Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Officials promote downtown strategy to IBMA

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 12:02 AM CDT

Mayor Ron Payne led a local delegation to Nashville on Monday to explain the city's plans for making Owensboro a bluegrass center to the board of directors of the International Bluegrass Music Association.

"I was really pleased with the reception," said Terry Woodward, an Owensboro businessman who is vice chairman of the International Bluegrass Music Museum's board of trustees. "Having Ron go meant a lot. They liked hearing from the mayor."

Woodward, who accompanied Payne and Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves on the trip, was the first chairman of the IBMA in 1985.

Although the IBMA created the museum, they are today totally separate entities.

"We wanted to get their support for what we're doing," Payne said. "We want them to get the word around."

Woodward said: "We had lunch with them at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. They gave us 15 minutes to make our presentation, but they asked so many questions that we were there for half an hour.

"We told them about what we're doing with the whole waterfront and the plans for the bluegrass music center."

The city wants to move the bluegrass museum into the state office building at Second and Frederica streets and rename it the International Bluegrass Music Center, with indoor and outdoor stages for performances and possibly a barbecue restaurant with outdoor dining.

"We showed them what I call a cartoon drawing of what it could look like," Reeves said. "It's what could be, not necessarily what will be."

The bluegrass museum houses the IBMA's Hall of Fame.

"We told them we want to make it more exciting," Woodward said.

The IBMA had its headquarters in Owensboro from 1986 to 2003 and held its trade shows and Fan Fest here from 1987 to 1997.

"I pitched them the idea of coming back to Owensboro when we get this all done," Payne said. "I've gotta tell you, they didn't say no."

"They asked questions about the size of the new hotel (that's planned downtown) and the convention center," Woodward said. "Our convention center will be big enough to hold it, but we need more hotel rooms."

Payne said the city will be able to present more detailed drawings and a feasibility study when it meets with the museum board in Owensboro on Nov. 6.

Kitsy Kuykendall, the museum's board chairman, toured the 60,000-square-foot state office building -- three times the size of the current museum -- when she was in town this month.

"I was excited about all the space," she said. "That's going to be good for the city. I think everybody is excited about it. We just need to hear the details."

"I can't imagine we won't do it," Woodward said Tuesday. "This is the most exciting thing we're doing downtown. This will bring excitement to downtown year-round."

He said: "I was really pleased with our reception. I didn't detect any negativism at all."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Completion construction of bypass extension to start next spring

According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the second and final phase of construction on the 2.1 mile U.S. 60 bypass extension will start next spring with a May bid letting. That means the entire project could be done by mid to late 2013.

Phase I construction from U.S. 60 East to Hwy. 144 began last year and is expected to be completed by late 2011. The entire project has been largely funded by federal transportation dollars.

Completion of the bypass extension will open a new 100-mile, four-lane corridor between I-64 in southern Indiana and I-65 near Bowling Green with the summer 2011 opening of the new U.S. 231 in Spencer County, IN, the bypass extension and the existing Natcher Parkway.

Georgia group to visit for ideas

Georgia group to visit for ideas

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 12:07 AM CDT

Eight years ago, when Owensboro was looking for ideas to move the city forward, 40 community leaders visited Columbus, Ga., to take a look at how that city of nearly 190,000 had reinvigorated itself.

Now the tables have turned. Next week, eight Columbus business and community leaders will be in Owensboro to see what this community is doing to revitalize its downtown core while taking fuller advantage of its location on the Ohio River with riverfront redevelopment.

The visitors will be here a week from today, said Paul Weinberg, vice president and project manager for EDSA, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., planning, landscape architectural and urban design firm. EDSA has been heavily involved with Owensboro's downtown development process.

Columbus is considering a project to revitalize a portion of its riverfront along the Chattahoochee River, which separates the city from Phenix City, Ala.

The Chattahoochee is a fraction of the size of the Ohio River, but Columbus would like to turn it into a white-water rafting destination, while at the same time improving the riverfront.

While Owensboro's downtown initiatives are publicly funded, private groups are leading the way in Columbus, according to Weinberg. The W.C. Bradley Co., a Columbus-based company best known for its Char-Broil barbecue grill and Zebco fishing tackle companies, is committed to the proposed project.

The Columbus group's mission to Owensboro is twofold, Weinberg said. One is to see what is being done here, and the other is to evaluate EDSA's contribution. The Columbus group is considering hiring EDSA to do the design work for its project, Weinberg said.

In 2002, the Owensboro group toured Columbus' Springer Opera House, a restored 1871 theater with two performance halls, and the $75 million River Center For The Performing Arts, which has three theaters ranging from 2,000 seats to 150 seats. Those projects and several others including the city's RiverWalk and the Port City Civil WarNaval Museum were financed by a 1 percent sales tax that voters first approved in 1993 and reapproved five years later.

David Arrington, deputy city manager of Columbus, said he will travel to Owensboro next week. But he said the city is a secondary player in the planned improvement project. UPtown Columbus, Inc. and Business Improvement District, a private, nonprofit organization that supports downtown development in Columbus, is involved, Arrington said.

Much of Columbus is vibrant, but Weinberg said a few blocks of Broadway, the main downtown street, need additional energy, and that's the area city leaders are targeting.

While in Owensboro, the Columbus delegation plans to visit condos in the English Park area and the downtown river wall project and view plans for other segments of the downtown placemaking initiative. Members of the group will be at City Hall at 10:30 to meet local leaders.

State woos Detroit firms; some interested in region

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Saturday, September 25, 2010 12:15 AM CDT

With the recession officially over, manufacturers are starting to consider more relocations and expansions, Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., said Friday.

Brake was among 20 Kentucky economic development officials who participated in an "economic development mission" to Michigan and Canada this week.

The trip was sponsored by KentuckyUnited, a newly formed, public-private partnership to promote the state's business climate.

"We focus on the state as a whole," Brake said. "But Owensboro has access to all the leads."

He said he met with several auto parts firms that were considering sites in western Kentucky.

"They primarily work with American automakers now," Brake said. "But I think they have a keen interest in making inroads with foreign car makers."

Kentucky is the nation's third-largest automaker and is centrally located, he said.

In 2008, Kentucky trailed only Michigan and Ohio in production of autos.

