surprise,” said Shawn Herbig, president of IQS Research. “It shows that employers are working to keep the staff they have by compensating them appropriately.”

IQS Research of Louisville collaborated with KAM on the development of the wage and benefits survey for Kentucky’s manufacturing community. The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, South Central Kentucky Regional Economic Development Partnership and the Central Kentucky Career Center also supported the survey this year.

“The Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM) clearly understands the importance of helping the Commonwealth’s manufacturing community control costs, especially when making hiring and promotion decisions,” stated Greg Higdon, KAM president & CEO. “KAM's 99th annual Wage & Benefits Survey Report is a valuable tool manufacturers can use in their efforts to compensate employees in a fair and competitive manner.”

“This study represents more than 31,000 salary and hourly manufacturing employees and 202 companies in Kentucky. It gives us a valuable snapshot of what is happening and helps us measure the vitality of the sector in Kentucky. It shows that manufacturing is moving forward cautiously from the recession and making plans to hire in the next year, which is a positive,” said Beth Brinly, commissioner of the Department of Workforce Investment.

In addition to the statewide report, the Department of Workforce Investment worked with KAM to produce a set of regional reports. The information gives manufacturers timely and accurate wage and benefits information such as paid vacation and sick time, health insurance and overtime pay when making hiring and promotion decisions.

To conduct the survey, IQS Research e-mailed invitations to Kentucky manufacturers. Information was collected and compiled during July and August 2010. The number of companies participating in the report rose from 147 in the last survey to 202 this year. Of the employers who participated, 55 percent said that they had fewer than 100 employees. All of the information provided in the report is in aggregate form, so as to not identify individual companies.

In addition to wage and benefits information, for the first time in the survey’s 99-year history questions were included about green jobs and what Kentucky manufacturers are doing or planning to do to make companies more environmentally friendly.

The number of companies that are currently producing green products is 43 percent, while 40 percent are in the process of developing new green products. In addition, 69 percent of employers are educating and training their workforce on ways to use energy more efficiently, reduce pollution, conserve natural resources and be more cost effective.

“The survey found some very interesting trends happening in green jobs across the state. This study indicates that Kentucky manufacturers are recognizing the importance of green technology and manufacturing for future growth and that’s exciting,” said Brinly.

Questions about benefits showed that 80 percent of the companies provide nine or more paid holidays per year. Health insurance was offered by about 97 percent of employers surveyed.

Companies were also asked about hiring temporary workers. About 68 percent of the employers currently use temporary staff as compared to 65 percent in the last report. In the 2010 survey, about 41 percent said they plan to hire temporary workers in the future as compared to 3.4 percent of employers surveyed in the last report.

The manufacturing sector employs more than 212,000 people in Kentucky as of August 2010, according to the Department of Workforce Investment.

Visit www.KAManufacturers.com or call 502-352-2485 for information on how to purchase a copy of the 2010 KAM Wage and Benefits Survey report.

EDC encourages Public Involvement with Economic Development Citizen Academy

In an effort to continue to encourage public involvement and understanding of economic development, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation will launch an Economic Development Citizen’s Academy this winter.

The program is modeled on the successful Citizen Academy programs used by the City of Owensboro and the Owensboro Police Department. The Economic Development Citizen Academy will consist of three two-hour sessions scheduled from January to March 2011.

“The board and staff of the EDC are very committed to public participation in the economic development,” said EDC Board Chair Rod Kuegel. “This Citizen Academy is a direct outgrowth of the public process we used in creating our most recent strategic plan. The EDC currently has a greater level of public input and participation than any other time in the history of the organization.”

The sessions will offer comprehensive insight into the strategies and ideas of modern economic development. Participants will get a behind the scenes view of the economic development process, dialogue with leaders from local businesses about the regional economy and visit amenities such as the Centre for Business and Research.

“Economic development has evolved and changed significantly over the past decade,” said EDC President Nick Brake. “In a more global, yet increasingly networked world, many of these changes mean that the average citizen sitting at the computer screen can be involved in our efforts to promote the region. We are hoping to encourage more citizens to learn about economic development so that we can create ambassadors that can tell our story in a whole new way."

The EDC anticipates offering the academy program annually. For more information or to sign up for the Economic Development Citizen’s Academy visit edc.owensboro.com or call 926-4339.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hafer Associates moving downtown

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 12:11 AM CDT

Hafer Associates architectural firm is moving into part of the first floor of the Newberry-Wile Building downtown at 101 E. Second St.

