Friday, August 27, 2010

Photo studio moving into historic site

27 Aug 2010 — Messenger-Inquirer
By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer

Last October, Kenny and Debra King decided to follow their dream and open a photography studio.

They had operated Dream Copy Photography out of their home for nearly six years. But they wanted to turn it into a full-time business.

So, he left his job as a detailer at Pilot Steel. She quit her job as an office coordinator.

And they began looking for space to rent for a studio.

They wanted something downtown, with lots of room and high ceilings.

And they were on the verge of moving to downtown Henderson when they discovered Larry and Rosemary Conder's 160-year-old Smith-Werner Building near Second and St. Ann streets.

'We'd been looking for two years,' Kenny King said. 'This is what we were looking for. We were surprised that it was still available.'

'The exposed brick walls are gorgeous,' Debra King said.

Their new studio, which is scheduled to open in early September, is between Gambrinus Libation Emporium and Bee Bops.

The Kings' photography isn't typical studio portraits.

'We call it a photojournalistic style,' he said. 'We want a natural look. We're not looking for the staring-at-the-camera-and-smiling portraits.'

They'll do that if a customer asks.

'But we like to add our own twists,' Debra King says.

If the Kings had wanted a typical photography studio, they probably wouldn't have been able to lease the building.

'We want something that will bring people downtown 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,' Larry Conder said earlier this month about the building. 'We're pretty picky.'

The studio is moving into the last space in the Smith-Werner Building.

Much of the Kings' work is done outdoors or in other locations. But they'll use the studio for portrait work.

'We love downtown,' she said. 'There are so many edgy buildings. We've always loved the idea of being downtown. The businesses are somewhat different and more eclectic. That's what we are.'

They live near Goose Egg Park on West Third Street, not far from the downtown core.

'We love the walkability of downtown,' Kenny King said. 'We like to take our dogs and walk over to where the Executive Inn was and on into downtown.'

The Kings say they plan to do a lot of night work in the studio.

'We would like to do something different with the evening sessions,' she said.

Their wedding photography includes bridal parties, and that could mean a new business source for downtown restaurants, he said.

The Kings' work can be seen on their website '

Monday, August 23, 2010

Legislators like what they see during tour of Owensboro

By Rich Suwanski, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:28 AM CDT
Several legislators on the General Assembly's Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare toured Owensboro and then heard presentations from four key organizations Wednesday afternoon at Wendell Foster's Campus for Developmental Disabilities.

The event provided legislators with a close-up look at progress with high-profile building projects -- the downtown riverfront and Owensboro Medical Health System's new hospital on Pleasant Valley Road.

The tour also opened some eyes about a facility that has been an Owensboro institution for decades -- the Wendell Foster Campus.

"I live only 125 miles from here and I didn't know the facility was here," said Sen. Joey Pendleton of Hopkinsville. "Touring this facility, it's heartwarming to see the compassion for people who can't take care of themselves."

Committee co-chairman Rep. Tom Burch of Louisville said Wendell Foster's is "one of the best-kept secrets we have in the state with the facility and the delivery of services."

"I hope the whole state will know about it and can duplicate it."

Rep. Jim Glenn of Owens-boro said the committee will take the information it received during presentations from the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, Green River District Health Department, Wendell Foster's and OMHS and "be better informed with the issues" involving upcoming legislation.

"I'm extremely excited about what's going on in Owensboro," said committee co-chairwoman Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville. "We got a well-rounded view (of the city) and we'd like to come back when the riverfront is finished."

Jody Wassmer, chamber president, said the event went over well.

"The tour was a slam dunk in showing Frankfort decision-makers all the momentum Owensboro has right now," Wassmer said. "There is a buzz around the state about the positive and bold steps Owensboro has taken to improve itself."

When Wassmer addressed the committee, he emphasized the joint city-county efforts that helped secure funding for the riverfront project, as well as working with Indiana on the interstate corridor connector between I-64 and I-65.

Denton asked about the cooperation between city and county and wondered if it was a merged government. There were some chuckles in the audience of about 30. Wassmer then explained to the committee the failed merger attempt.

Terry Brownson, Wendell Foster's executive director, talked about the changes in care over the years at facilities like Wendell Foster's, moving from places that merely housed people with disabilities to places that provide a variety of services, including independent living, assistive technology and work training for residents.

Brownson asked the committee to consider ways to help with prevention and early intervention programs because pre-term and low-birthweight babies can lead to disabilities.