Brake doesn't expect any immediate results from the trip.

The companies were considering expansions or relocations over the next 18 to 24 months, he said.

But the visits with 35 companies and site selection groups in Detroit, other parts of Michigan, Canada and northern Ohio weren't cold calls.

"We use a firm to identify companies that are considering expansions or relocations," Brake said. "All of these companies expressed an interest in Kentucky."

He said his office will conduct follow-up marketing with the companies during the next few weeks.

"Owensboro has a great story to tell, and the EDC is committed to getting the word out to businesses on the opportunities available in this region," Brake wrote on his blog.

"We go on several missions a year," he said. "But this is the first time we've been to Detroit."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hancock leads area in college, career readiness

College and career readiness data released for the first time this week show about a third of students in the area are ready for higher learning or a job.

College or career readiness was measured in two ways for the data, which was released by the Kentucky Department of Education on Monday and embargoed until Thursday.

Students were required to score at least 20 in reading, 18 in English and 19 in math on the ACT or possess a state-accredited certification in an area such as welding or computer programming to be deemed college- or career-ready. Each student was only counted once, even if they met the requirements of multiple areas.

Hancock County High School led area high schools with 44 percent of 2010 graduates deemed college- or career-ready.

Following were Daviess County High School with 43 percent, Apollo High School with 38 percent, Muhlenberg County High School with 37 percent, Ohio County High School with 32 percent, Owensboro High School with 31 percent and McLean County with 29 percent.

"This is really exciting baseline data," said Jana Beth Francis, director of assessment, research and curriculum development at Daviess County Public Schools. "It gives you a goal and a target."

Muhlenberg County and Ohio County were the only area high schools with students who achieved career certifications.

At Muhlenberg County, 36 students, or 11.58 percent of the graduating class, were career- ready because of a certification. At Ohio County, 13 students, or 5.39 percent of the graduating class, achieved a certification.

"Part of our merger was getting programs in place that would help the non-college-bound students," said Muhlenberg County Superintendent Dale Todd. "We have emphasized that from the start, and we know some of our new testing that is going to be in place in a couple years is going to be based on career readiness."

Todd said the number of job-certified students is high in his district for several reasons.

Muhlenberg County's school district is responsible for all its own career and technical programs.

There are also collaborative programs with local job providers and students can attain academic credits while achieving one of these certifications, Todd said.

"We strongly believe the electives students take should be centered around their careers," Todd said. "That's a huge focus, rather than having kids take electives just to get a credit."

Deborah Houghland, assistant superintendent at Muhlenberg County, said particular emphasis is put on programs such as nursing, business, mining, computer sciences and engineering.

"Career readiness doesn't rule out the possibility for a student to change his or her mind and attempt a two-year associate's degree or a four-year baccalaureate degree," Houghland said. "It's an attempt to meet the needs of the student and sometimes students change their minds."

Julie Clark, director of middle and secondary schools for DCPS, said some things may change that would make job certifications more accessible for students. Reimbursement programs for students that perform well on the certifications might be possible, she said.

"There's been concern about students being able to cover the cost of the exam," Clark said. "For some of our students, that's a real issue."

Next year, the data for readiness will also include test results from college placement exams such as the Compass Test.

In the meantime, all avenues of qualifying students are being expanded and improved. The new common core standards are lending themselves to this as well, Francis said.

Each school's goal is to increase college- or career-ready students by 50 percent by 2014, according to the report.

"I think it's important to remember that college and career ready are the same things nowadays," Francis said. "One of the things you're going to see is there's more focus now as to what high school should be about. It's clearly stated that high school is about college and career readiness. We look at these goals as doable because we know our curriculum is changing and that change will help us meet these needs."

Dariush Shafa, 691-7302 dshafa@messenger-inquirer.com

Downtown Owensboro revitalization taking shape

Twenty-one months after the $79.4 million "placemaking initiative" to revitalize downtown Owensboro was launched, work on most of the major, big-ticket elements of the project is still in the planning stages. But officials in charge of this community's largest-ever public/private civic improvement project say everything is on course for completion by late 2013.

Some major elements, such as Riverfront Crossing and the new Smothers Park, are expected to be finished much sooner than that -- less than two years from now.

The latest plans call for a $27 million convention and events center on the former Executive Inn Rivermont property, with part of it overlooking the Ohio River. As it looks now, the events center will be last component of the redevelopment plan to be finished. It will be flanked by a $20 million, 150-room Hampton Inn and Suites hotel, somewhere west of the state office building at Second and Frederica streets.

Meanwhile, the 60,000-square-foot former state building, which the city purchased for $1.1 million, is no longer slated for demolition but is now under consideration as the new home for an expanded International Bluegrass Music Museum and Center.

The bluegrass museum's board meets this week in Nashville, and the proposed museum move will be discussed, member Terry Woodward of Owensboro said. Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne said city officials will be in Nashville on Monday to talk to IBMA board members about the proposal.

The original concept of a market square plaza on the block north of the Daviess County Courthouse has also undergone a change. Now, it will be known as Rivermont Crossing with an the emphasis on open spaces, walkways and restaurants instead of an open-air market.

Perhaps the most obvious change wrought by the initiative is the disappearance of the Executive Inn Rivermont, which was imploded last year and hauled away during the first half of this year.

The other great change downtown is actually not a part of the downtown revitalization, although it is hard to separate it from what the final product will be. The river wall work is primarily a federally funded ($36 million) project that got under way in the spring of 2009. When it is finished early next year, a much larger Smothers Park will be constructed on top of it. The river wall project is in the finishing stages, project manager Ted Lolley said.

"We're pouring the concrete cap (on the outer promenade wall) to support the fascia panels and handrails," Lolley said Wednesday. "The wall panels you will see from the river are being constructed except for the decorative ones. We're waiting for the forms for them. I think we'll be hanging panels by the end of next month."

The steps for the cascading waterfall feature are about one-third completed at the foot of Frederica Street, Lolley said. Handrails along the wall will be attached next spring after all the wall panels are in place.

The contract for Smothers Park and Riverfront Crossing have been awarded, and work in both areas has begun, even though the river wall project continues.

Fred Reeves, the city's downtown development director and the person most closely associated with all aspects of the redevelopment project, said a completion date of late 2013 is on target. "With the very professional actions of the city staff, everything is going well," Reeves said Wednesday. "I could not be more pleased with the way things are going."