The firm, which also has offices in Evansville, entered the local business community about three years ago when it bought the Collignon & Nunley firm from George Collignon.

The company now has eight people in its Owensboro offices, including Dennis Wilson of Owensboro, the most recent hire.

Hafer was looking for the right location, and the space at Second and Allen streets owned by Phil and Laura Clark fit the bill.

"This is a nice, historic building right in the heart of downtown," said David Wills, Hafer's managing principal partner. "We also like that it's next to the parking garage, and we'll rent space there."

The Hafer firm does a lot of historical preservation work, so that also made the location a good fit, he said.

The architects also are very involved in designing sustainable buildings -- those that are energy-efficient, Wills said.

The Clarks live on the third floor of the Newberry-Wile Building, which covers 101-105 E. Second St., and several other tenants occupy offices within the 16,000-square-foot space.

Hafer will occupy about 4,000 square feet of the northwest portion of the building's first floor.

The Counseling Center also is on the first floor, and the second- floor occupants include Financial Freedom Partners, David York & Associates and attorney Charles Lamar.

Hafer has continued to rent space from Collignon at 1535 Frederica St.

The business is working with local contractors to get pricing on the renovations for the new location.

"It's very exciting for us," Wills said. "It will probably be ready sometime after the first of the year.

Records show that Sol Wile, a German immigrant, built the building at 101 E. Second in 1881. He eventually expanded the store, Sol Wile & Sons, adding the section at 105 E. Second.

But in 1927, Owensboro's largest clothing store closed. Newberry's department store was located there in later years.

The building has had several owners over time, including the county -- but it also was empty for quite a few years and fell into major disrepair.

Rescued and renovated in the 1990s, the structure's transformation then signaled hope for a downtown renaissance, but it was abandoned again before finally gaining its current owners in 2005.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Louisville, Owensboro will cooperate to grow life-science companies

Nucleus, the life-sciences initiative of the University of Louisville Foundation, and Owensboro economic development officials will cooperate to form and grow high-tech and life science companies.

Under an arrangement announced Wednesday, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. will introduce companies interested in aging and long-term care technologies to Nucleus for help analyzing business opportunities. Louisville is home to several major long-term care companies, and Nucleus is establishing the International Center for Long Term Care Innovation in Louisville.

Nucleus will introduce Louisville companies with technologies in the areas of plant-made drugs and food sciences to the Owensboro agency for similar business-growth services.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Paseo Tower construction to start soon

12 Oct 2010 — Messenger-Inquirer
By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer

Construction on the Paseo Tower in Riverfront Crossing ' the block north of the Daviess County Courthouse ' should begin this month and be completed by summer.

The tower ' sometimes referred to as a clock tower ' is the 'vertical signature piece' of that section of downtown redevelopment, Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves said Monday.

Tony Cecil, the city's operations manager, said the tower will be in the center of the block on the paseo ' a passageway that forms a cross between Second Street, Veterans Boulevard, Frederica Street and St. Ann Street.
'It will be 25 feet tall, 14 feet long and 14 feet wide,' he said. 'It won't be taller than the two-story buildings, but you'll still be able to see it from all four streets.'

The top, Cecil said, 'will be ornate to draw people into the block.'
The tower will have brick veneer walls with limestone molding and cornices.
A clock ' similar to the clocks that used to be in railroad depots, Cecil said ' will be placed about halfway up the tower.

People won't be able to climb the tower, but the base can be used for a variety of functions, Cecil and Reeves said.

'There's an open area at the bottom that's big enough for a small ensemble to play or for stump speaking,' Reeves said.

Hall Contracting of Louisville won the contract in July to rebuild Smothers Park and Veterans Boulevard and to build Riverfront Crossing with a bid of $19.4 million for the entire package.

That was nearly $4 million less than the nearest competitor.
Cecil said the bid didn't break out the cost of the Paseo Tower itself.
Several buildings in the Riverfront Crossing block, including the old American Bounty restaurant, were torn down to open up the area.
A new two-story restaurant is planned to replace American Bounty, and another new building might face Veterans Boulevard.

City officials say the second building could be a four-story structure next to the Sullivan, Mountjoy, Stainback & Miller law office, with ground-floor retail and condos or apartments above.

The original concept for the block in November 2008 called it 'Market Square Plaza.'

Plans called for an open-air plaza, which would include covered areas along its edges that could be home to a regular farmers market as well as providing space for retail sales kiosks and a open area for people to gather.

But after the city bought the 17-acre Executive Inn Rivermont property, the plans changed to relocate the farmer's market there.