"The earlier we can address the issue in the developmental period, the earlier we can help," he said. "And that will save the commonwealth money in the long run."

Deborah Fillman, public health director at the Green River District Health Department, said some of her organization's greatest concerns include chronic disease like diabetes, obesity and heart disease, high teen birth rates, high smoking prevalence and high cancer deaths compared to the rest of the country.

Jeff Barber, OMHS president and CEO, explained the hospital's role, programs and services in its 11-county service area, as well as highlighting future challenges, including the stress placed on the Medicaid program and cost containment issues as a result of health care reform's expanded roles, and the worsening physician shortage facing the country.

The committee also passed a resolution honoring Glenn's late wife, Cornelia, who died in June. She was an educator and served on several boards of directors.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marriott hotel open for business

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 12:04 AM CDT

Owensboro has a new 109-room hotel open for business at 3120 Highland Pointe Drive just off Kentucky 54.

The Courtyard by Marriott, a $10-million-plus project, opened Thursday.

"Our focus is on giving people options," General Manager Ruth Ann Dearness said.

LinGate Hospitality Group, headquartered in Owensboro, owns and manages the four-story hotel that will operate as a Marriott franchise.
Dearness has returned to Owensboro after 11 years managing the Louisville East Hilton Garden Inn.

Her career in the hotel/hospitality industry includes several years in Owensboro as director of operations and general manager of the Executive Inn Rivermont and general manager of the Fairfield Inn.

She also worked at a LinGate hotel in Atlanta before moving to Louisville.

Dearness said the hotel is the first to sport what the franchise calls a refreshing business concept designed for business travelers or those who are on a pleasure trip.

The hotel has 35 employees now, with some of the same staff Dearness worked with at the Executive Inn and Fairfield Inn.

Just inside the hotel and to the right is The Bistro restaurant, which serves both breakfast and dinner and has Starbucks coffee available all day.

Neighbors from nearby professional offices already have discovered Starbucks at the Bistro, Dearness said.

The open-spaced area includes a variety of seating options with bright orange chairs.

The Bistro will have menu changes about once per quarter, she said.

"A lot of the focus now is on healthier food choices, and our focus will reflect that with quality, healthy foods, core menu items and seasonal selections," Dearness said.

The area is transformed at night to feature a full bar.

Along the outside wall are media booths with televisions and Internet connections providing guests with private work stations.

On the north wall just steps away from check-in is the GoBoard, a 57-inch, touch-screen television where guests can catch up on the news and identify local points of interest. It allows guests to print directions to the sites.

The lobby is a large, open space decorated with plenty of orange and blue and gold tones with a huge TV, a gas fireplace, library area and plenty of seating.

"We want this to be a place where guests can feel comfortable like it's their home and not just where they have to stay," Dearness said. "And everywhere you go, you'll find places to connect to the Internet."

The patio is designed for relaxation with lounge areas and large gas fire pit.

"When the weather breaks, this is going to be a great place for gathering," Dearness said.

The hotel also features an indoor swimming pool and fitness center.

The hotel's smallest room in size, the king standard, includes a king-sized bed, 32-inch TV, sofa/bed and a full, glassed-in shower in the bathroom. It has 362 square feet.

The Queen Standard room is a bit larger at 392 square feet.

Another option is Full King Suite at 728 square feet, which includes a king-sized bed, sleeper sofa, work station and couch, coffee nook, and plenty of seating.

That suite connects to a room that has two queen-sized beds providing more options.

An Executive Queen Suite also is available with 560 square feet of space.

"It's exciting to have a brand new hotel in Owensboro," said Karen Miller, executive director of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Dearness will be a guest speaker at the bureau's meeting today.

"It's beautiful," Miller said of the new hotel. "I think it raises the bar for a visitor's experience with the new concept they've introduced. It also increases the opportunity for us to go after additional business whether it's meetings, sports or other venues."

The convention and visitors bureau is counting on an increase in revenue this year from the room tax receipts the new hotel will generate.

The Executive Inn Rivermont closed in June 2008, taking 413 rooms out of Owensboro's offerings for visitors.

The Courtyard by Marriott is the first new hotel in Owensboro since the Comfort Suites opened on Salem Drive in 2002.

LinGate operates 19 hotels.

The new hotel's rates start at $99 per night.

A public event to show the hotel is planned for Sept. 18, Dearness said.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Widening of Panama Canal could benefit Owensboro's ports

The $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, expected to be completed in 2014, "will fundamentally change world commerce," the president of Kentuckians for Better Transportation said Wednesday.