Budget still evolving

The project budget has changed significantly since it was introduced in early 2009, and it will probably undergo more changes as the initiative continues to evolve, city officials say.

Owensboro City Manager Bill Parrish likes to compare the project to building a house -- after the decision to build is made, the various features are re-evaluated and costs are shifted, but the overall concept remains the same.

"We have a conceptual plan," Parrish said. "As we get closer, we'll see how much contingency funds will be left."

Savings in one area can be applied to cost overruns in other areas if they occur, Parrish said. City elected leaders might also decide to direct more funds toward parts of the project as needed, he said.

Unforeseen developments have led to some changes in the overall plan. When the downtown master plan was adopted by Owensboro and Daviess County governments in January 2009, the city had not yet purchased the closed Executive Inn Rivermont. When that happened, the overall plan changed with the sudden availability of 17 acres on the Ohio River. Eventually, the decision was made to place the convention and events center on the former Executive Inn property to take advantage of the proximity to the river.

Subsequently, the city purchased the state office building. Originally, the plan was to demolish the state building and build the convention and events center on that site.

The city will pay $59.4 million of the project's cost. The county will pay the remaining $20 million, with all of the county money dedicated to the building cost of the convention and events center, which will be turned over to the city to own and operate. Funding for the project is provided by increases in the city and county insurance premium taxes, approved by both local governments.

Here is the latest budget for the entire project, as outlined by Parrish; J.T. Fulkerson, the city's director of finance and support services; Tony Cecil, the city's operations manager; and Reeves.

* Rebuild Smothers Park (after the river wall project is finished), build Riverfront Crossing (including land purchase) and rebuild Veterans Boulevard from Frederica Street to the RiverPark Center -- $24 million.

* Executive Inn Rivermont purchase ($5 million), cost of demolition ($1.4 million) and related expenses -- $6.8 million.

* Purchase the state office building -- $1.1 million.

* Changes to downtown traffic (converting Second and Fourth streets to two-way, building a roundabout on the west end) -- $5.9 million.

* Convention and events center (city and county project) -- $27 million.

* Project management and engineering fees, utility relocation -- $4 million.

* Contingency fund -- $10.6 million.

* Total -- $79.4 million.

Arts academy plan sees changes

The budget no longer has money allotted for an arts academy. If the bluegrass museum moves into the state office building, the arts academy will move into the bluegrass museum's former quarters in the RiverPark Center, with local school districts possibly footing the bill for minor remodeling.

Originally, a $5 million free-standing arts academy was envisioned as the anchor for the east end of the project to offer a theater degree involving three local higher education institutions -- Kentucky Wesleyan College, Brescia University and Owensboro Community & Technical College. It would also have a program for high school juniors and seniors who would focus on studies in visual or performing arts while completing high school.

Hall Contracting of Louisville, one of the companies completing the river wall from Frederica Street to the RiverPark Center, was awarded a $19.4 million contract to build Smothers Park, Veterans Boulevard and Riverfront Crossing. The city spent about $1 million to purchase property in Riverfront Crossing, and the city will also purchase about $4 million worth of equipment and furnishings for Smothers Park.

Riverfront Crossing is planned to have a restaurant on the site of the former American Bounty restaurant on St. Ann Street. EDSA, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., planning, landscape architectural and urban design firm, is designing Riverfront Crossing. Michael Huston of Gateway Planning, the firm that designed the redevelopment scheme, is working with EDSA to design the building for the restaurant. Plans call for a two-story building a little wider than the old American Bounty.

There is no money yet in the budget for extensive modifications that will be required to the state office building. The board of the International Bluegrass Music Museum will be expected to shoulder some of those costs, city officials said, but it will be November before any of those decisions are worked out.

Designer sought for events center

The events center steering committee is in the process of selecting an architectural firm to design a convention and events center. Twenty-six firms responded to a "request for qualifications" issued by the committee.

Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire, chairman of the committee, said the group expects to select the company that will design the events center in mid-November. Designing the center will take six to nine months. The next step would be to hire a building contractor. With a build time of as little as 18 months, the events center could be done during the fourth quarter of 2013, Payne said.

CityVisions and partner consulting firm ConsultEcon of Boston 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, a dramatic "river room" overlooking the Ohio River on the former Showroom Lounge platform and a lecture hall with tiered seating.

If the cost of the convention and events center starts climbing higher than $27 million, it will be up to the City Commission to decide whether to provide more funding, Parrish said.

"If you consider that the events center is the main effort (of downtown revitalization), and if money is freed up in other areas, it may be prudent to put more money into it, but that is a decision for elected leaders," Parrish said.

Payne said the overall project is moving "extremely" well. The only real unknown is the final cost of the events center, he said.

"We'll have to see how the bids come it, but from everything I'm seeing, people have been getting great prices," Payne said. "Hopefully it will stay within the ($27 million) budget. But even if it comes it a little more than $30 million, I will be tickled."

Hotel, bluegrass museum linked

In July, downtown hotel developer Malcolm Bryant said he was waiting to see if the International Bluegrass Music Museum's board will approve moving the museum into the state office building before he finalized plans for the $20 million Hampton Inn & Suites he's planning next door.

"This is something that will just really be beneficial to downtown if we can do it," Payne said of the bluegrass museum's move. "It could be the star attraction, but we won't be in a hurry. Our priority is with the construction that is under way."

Payne said he would be shocked if the IBMA decides not to support the moving of the bluegrass museum. "All indications are, they are very supportive," he said.

CityVisions is developing space and use plans for the state office building as a bluegrass museum, including what should be done to the exterior. CityVisions will also design outdoor performance space where the state parking lot is now.

The city wants the museum to become the "International Bluegrass Music Center," something more than a museum.

Current plans show Bryant's hotel being built on the site of the old county jail -- on St. Elizabeth Street between Second Street and Veterans Boulevard. But Bryant has said it may need to move closer to the river to create a "wow" factor, by moving it where the Executive Inn's Expo Center was located. At that location it would overlook Mitch McConnell Plaza.

Asked about the current status of the hotel, Bryant emphasized the importance of tourist attractions in the downtown area to support private investment, specifically mentioning moving the bluegrass museum.