City, Gateway Planning win international award

12 Oct 2010 — Messenger-Inquirer
By the Messenger-Inquirer

Owensboro and Gateway Planning Group of Fort Worth, Texas, have won a Downtown Achievement merit award from the International Downtown Association for their work on Owensboro's placemaking initiative and riverfront development projects.

The award was presented at the 56th annual conference of the International Downtown Association last week in Fort Worth.

The awards 'celebrate and communicate the most successful and innovative efforts in worldwide downtown development,' according to the announcement.
They 'recognize the best practices that downtown revitalization, management and leadership have to offer,' it said.

Scott Polikov with Gateway Planning Group and Fred Reeves, executive director for Owensboro's downtown development, attended the conference and addressed a panel about 'Revitalizing Downtowns Through Form-Based Codes and Public/Private Financing.'

'To be recognized by an international organization and among our peers for our efforts to revitalize our riverfront and downtown is a great honor and further affirmation that Owensboro is on the right track to progress,' Mayor Ron Payne said in a news release.

According to its website, the 56-year-old International Downtown Association has more than 650 member organizations in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Honored for innovation - Phill’s Custom Cabinets earns highest industry honor for ‘Cabinotch’ cabinet manufacturing system

By Benjamin Hoak
Excerpt from Greater Owensboro Business publication - Fourth Quarter 2010

A 67-year old cabinetmaker from Pennsylvania who has been in business since 1971 called Phillip Crabtree of Phill’s Custom Cabinets in Owensboro a few weeks ago. “What you’ve done has completely revolutionized my cabinet shop,” he said. “We’ve gone from (probable) bankruptcy next year to a 25 or 30 percent margin.” Cabinotch, a patent-pending computerized cabinet-building system developed by Crabtree and his father, Phill Crabtree, over the last five years, is the kind of product that’s going to produce many more such phone calls. In August, the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) awarded Cabinotch its 2010 Challengers Award – one of the industry’s highest honors. “It’s like an Olympic swimmer winning the gold,” Crabtree said. “These aren’t given to small guys. Companies spend millions (trying to win).” Cabinotch produces pre-cut custom cabinets at high speed and low prices without sacrificing quality. Crabtree credits his father, an expert millwright who started the company 36 years ago, with the success as well. “He’s just as much part of it as me,” he said. “Dad and I worked all of it together.” The company began the IWF Challengers award application process in April and was named one of 22 finalists in June. Presented every two years, the award challenges companies to use technology to move the woodworking industry forward. After a 15-minute final presentation at the IWF in August – the fair included more than 950 exhibiting companies and judges from all over the world – Phill’s Custom Cabinets was named one of seven winners, marking the first time that a first-time exhibitor has won the award. Six of the eight judges told Crabtree that Cabinotch was the most innovative product they had ever seen. As a result of the award and its publicity – publications around the world will be writing about the Challenger awards – Crabtree is anticipating an increase in business. The company is already getting calls and they’ve invested in more equipment to accommodate the demand. He expects newly-created jobs to soon follow.

How Cabinotch works:

Custom cabinet-makers enter their cabinet height, width and depth specifications to the thousandth of an inch at Cabinotch’s website, www.cabinotch.com. The system’s software automatically programs equipment in the Crabtree’s shop to cut the cabinet elements to those exact specifications. The pieces are then delivered fl at-stacked to the client’s shop, where the ingenious interlocking design lets the cabinetmakers form the cabinet boxes in a matter of minutes. Customers building custom pieces can then add their own doors, finish and trim. The process is faster and less expensive than if cabinet makers built their own cabinet boxes by hand. It’s also more efficient – instead of cutting sheet after sheet of plywood by hand to get exact dimensions, Cabinotch produces minimal waste. Because of its precise measurements and machinery that can cut to 1/20 of the thickness of a human hair, scrap pieces from 10 Cabinotch
kitchens would only fill a 5-gallon bucket, Crabtree said. The company’s YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/cabinotch) shows several videos of Crabtree demonstrating how Cabinotch cabinets work. In one time-lapse video, Crabtree and an employee assemble and install 13 cabinets – an entire kitchen’s worth – in just 49 minutes. Crabtree said his ability to conceive and produce the process goes back to high school. “I learned more in three years with Mr. Green at Apollo High School in tech lab…than in all four years of college,” he said. “It’s just priceless to me to have (that) training.” Crabtree dreamed up the basic Cabinotch premise while laying laminate flooring at night to pay for his college education at
the University of Kentucky. “If laminate flooring could be clicked together, I thought machinery could do it for cabinets,” he said. After he earned his degree in management and marketing, he came back to join his father’s company on Kentucky 81 in Owensboro. “We’ve got 23 of the best employees in the country,” he said. “It’s a rock-solid company built on strong Christian principles. We don’t just have employees. We have family.” Phill Crabtree started his company in his garage in 1975. Since then, the company has relocated eight times and now serves an area from Indianapolis to Nashville, with shipping available to any location across the country. The company produces custom cabinets, bookcases, desks and built-ins. The word “custom” conjures up images of high prices, but Phillip Crabtree said their process allows them to build pieces so quickly that they can beat a quote on a custom kitchen from Lowes or Home Depot by 10 percent. He is still amazed they actually won the award, even though he was confident in their idea. “For a little guy from Owensboro to come in and win is incredible – the global impact that we could have from Owensboro.”

