Monday, January 4, 2010

Payne: Jobs, arts to be 2010 focus

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Thursday, December 24, 2009 12:18 AM CST
With Owensboro's big riverfront and downtown development projects well under way, Mayor Ron Payne said Wednesday it's time the city turned its attention to a couple of other subjects -- namely economic development and arts funding.
The first is all about jobs.
"I have asked Nick Brake (president of the Owensboro Economic Development Corp.) to make a presentation at our first work session of the year on our economic development efforts," Payne said. "I want to hear a little on what we are focusing on. Is it time we started looking for ways to grow jobs? Owensboro is changing. So many things in the city are in a state of flux. With HON and GE, we see manufacturing jobs going away."
More than 350 local jobs are scheduled to disappear in 2010 with the announced closing of the GE and HON plants. However, as Payne noted, many construction projects are under way, and Owensboro Medical Health System is scheduled to begin construction of a hospital next year.
"We're becoming a regional medical center," Payne said. "What can we do to take advantage of that? How is Kentucky Bioprocessing doing? Where will jobs come from? ... It doesn't hurt, every once in a while, to take a look and ask 'How are we doing? Are we doing it the right way?' "
Kentucky Bioprocessing was created by OMHS almost four years ago to buy the former Large Scale Biology biomanufacturing center in Owensboro, which had closed in 2005. Today, the bioprocessing company is working with 12 to 15 clients in the United States, Germany, Canada, Lithuania, Great Britain and Italy, according to chairman Hugh Haydon.
"We really need to raise these issues on the community's agenda," Payne said. "We've spent the last year working on downtown and other construction projects, and we'll have some announcements soon about downtown and the National Guard Armory. Now we have the ability to look into other concerns, including the future of our arts programs."
Payne said local arts organizations struggle for financial stability, some more than others.
"I want to look at stabilizing arts financing," the mayor said. "That also fits into economic development. It's very important to economic development."
Payne mentioned the possibility of a selecting a group or committee to look at arts funding, not unlike the committee he appointed this year to study the Owensboro Riverport Authority.
"We've got a lot of talented people and I'd like to tap into that pool of talent to look at the arts issue," he said.
Dean Stanley, a board member of the Economic Development Corp. and chairman of the Owensboro Museum of Fine Arts board, commended the mayor for wanting to focus attention on jobs and arts funding.
"It's the right step to take a look at those areas," Stanley said. "Both are critically important to the community. Owensboro has a long history of its cultural base. Certainly, all of the entities we are generally familiar with, funding is always an issue. The economy has made it even tougher."
As for economic development, Stanley said Brake has provided outstanding leadership to the Economic Development Corp. and its efforts to lay the groundwork for future prosperity with attention to the bioprocessing, health care and retail sectors.
"That's been the appropriate thing to do, recognizing that with the traditional types of efforts with manufacturing, there's simply not a lot of opportunities there," Stanley said.
Stanley said the different entities involved in economic development locally work well together.
"I haven't seen them working at odds with each other," he said.