"I know that everyone is in agreement that the events center and hotel must be well done and succeed in a very competitive world," Bryant said in a statement Thursday. "We are confident that we are moving in the right direction for Owensboro to have the best riverfront for our size community on the Ohio River. The public entity is helping to set the standard of quality that can help the private investors succeed. I know that we can set ourselves apart from the competition with the direction we are moving. The new location of the events center and hotel should be a destination in itself with our beautiful river view. However, the events center will not, by itself, bring enough tourists to our community to allow the private investors to succeed. And thus, the bluegrass center and other wowing tourist attractions must be pursued for us to compete on a regional level."

Steve Vied, 691-7297, svied@messenger-inquirer.com

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Owensboro starting to regain jobs

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
Sept. 23, 2010

THE OWENSBORO METRO AREA -- Daviess, Hancock and McLean counties -- had 1,700 fewer jobs in July than it had during its best July of the past five years, a new report by Atlanta-based Garner Economics LLC says.

The number of people working here in July fell from a five-year peak of 50,900 to 49,200 during the period -- a drop of 3.5 percent.

But there's a silver lining of sorts.

The report prepared by Tom Tveidt, a research economist, looked at all 372 metro areas in the country.

And it found that 158 of them have started adding jobs again -- up from 135 in June.

That includes Owensboro.

A recent report by the Kentucky Office of Employment & Training says the Owensboro metro gained 500 jobs between July 2009 and July 2010.

But, it said, the three-county area still has 3,100 fewer jobs than it had before the recession began.

"Even though the numbers are negative, we have fared pretty well compared to our peers and other Kentucky regions," said Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.

In fact, only one of the seven metropolitan areas that include Kentucky counties lost a smaller percentage of its jobs than Owensboro.

The Huntington, W.Va.-Ashland area lost 2,600 jobs -- from 117,600 to 115,000 -- down 2.3 percent.

But the other Kentucky metros lost a larger percentage of jobs than Owensboro.

Bowling Green lost 4,000 jobs -- falling from 60,700 jobs to 56,700 -- a drop of 7.1 percent.

Evansville-Henderson lost 8,000 -- from 178,100 to 170,100 -- down 4.7 percent.

Clarksville, Tenn.-Hopkinsville fell 4,000 -- from 83,900 to 79,900 -- a loss of 5 percent.

Lexington lost 13,000 jobs -- from 255,400 to 242,400 -- down 5.4 percent.

Louisville fell 30,700 -- from 623,100 to 592,400 -- a loss of 5.2 percent.

And Elizabethtown lost 2,400 jobs -- from 48,000 to 45,600 -- down 5.3 percent.

The Garner report says 67 U.S. metros are still 10 percent below their peak employment levels.

Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., tops that list with a loss of 36 percent of its jobs since July 2006.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Woodward wants 'Blue Moon' filmed in Kentucky

“There’s a lot of good friends on that wall,” said former Bluegrass Boys musician Raymond Huffmaster of Lauderdale, Miss., while looking at photographs of Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys on Friday during the Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration Kickoff at the International Bluegrass Music Museum, 117 Daviess St. Monroe was born in Rosine on Sept. 13, 1911. He died Sept. 9, 1996. “I miss him (Bill Monroe) so much,” Huffmaster said.

And Terry Woodward, an Owensboro businessman and vice chairman of the International Bluegrass Music Museum's board of trustees, wants the producers of the upcoming movie, currently titled "Blue Moon of Kentucky," to discover Kentucky.

"I've been in contact with them frequently," he said Friday during the opening of the museum's Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration.

A hundred or so bluegrass musicians and fans strolled through the rooms on the museum's second floor looking at artwork inspired by the music of the man they call "the father of bluegrass music" and the new exhibit of Monroe memorabilia.

The cafe on the second floor was filled with musicians jamming and others listening to the music.

"Tennessee has an aggressive rebate program (for movies made in that state)," Woodward said. "And they want it filmed there. You'd have to shoot scenes in the Ryman (Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry) in Nashville, but I think the bulk of the movie should be in Kentucky."

Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in last year's "Crazy Heart," recently told ScreenCrave.com that she will star in the Monroe movie with her husband, Peter Sarsgaard.

"Bill Monroe, who invented bluegrass music, had a kind of 'Sid and Nancy'-style affair with this woman, Bessie Lee Maudin, throughout his life, and T-Bone Burnett's going to do the music and Callie Khouri -- who wrote 'Thelma & Louise' -- wrote the script, so we're going to do that together," she told the site.

Woodward said filming will start in March, and the movie is slated for release next September to coincide with what would have been Monroe's 100th birthday.

He was born in Rosine on Sept. 13, 1911. Monroe died Sept. 9, 1996, and is buried in Rosine.

Kitsy Kuykendall, the museum's chairwoman, said she believes the Monroe anniversary will increase tourism in Owensboro and Rosine over the next year.

"I hope so," she said. "I can't imagine any bluegrass fan not wanting to celebrate Bill Monroe's centennial. I'm encouraging everyone I can to come to western Kentucky."

Kuykendall's husband, Pete, is the editor and general manager of Bluegrass Unlimited, the genre's major publication. They live in Warrenton, Va.

Gabrielle Gray, the museum's executive director, said 25,000 bluegrass fans from all 50 states and 42 countries visited the museum in 2009. The Monroe exhibit will bring more to town this year, she said.

Museum needs more space

But the numbers could be much greater if the museum had the money to properly market the attraction, she said.

The city has proposed turning the state office building at Second and Frederica streets into an International Bluegrass Music Center, which would include the museum as well as a lot of performance space.

"We know where Bill Monroe's original tour bus is," Woodward said. "We know who has his original car and who has his last vehicle. We could have had them all on display if we had had the space for this exhibit."

The state office building at 60,000 square feet is almost three times as large as the current 22,000-square-foot museum.

"I took a tour of that building today," Kuykendall said. "I was excited about all the space. That's going to be good for the city."

The museum board will meet in Owensboro on Nov. 6-7 to make a decision on the move.

"I think everybody is excited about it," Kuykendall said. "We just need to hear the details."

"The only concern is financial," Woodward said.

Gray said the Monroe centennial "is huge."

The reception and an-star concert of mandolin masters sold out, she said.