Existing businesses want to keep development on track

By Joy Campbell
Exerpt from Greater Owensboro Business Publication - Fourth Quarter 2010

New eateries, a libation emporium, a photo studio, gift shops — the list of businesses opening in downtown Owensboro is continuing to grow. And the explosion of new retail and restaurant establishments is happening while the city is still on the cusp of its $79.4 million renovation. The new business owners are reporting fast starts to their investments, and they are optimistic about the future as downtown starts to take its new shape. “It has been everything I expected it to be — fantastic,” said Samantha Ellison, co-owner of Bee Bop’s, a ‘50s-themed diner at 122 West Second St. The diner opened May 6 — just as the International Bar-B-Q Festival was bringing thousands of visitors downtown. Ellison said she chose Owensboro because it reminded her of a happy childhood experience. She lived in a town not so different from Owensboro, except it had cobblestone streets downtown. “My mother took me to Woolworth’s, and we got a Limeade at the counter,” she said. Bee Bop’s has a 32-foot counter with stools and service behind the counter. Ellison is pleased with the customer feedback she’s getting. “I think we have a great concept going here,” she said. “We’ve tweaked the menu to fit the downtown crowd.” Most recently, she added soups to accommodate her customers. “I wish I had more seats — that’s a good thing,” Ellison said. As she fast-forwards four to five years, she sees 10 Bee Bop’s up and running. “The next one will definitely be in Bowling Green,” Ellison said. “Then maybe Evansville.” She hasn’t ruled out a second location on Kentucky 54, but she wants to see what happens when the new hospital opens in east Daviess County. Bee Bop’s has 17 employees. Carol Reader, owner of “C-ing” Polkadots, one of downtown’s newest shops, has a similar success story. She opened May 10, the Monday following the barbecue festival. “I can’t believe the number of people who come back into the store and bring their out-of-town guests to show it off,” Reader said. “The last two weeks have been the best yet.” Reader is a lifelong Owensboro resident and has great memories of shopping at stores, including McAtee’s and Ferrell’s, when downtown was vibrant. “Seeing downtown revitalized is so important,” she said. “I’m praying and hoping that it will be developed.” Carol and Scott Reader own several downtown buildings. “I wanted my own shop, and I felt the Lord wanted me to do this,” she said. The building has been totally renovated. She has made good use of the space with gift items, a children’s boutique and gallery, original art, home decor, custom gift baskets and custom framing, goodie baskets, sculptures — a variety — elegantly displayed on two floors. “We offer free gift wrapping and free local delivery, and that has been well-received,” she said. “We’re very service-oriented.” The shop also sells organic coffees and lattes and customers can sample the drinks and goodies. Reader sees a bright future for downtown and “C-ing” Polkadots. “I think when the downtown renovation is done, it will get better,” she said. “The first thing we will do when we can is expand on the back.” When the business starts to profit, she expects to use the funds to finance mission work. Other new businesses that have opened downtown recently are Gambrinus Libation Emporium at 116 West Second St.; Second Street Pub, 119 East Second St. And other launches are expected. Al Gendek, co-owner of Diamond Delights Cafe & Bakery, is gearing up to open that shop at 222 Allen St. He and his wife Marva are moving their well-established business from downtown Henderson. The decision to relocate the 12-year-old company to Owensboro’s downtown district speaks of the couple’s high expectations for the area. The Gendeks did their homework — researching how existing downtown businesses are faring and scouting an open building. Al Gendek told the Messenger-Inquirer last month that he had his eye on the 110-year-old structure for nearly a year before signing a lease with owner Leo Portaluppi. Portaluppi, who has two City Subs & Salads shops in Owensboro, was eyeing a third location when he bought the Allen Street building at auction in June. The Gendeks see the investments the city and county have made in developing its core as a strong signal for the future. They also have ties to Owensboro, having lived in the city from 1974 until the mid-1980s. Katherine Taylor, an Owensboro native, is renovating the space at 412 East Second St. for Studio Slant, an art gallery and hand-made gifts boutique. The gallery will open in October with a show of work by eastern Kentucky artist John Haywood. Haywood’s paintings spotlight the stereotypes of Appalachia. “Owensboro doesn’t currently have a gallery with rotating shows by well-known artists where every piece is for sale,” said Taylor. Other artists slated to offer their work for sale at Studio Slant include Owensboro native and glass artist Brook Forrest White and Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, a fiber artist who is also a tenured full professor of fine art at the University of Kentucky. The gallery’s hand-made gift items will include a custom blended spa line by Red Leaf and jewelry by local designer Paula Canant. Taylor knew downtown was the right place to open her gallery. “I only looked for space in the downtown area because I love the growth that is going on right now. Downtown is ‘happening’ and I want to be part of it,” she said.