Stan Lampe told the Green River Area Development District's board of directors that in the past shipments from Asia were placed in containers, shipped to the West Coast and then sent by rail to the Midwest and East Coast.

But a new lane of traffic will be opened in the Panama Canal in four years with a new set of locks, which will double the canal's capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships.

"The Panama Canal is your friend," Lampe said at the meeting at GRADD headquarters in Owensboro.

Cargo from Asia will then be able to pass through the canal and unload along the Gulf Coast onto smaller vessels that will take the containers up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, he said.

"This area of the state is prepared and ready for it," Lampe said. "In Owensboro, you have both private and public ports. That's a good thing. Container cargo is coming to your doorstep very soon. That's nothing but good for you."

"Anyone who waits until 2014 to start on this will probably be left behind," Ed Riney, president of the Owensboro Riverport, said later.

The port has been discussing building a slackwater harbor -- an inland channel for unloading barges -- for a container cargo operation for several years.

Riney said the port has completed several studies on what it would need to do to build a slackwater harbor and where to do it. And a preliminary design of the harbor is in the works.

But cost is an important factor, he said.

A slackwater harbor is likely to cost $20 million or more, Riney said. But such a harbor could handle up to six barges at a time, rather than handling one barge at a time on the river.

"But I don't know if we can afford it," Riney said.

The way the riverport envisions the system is barges could bring in containers and repackage the products there. Then, the repackaged product could be shipped by rail, truck or air.

Owensboro could become "a key intermodal hub for cargo," Riney said last year.

"It's far-fetched at this point, but the potential of containers is very significant for economic development," he said at the time.

KBT describes itself as a statewide trade group that provides education and advocacy for all modes of transportation.

"You can't put all your money in one mode of transportation," Lampe said. "You have to have rail, public transportation, air, water and streets, highways and bridges."

Counties that are along parkways, interstates or have international airports have a per capita income that's 56 percent higher than counties that don't, he said.

Lampe praised the Chamber Leadership Initiative for Northwestern Kentucky -- a coalition of 12 chambers of commerce in 10 counties working together on transportation issues -- for their efforts to bring I-69 through western Kentucky.

"It's paying off for you," he said.

Lampe is optimistic that Congress will invest more money in transportation projects despite the budget deficit and the lagging economy.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

New Bakery Restaurant is Coming to Downtown Owensboro

Diamond Delights Cafe & Bakery plans to move from downtown Henderson to downtown Owensboro later this month.

Al Gendek, who owns the 12-year-old business with his wife, Marva, said he hopes to be open for business at 222 Allen St. within two weeks.

It's a homecoming of sorts for the Gendeks.

He came to Owensboro in 1974 as a news reporter for WVJS-AM and Channel 2 News, a local cable news channel that went on the air that year.

Later, Gendek worked as a reporter for WGBF-AM and Evansville TV channels 7 and 25 before starting the cafe and bakery in 1998.

"My wife and I were married on the Kentucky Wesleyan (College) campus," he said Monday. "We lived in Owensboro until the mid-1980s. I commuted to Evansville to work."

In May, the Gendeks' son, Christopher, graduated from KWC.

"We've been coming to Owensboro a lot during the past four years," Gendek said. "We like what we've seen. I've been in contact with (Downtown Development Director) Fred Reeves for a year to a year-and-a-half."

"The most exciting thing to me is we're getting another food establishment downtown with a unique component," Reeves said. "He's offering something unique for downtown."

Gendek said he and his wife have visited a number of businesses downtown to study the location.

"We were impressed with the investments the city and county are making downtown," he said. "And all the businesses we talked to seem to be doing good. The location is close to the Judicial Center, the Courthouse, City Hall and banks."

The 110-year-old building at 222 Allen has housed Skeetor's Restaurant, the Greyhound bus station, Dan's Dawgs and Sunlite Music in the past two decades.

Leo Portaluppi, owner of City Subs & Salads, which has two locations in the city, bought the building at auction in June, saying he had plans to open a third location there.

Portaluppi could not be reached for comment Monday.

But Gendek said he's finalizing a lease with Portaluppi this week. He said he's been looking at the building for almost a year.

"That's the location he's wanted from Day One," Reeves said.

Gendek said a survey last spring by the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro that asked people what their ideal downtown would include helped with his decision to move to Owensboro.

A bookstore was the top choice with 199 votes, followed by 175 votes for a wine and cheese store and 161 for a bakery.