"The roots of bluegrass are here in western Kentucky," Gray said, "and out of roots grows the future."

Woodward said bluegrass is the only genre that can be traced to one man -- Monroe.

The exhibit features one of Monroe's stage suits, a brown Stetson hat and a tie that he pulled off with the Windsor knot intact.

There are pictures of Monroe and his family through various stages of his life, including performances at the White House.

There are showbills, record albums, album covers and the statue that was presented posthumously when Monroe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

The fiddle played by his uncle Pendelton Vandiver at Ohio County dances in the 1920s is on display along with the headstock veneer from Monroe's 1923 F-5 Lloyd Loar mandolin.

In a fit of anger at the Gibson Guitar Co. in 1963, Monroe took his knife and gouged the company's name from the headstock veneer.

Woodward said the museum is hoping to have "a very special" River of Music Party in 2011 to celebrate Monroe's centennial.

Film shooting in Owensboro, Henderson

By Beth Wilberding, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Saturday, September 11, 2010 12:01 AM CDT

Planning a film shoot is difficult, and it can be even more challenging when the director is hundreds of miles away.

"For me, the anal retentive control freak who writes 'Monk,' it's been (hard)," said Lee Goldberg, a veteran television writer and producer who lives in California.

Goldberg is in Owensboro shooting "Remaindered," a short movie based on his short story of the same name. The author and screenwriter's credits include episodes of the television show "Monk," "Diagnosis Murder" and "The Glades." He also writes a book series based on "Monk."

He and local residents involved in the film have held conference calls and exchanged hundreds of e-mails in preparation for the "Remaindered" shoot, which began Friday and will last through the weekend.

Audition tapes were sent to Goldberg, and he cast the film with local and regional actors. Most of the production crew -- including producer Rodney Newton and director of photography P.J. Starks -- are Daviess County residents.

"I've done literally thousands of hours of television," Goldberg said. "I'm really excited (and) not just because this is my first time directing."

Though it's been hard to be away from the pre-production activities, Goldberg said it was better for the local filmmakers because they've been able to learn more about the profession.

The movie will premiere at Bouchercon on Oct. 16 in San Francisco. Bouchercon is an internationally known mystery convention that attracts mystery writers, fans and others in the mystery world.

"I think it's going to be kind of cool that this movie is going to be shown in front of a lot of industry people," Newton said.

Goldberg hopes to finish a rough edit of the movie while he is in Owensboro.

"I couldn't ask for a better audience," Goldberg said of Bouchercon. "It's going to be fantastic."

"Remaindered" is about a once famous and successful author who is on a downward spiral in his career. He is in the midst of a self-funded book tour, which is humbling for the author.

The author then meets a fan, and the encounter turns murderous in the comedy/mystery film.

"Remaindered" takes its name from the term for a book being relegated to a store's bargain bin.

The film will be about 20 minutes long. Matt Branham, an English professor at Owensboro Community & Technical College, wrote the music for the movie.

Todd Reynolds, a local actor, is playing a detective in the movie. He also played a police officer in "Murder in Kentucky," a short film shot during the 2009 International Mystery Writers Festival.

"The movie is terrific," Reynolds said of "Remaindered." "Lee writes with a lot of humor. ... It's almost kind of a Walter Mitty-esque look (through) the eyes of an unintentional killer. It's a lot of fun."

Scenes will be shot around Owensboro and Henderson, including at the home of Roxi Witt, general manager of the RiverPark Center; Danhauer Drugs; and Sureway Food Store in Henderson.

Goldberg first came to Owensboro for the 2008 Mystery Writers Festival.

The film's funding is coming from several entities, including the RiverPark Center, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Brescia University and Owensboro Community & Technical College.

The movie shoot is an educational opportunity for students at the three schools. Goldberg is leading one workshop at each school during his visit to Owensboro.

Students are also invited to watch the film shoot, where Goldberg will explain the filmmaking process.

Goldberg said one reason he works with students is because he learned a lot from visiting professionals while a student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"I also feel the need to give back. ... What I get out of it (is) it absolutely reinvigorates my love for what I'm doing," he said.

Development plan heavily focused on existing industries

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Sunday, September 12, 2010 12:01 AM CDT

Over the next five years, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.'s work to boost the economy will focus on three broad areas -- recruiting and retaining talent, supporting innovation and industry, and creating a quality place to live and conduct business.

Those three prongs are the basis for the EDC's 2010-15 strategic plan, and they're holding up a host of areas that offer opportunities to improve the region's economy.

"Existing industry will be a strong priority," said Nick Brake, the EDC's president and CEO. "Most jobs created in any given region come from existing employers."

The EDC's new plan builds on the 2006 blueprint, which Brake said was ambitious, long term and represented an enhanced approach to economic development in the Owensboro region. "We knew we were laying the tracks for the future," he said.

That earlier plan renewed the focus on existing companies and created from scratch a new focus on innovation through the eMerging Ventures Center for Innovation, Brake said, and the public has embraced that approach. "Some of the most stable companies we have in Owensboro today were started by local entrepreneurs," Brake said.

When the Kentucky Innovation Act of 2000 was enacted, several innovation and commercialization centers were created across the state, but Owensboro was left out. "We had to show that we had that support in place, too," Brake said.

The EDC now is part of that network as a Kentucky Innovation and Commercialization Center satellite. It receives some funding -- currently about $75,000 per year.

"In looking around the country, this plan demonstrates a strategy that progressive communities are using," Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire. "The strong focus is on existing industries as well as those entrepreneurial-types of businesses that have the potential to be successful."

The plan is the EDC's attempt to be proactive in a highly competitive environment, according to Rod Kuegel, the EDC's board chairman. "In today's recruitment market, you can't hope you're going to get a manufacturing plant that will bring you 200 or 300 new jobs," Kuegel said. "This is forward-thinking and makes us proactive."

Owensboro must pursue the niches it has, Kuegel said.

"We won't draw the same people as Nashville or Louisville, but there are some opportunities out there," he said.

He also hopes the plan represents the ideas from the community that were offered during the planning process.

Stage II companies key in growth

The EDC will be paying much more attention to companies that employ 10 to 99 employees and have revenues of $1 million to $50 million. These are called Stage II companies, and data suggest that most new jobs come from this group.