Keep the momentum going

Owensboro’s planned redevelopment includes a new events center and hotel and riverfront improvements. The city has received $37.6 million in federal funds to build a river wall and has contributed about $4 million in local funds to that project. The redevelopment also will bring changes in traffic patterns, with Second and Fourth streets turning into two-way. Restaurateur George Skiadas makes no secret that he’s excited about the potential for downtown Owensboro. “The future is limited only by our imagination,” said Skiadas, who owns the Famous Bistro, 102 West Second St. “The atmosphere is so positive downtown now.” Skiadas just returned from a trip to St. Louis where he talked to a restaurant manager in the west-central section of the city. “The things we’re creating here and the issues we have here — they went through — and their results were phenomenal,” Skiadas said. Some of the common issues are filling empty stores, making downtown pedestrian-friendly, improving the riverfront and creating a service-friendly atmosphere. “They’ve been doing this for 20 years with success,” Skiadas said. “That was a nice affirmation of our efforts here.” Skiadas said he also picked up a magazine at the hotel where he stayed in St. Louis that had a story detailing the commitments officials had to make to avoid the city’s decline. “That is a much larger scale, but the issues were similar,” he said. “We’re already seeing some results here with new businesses opening that are creating that atmosphere we need.” Skiadas wants to see even more eateries open. “The more, the merrier,” he said. “In St. Louis, it was one restaurant after another, yet it took us a half-hour to find a table. That’s a good situation to have.” Skiadas and Ellison touted the efforts of We Are Downtown, a downtown business group. “The downtown businesses have really supported us,” Ellison said. “We go to the We Are Downtown meetings, and they are very positive.” Skiadas said the business group has advanced the interests of downtown. Rosemary and Larry Conder have been systematically adding to their investment in downtown Owensboro. They now own six properties — all historic buildings. The couple started their own downtown development in 2007 when they bought The Gallery at 107 East Second St. and renamed it The Crowne at 107. Then they bought the building at 109 East Second Street that is now The Creme Coffee House. In 2009, they purchased the Smith-Werner Building which now houses Gambrinus and Bee Bop’s and can handle another business. They also have created four apartments on the second floor. They bought the property at 221 St. Ann last year. Their most recent investment is two buildings at 101 and 103 West Third St. The purchase prices and renovations at three of the sites has tipped their total investment past $2 million. This summer when the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce named the Conders 2010 Entrepreneurs of the Year, both Conders said the city’s and county’s development plan spurred them to move forward with their downtown plans. And they’re not finished yet. Larry Conder said last month the couple is considering building a replica of the Bank of Commerce on the southeast corner of Second and St. Ann streets. Daviess Fiscal Court owns the site — a parking lot next to Bee Bop’s. “Our expectations can be influenced by what happens in Owensboro in the next six months,” Larry Conder said in reference to the November election and subsequent determination of the makeup of the Owensboro City Commission and Daviess Fiscal Court. Downtown development efforts are “rolling downhill pretty fast,” he said.
But for all of the work that has been done, there is still a significant amount of infra-structure left to build and traffic changes left to implement, Conder said. And people, by nature, are impatient. They have seen the buildings come down, but none go up. “Changes in government officials and seeing the buildings go up are the biggest things to look for,” he said. “We need to see those things play out.” Conder would like to see both public and private investment in the works — especially more from the private sector. “I would like to see some outside investors coming in; that’s a telling sign,” he said.