The cafe-bakery expects to get 60 to 75 percent of its business from the restaurant side and the rest from the bakery.

The menu will include pastries, muffins, sweets, cakes, biscuits and gravy, quiche, hot sandwiches, soups and salads with an emphasis on seafood on Fridays.

Hours will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

Gendek said he, his wife and son will work there, two employees are transferring from Henderson and he'll probably hire four to six people here.

The restaurant will likely seat 30 to 50 people, he said.

"But we plan to focus on carryout and delivery to downtown offices," Gendek said.

The cafe-bakery will also focus on catering, he said.

During the ice storm in January 2009, Diamond Delights catered meals for 255 Kenergy contract employees who were working long hours to repair damaged power lines for several days, Gendek said.

"We toyed with the idea of having two locations -- one in Henderson and one in Owensboro," he said. "But we decided to move everything to Owensboro. We're planning on commuting from Henderson, but our son wants us to move to Owensboro."

Reeves said he's not expecting any immediate announcements of new downtown businesses.

"But I'm very encouraged with conversations I've been having on a really good project that we hope comes through," he said.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Owensboro Chamber Named National Chamber of the Year

The Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce was honored Thursday night as the 2010 national chamber of the year in its category during the awards ceremony at the national conference of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives in Milwaukee, Wis.

The chamber bested the other finalist, the Fargo Moorhead North Dakota chamber, in the category of chambers with total revenues of $450,001 to $900,000.

"We're really excited," chamber President Jody Wassmer said from Milwaukee.

Wassmer and the rest of the chamber staff are attending the conference that wraps up today.

About 600 people attended the awards ceremony.

To get to the finalist stage, the chamber staff submitted an application that highlighted either how the organization had excelled during the year or its specific programs or initiatives that went above and beyond expectations.

The applications were reviewed and scored by chamber executives and past national winners.

In May, the two chambers with the greatest number of points advanced as finalists in four revenue categories.

"I don't know exactly what gave us the edge to win, but I have an idea," Wassmer said.

The chamber chose to feature results of two initiatives -- C-LINK, the Chamber Leadership Initiative for Northwestern Kentucky, and Owensboro Buys It!.

On Wednesday, Wassmer and operations manager Ashley Bradshaw had to sit in front of a panel of judges and answer 10 questions in 30 minutes.

"We didn't know the questions in advance, but they were mainly related to chamber operations and the selected initiatives," Wassmer said. "I think we must have done well on that."

The rest of the staff -- Missy Gant, membership manager; Mary Higginbotham, membership services manager; and Susan High, accounting manager -- also attended the conference.

Wassmer was quick to give credit to Owensboro businesses and volunteers who "make the chamber work."

C-LINK, made up of 12 regional chambers, led a charge for Interstate 69 in western Kentucky, and that project has seen significant progress over the past two years.

Owensboro Buys It! features tools and a venue for small businesses to get their messages out to large, local employers. It includes training for creating their messages and sessions in which they get face-to-face time with decision makers at major companies.

The award represents "bold advocacy and member service programs the chamber has initiated in recent years," Suzanne Northern Blazar, the chamber's board chairwoman, said in a news release.

Wassmer said winning the national chamber of the year award by 2012 was part of a strategic plan the board developed in early 2008.

In Owensboro, a concerted effort is underway to return to river roots

OWENSBORO, KY (WKYU) - In Owensboro, a series of downtown redevelopment projects has at least one major theme in common: they're all designed to improve life along the Ohio River. Across the country, river towns are rediscovering the joy--and economic incentives--of being near a major waterway. Kevin Willis visited Owensboro recently to learn more. Read or listen on WKYU.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

OMHS, U of L receive Funding for Researcher in Plant Therapeutics

The Owensboro Cancer Research Program will be receiving more than $4 million in funds from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and Kentucky's Bucks for Brains program to expand research faculty in plant made pharmaceuticals.

The University of Louisville announced Thursday morning that it received a $3.15 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to support the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center and cancer research taking place in Owensboro. That grant will be paired with the state funding to total $4.5 million for the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, according to a UofL press release.

"This funding will continue to support Owensboro's efforts to be the world center of plant therapeutics used in the treatment of diseases like cancer and HIV," said U of L president Jim Ramsey at a news conference in Owensboro. "The funding from the Helmsley Trust and Bucks for Brains will enable U of L to leverage the world's best talent in the plant pharmaceutical industry in Owensboro, Kentucky."

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