The online database youreconomy.org reports that between 1993 and 2007, 38 percent of the jobs in Kentucky came from Stage II companies. Daviess County, however, "is almost seeing negative growth in those companies," Brake said.

"None of our new jobs are being created there; our jobs are being created by large companies," he said. "We probably don't need to put all of our eggs in that one basket."

Some companies might be at a point at which they could expand, but they don't have the time or money to even explore that. Others might be exploring it and need support.

"We want to figure out what those companies need. Is it access to markets? Is it access to data? Is it venture capital?" Brake said.

Phill's Custom Cabinets is an example of a local company on the cusp of a growth spurt.

Phill's recently was singled out for the Challengers Distinguished Achievement Award, the industry's top honor, at the International Woodworking Fair for its patent-pending process called Cabinotch. Owner Phillip Crabtree said last month that he expects the family owned business to get a boost in sales that will require more equipment and employees.

The region's leaders have been successful in retaining jobs, particularly compared to peer regions and the rest of the country, and the EDC will continue to support employers to help them prosper, Brake said.

"We hope to form a partnership with the chamber to work on this," he said. "We don't know who these Stage II companies are that may want to grow and need support."

Haire said he was glad to see the strong focus on these companies.

"That is so critical," he said. "Those businesses that are growing and on the verge of doing extremely well have to be so careful that they don't overextend themselves."

The strategy also includes formulating a plan to help small businesses turn into Stage II companies.

"We think there is a lot of potential there," he said.

Continue focus on retaining manufacturing jobs

Nationally, an average of 25 percent of the manufacturing jobs have been lost. Some of the EDC's peer communities have seen 30 percent to 40 percent of their jobs leave their communities.

"We've lost 7 to 8 percent over five years," Brake said. "Holding on to those jobs is critical."

New incentive programs are helping in that area, he said.

"We saw that with Swedish Match. They didn't add new jobs, but they are able to retool their plant and keep those jobs here," he said.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved Swedish Match for tax incentives up to $1.85 million through the Kentucky Reinvestment Act. The company is investing $3.7 million to upgrade equipment at the Owensboro tobacco products plant.

"We're also working in the aluminum industry to help companies retain those jobs," Brake said.

In addition to aging infrastructure, several companies also have an aging work force and are seeing a high number of retirements, he said.

"It's important to lead students into opportunities that will be here, and a lot of skilled jobs are available now," Brake said. "Companies are telling us they can't find the skilled workers they need."

Work force training will continue to be a big part of the strategic plan.

State is main source for new industry

Targeting and recruiting new industry also will continue to be a major focus in developing the region's economy, the EDC plan shows.

And that strategy is the one to which most residents relate.

"Eighty percent of new companies will come through the state," Brake said. "We've done a lot of work to ensure that Frankfort knows what we're doing here. The data is clear, though, that not as many industries are looking. And even if they are, because of the virtual capabilities, you may not know it until they're close to making a decision."

The EDC is part of a group within the state Cabinet for Economic Development that works to market and attract companies to Kentucky, and that group will go to Detroit this month to meet with companies interested in relocating to the state. "Owensboro is at the table for these discussions," Brake said.

A second mission also will take place this year, he said.

Part of the targeting and recruitment also includes continuing the partnership with Hancock County and the potential new industrial site along the river.

The Owensboro region's ability to attract new traditional manufacturing could be hampered by its air quality status, Brake said. The Environmental Protection Agency soon may list Daviess and Hancock counties as non-attainment areas.

"That means any industry we might attract that needs an air quality permit couldn't be guaranteed it would get one," he said.

That could steer the EDC to focus even more on the professional services/back offices and other cluster industries such as food processing and manufacturing; distribution and logistics.

Owensboro U coming soon?

Owensboro U is a new initiative for attracting and keeping talent listed in the plan, but the details won't be released until fall.

"We're working with all of the colleges on this," Brake said. "The logic is that two out of three college graduates end up living in the communities where they graduate. Here, we have several hundred graduates."

The initiative will work to brand Owensboro as a college town with a goal of having 10,000 undergraduates enrolled by 2020. "We want to get the students here and then look and act like a college town with the amenities they expect, and then keep them here," Brake said.

The EDC expects to have a plan in place at the end of the month for continuing the work of the P-16 Council/Greater Owensboro Regional Alliance for Education.

That group is a business/education roundtable that feeds projects for ensuring elementary, secondary and postsecondary education efforts are in sync and that work force training fits local needs.

"I was glad to see the education piece in the plan with a continuation of the focus on work force training," said Haire, who is co-chairman of the P-16 Council. "We're seeing jobs available now, but they require specialized training. We need to make that effort to match our work force with the companies' needs."

The plan also includes a continued focus on "placemaking," or creating a community with livability qualities and features that will attract new people.

Continued support of downtown revitalization is part of that.

Another aspect of placemaking in the EDC's blueprint calls for creating a master plan to develop the Interstate 64/Interstate 65 corridor in the east county near the new hospital site.

"That will be our exit from the interstate system, and we have one chance to develop it right," Brake said. "We're just starting that discussion."

More private funding needed

The EDC's total annual budget of about $600,000 comes from city, county, state and private funds with about half of that from public dollars. The private sector contributes about $150,000 to $200,000, and that has increased over the last five years, Brake said.

"We're a well-funded organization, but we're middle of the road in terms of other EDCs," he said. "Some of the initiatives we've identified will require some funding. We're not asking for any more public funding, but we will be seeking more private funding."

One of the EDC's peer cities is Dubuque, Iowa, which is similar in size, not on an interstate and not a capital city. The Dubuque EDC has an annual budget of $1.7 million, with much higher private funding, Brake said.

Brake said the EDC has never created a plan that has involved so much community input.

"We sought as much comment as we could with meetings with stakeholders, the EDC blog and Facebook page, and the newspaper wrote stories about the public meeting," he said.

20 firms interested in events center project

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 12:00 AM CDT

Two hours before Monday's 5 p.m. deadline, 20 architectural firms had responded to a "request for qualifications" -- or RFQ -- to design Owensboro's downtown events and convention center.

Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves said he wasn't anticipating more responses, but didn't rule it out.

Twenty responses is adequate, Reeves said.

"I'm very pleased with 20," Reeves said. "That actually represents a few more than I thought we'd probably get. I'm very pleased to have this many to choose from."



The convention and events center is an estimated $27 million project. Reeves said the firms responding to the RFQ are from all over the country, with some from the Owensboro region. Previously, some of the companies said they planned to partner with local companies.

As of Monday afternoon none of the proposals had been opened. That will happen today, Reeves said, with each member of the events center steering committee receiving copies of each submission. The steering committee members will have 10 days to two weeks to look them over, Reeves said.

The RFQ required architectural firms to be prepared to design a facility that will host conventions, trade shows and other events, but also be the key element for the revitalization of downtown Owensboro. The RFQ contained six specific goals for the center, starting with "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."

Another goal of the center is for it to serve as an "icon for the community that celebrates the vision, vitality and progress of Owensboro's downtown revitalization."

The responses from architects will be evaluated by Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire, Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne and Titan Contracting owner Mike Horn, all members of the steering committee planning the convention and events center. Haire is chairman of the committee. He, Payne and Horn will recommend an architect for the entire committee's consideration. Eventually, four to seven firms will be interviewed. By mid-October, the list of candidates is expected to be narrowed to two or three companies. At that point, final negotiations with the firms will begin, Reeves said.

"All of them will have good qualifications, but some will fit us better than others," Reeves said.

Firms were required to submit their qualifications to provide a wide range of design work for the center to include a "full range of architectural, design, landscape, engineering, cost estimates and construction oversight services from initial conceptual design through construction administration." They will be evaluated on their understanding of the goals of the convention center, the quality of their work, their experience in designing comparable projects and their ability to work collaboratively with clients and their respect for the project's budget and schedule.

CityVisions and partner consulting firm ConsultEcon of Boston 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, a room overlooking the Ohio River and a lecture hall with tiered seating.

College enrollment up

14 Sep 2010 — Messenger-Inquirer
By Dariush Shafa, Messenger-Inquirer

Statewide public and independent college and university enrollment hit a record level this fall, with more than 270,000 students enrolled at institutions around the commonwealth, and three local schools in Owensboro are reflecting that trend.

According to data released Monday by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, total fall enrollment around the state has increased by 4 percent compared to last year. This data is preliminary, as many colleges and universities depend on online course enrollments, which won't be available for another month or so, but administrators are still encouraged by the numbers so far.

Freshman enrollment at Brescia University was up 3 percent for undergraduate degree-seeking students, said Chris Houk, vice president for enrollment management. Total numbers for admissions won't be known until October when online registration course data becomes available, he said.

At WKU-Owensboro, Director Gene Tice said freshman enrollment is up 15 percent. Graduate student enrollment is down some, Tice said, but the full result won't be known for them until online course numbers come in also.

Owensboro Community and Technical College also had a 5 percent enrollment increase, said President Jim Klauber. That number will also change depending on online courses.

The lone decrease in Owensboro was at Kentucky Wesleyan College, with an overall enrollment decrease of 8 percent and a freshman enrollment decrease of 9 percent. However, President Cheryl King said that number is tempered by retention numbers.

Paula Dehn, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college, said freshman retention increased by 3 percent compared to last year.

'We anticipated that enrollment would be lower this year and one factor for that is we had the largest graduating class last spring that we've had in 40 years,' King said.

Houk said Brescia's administrators are pleased with the numbers so far, with this year's freshman class of 117 being the second highest since 1990, just behind last year's 127. The economy seems to be the cause, Houk said.

'It's the fourth year in a row that our undergraduate-degree-seeking population has increased,' Houk said. 'During downturns in the economy, typically college enrollment increases.'

Klauber explained why this is a natural reaction to the economy.

'Community and technical colleges work inverse to the economy as a whole. During good times, people feel secure in their jobs and don't see the need to go back for additional training, certificates or a career change,' Klauber said. 'When the economy gets bad, people with jobs want to improve themselves to keep jobs and people who get laid off come back to get that skill or additional training to get a new job.'

Also helping WKU-O is the new facility the campus has and the partnership with OCTC to transition students more easily.

'I think that's a reflection of the new building and more students from OCTC transferring to our campus,' Tice said. 'We've been saying for some time we're expecting a lot of our future growth at WKU to be from regional campuses.'

Tice said it's not just good for WKU, but also for the state.

'I think this is great for the commonwealth,' Tice said. 'That will help economic growth for the entire state.'

Klauber said the next step is not just to grow admissions, but to make sure these students complete and achieve their goals and help out their communities and the state.

'We've got to focus on student success. While enrollment increases are great and good news, more important for me personally is student success, retention and completion,' Klauber said. 'It's good for us, it's great for the student and it helps the commonwealth of Kentucky as we try to provide a better-trained work force.'

Friday, September 10, 2010

Phill's wins international award

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Friday, August 27, 2010 12:11 AM CDT

Phill's Custom Cabinets of Owensboro earned its industry's top award at the International Woodworking Fair this week at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

The 35-year-old company was singled out of 22 finalists as one of seven winners of the 2010 Challengers Distinguished Achievement Award.

The seven awards are all equal in status with no top winner chosen.

"We've just been blown away," said owner Phillip Crabtree who, along with his parents, Phill and Paula Crabtree, and employee Jamie Mindrop, are attending the fair.

The company also broke a record for the IWF.

"Never before has a first-time exhibitor won this award," Phillip Crabtree said. "Now, we just need to break some sales records, and we'll be in great shape."

Phill's was recognized for its patent-pending process called Cabinotch, which is a pre-cut, do-it-yourself cabinet-building system.

On Wednesday, Phill's and the other six winners were formally acknowledged in a presentation before the fair's exhibitors and media.

"We've been told that 200-plus different trade publications worldwide will be writing about this award," Crabtree said. "It's been a 10-year dream and a five-year, uphill battle."

He hopes the exposure will translate to a big boost in sales, but he doesn't want to speculate on the market impact for his product just yet.

"I can say that we expect to expand our facilities and hire more employees," Crabtree said.

The company now has 23 employees, counting the Crabtrees.

The family learned about the award late Tuesday night -- the eve of the fair's opening.

Sixty-five companies entered the competition for the awards, and 22 finalists were picked before the seven winners.

This year's fair attracted more than 950 exhibiting companies.

"Thousands came by our booth today (Wednesday) to see us demonstrate it, and everyone is just blown away," Phillip Crabtree said. "These are exciting times."

Crabtree said the award already has had a positive impact on business.

"Our attorney saw an e-mail about the award and called to confirm that we won," he said. "She said not to worry that we wouldn't have any problem getting the patent with an international award."

Presented every two years, the award challenges the fair's exhibiting companies "to develop forward-thinking technology in machinery, materials, supplies, manufacturing techniques, services and safety," according to the website.

Phillip Crabtree's father, Phill Crabtree, started the custom cabinet-making company in a garage on Hawthorne Drive in 1975. Since then, the business has outgrown several expansions.

In 2007, the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce named the company its small business of the year in the 11-or-more-employees category.

On the Web

More information about the International Woodworking Fair's 2010 Challengers Distinguished Achievement Award is available online at: http://www.iwfatlanta.com/attendees/challengersaward.

Phill's Custom Cabinets markets its patent-pending Cabinotch products at http://cabinotch.com/.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

3 more companies eyeing Centre for Business and Research

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Sunday, September 5, 2010 12:11 AM CDT

The Centre for Business and Research at 1016 Allen St. has a lone tenant, but that is expected to change next year, said Madison Silvert, executive vice president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.

Hollison Technologies LLC was the first startup business to occupy the converted tobacco warehouse, moving in a few months ago.

"I have draft leases out to three more companies," Silvert said.

When the EDC pitched the idea of establishing this incubator for food and life sciences businesses, the goal was to have 10 companies ensconced in the building within three years.

"It's going along with my expectations," Silvert said. "We very well could have four or five this year."

The idea is to provide fledgling companies with the tools they need to focus on growing their businesses during the crucial startup period.

Hollison provides a product that "enables continuous sampling of food commodities with state-of-the-art detection of contaminants ranging from chemical to biological and radiological."

The new company's technology allows food producers to follow commodities through a web-based software tracking system.

Another local entrepreneur who still hopes to get her business established in the center is Alisha Hardison.

Her business plan for Dalisha's Desserts won the first eMerging Ventures Business Challenge in 2009.

Sponsored by the EDC's eMerging Ventures Center for Innovation, the prize was a $15,000 investment in her company plus six months of free rent in the Allen Street Centre.

"I hope to be in by the new year," said Hardison. "I may be able to work in the kitchen before then. ... We're waiting on inspections."

It's not like Hardison hasn't been busy. She and her husband welcomed their first baby, Layton Cooper Hardison, into their family three months ago.

She has, however, been anxious to get into the renovated building and has been trying to keep an already-established client base engaged until she can make the move. She's been turning away business.

Her Facebook page postings reveal the story of the Centre's transformation progress.

"All good things will come," Hardison said. "I expect to use that as my operations base, and I would like to expand in the future."

She expects to lease the space for five years.

Dalisha's Desserts will have the equipment she needs for her bakery, plus dine-in space where her customers can drop in and have a cup of coffee or soft drink. Hardison also will have whole cakes ready to buy and will take specialty cake orders.

Her vision includes a second location in Owensboro as well as a shop in Muhlenberg County, where she still has family and friends.

"I'm really excited about the location; it's a unique place," she said.

Silvert also feels good about the potential for signing the other two tenants.

Both are local start-up companies. He wouldn't name them since the leases haven't been signed yet. He identified one as being in the life sciences industry.

"Typically, a company will come in here after working out of their home," Silvert said. "They will work here for a while and then get new space. The goal is for them to get too big for here. It's baby steps."

All the amenities for start-up offered

All of the companies have their own space, with everyone also sharing common areas such as copy and break rooms and a large conference room equipped for presentations.

The leases are tailored for each tenant with all of them sharing access to broadband/Internet and utilities.

"We tried to think of the amenities the businesses would expect, but couldn't afford with a start-up," Silvert said. "We want them to be sustainable, long-term corporate citizens, and we want to give them the infrastructure to make that happen."

The rent each tenant pays depends on the space provided and what changes have to be made to it.

Each business pays for their other services such as long distance, insurance or other expenses.

Some infrastructure work is still taking place within the Centre. The contract for the phone system was awarded last month. The Internet infrastructure work has been awarded, and the switches and routers have been installed.

Silvert was ready to make the first purchase of scientific equipment for the Centre last week.

The building will be equipped with laboratories that have the basic equipment along with water, direct ventilation and specialized piped utilities.

Those "wet labs" are being paid for with a $986,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

While the companies may hire only from one to three persons, the cumulative effect of the local commerce is expected to be significant.

When the EDA announced its grant, officials said the Centre is expected to create 50 jobs over time and generate $20 million worth of private investment in the community.

Daviess County also is a partner in financing the Centre with a matching grant from coal severance funds through the Kentucky Department for Local Government.

The EDC also has a management contract with the city of Owensboro for the Centre, Silvert said.

"I collect the rent checks and help coordinate the design of the space," he said. "We're also an on-site resource for the companies."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Security Bank Expands Its Downtown Owensboro Headquarters, Adds 25 Jobs

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 11:59 PM CDT

One month to the day since he was last in Owensboro announcing new jobs and investment, Gov. Steve Beshear returned Wednesday with news of more new jobs and more investment.

Beshear, joined by Mayor Ron Payne and officials of First Security Bank, announced that the bank will expand its headquarters operation in downtown Owensboro and bring 25 new full-time jobs to the city.

First Security Bank, which has its headquarters at 300 Frederica St., will move across the street to a four-story building at 313 Frederica, which the bank recently purchased along with several adjoining properties.

Beshear said First Security will spend $4.3 million on the expansion project.

First Security has been approved for state tax incentives of up to $250,000 over 10 years through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The incentive payments are tied to the creation of the 25 Owensboro jobs and wages paid to those workers.

On July 1, Beshear appeared at City Hall to announce that U.S. Bank Home Mortgage would add 500 jobs to its Owensboro work force that already includes more than 1,000 employees. The new mortgage service employees will work in a 81,000-square-foot building that will be built by the city of Owensboro in the MidAmerica Airpark and leased to the company. U.S. Bank Home Mortgage's investment in the project is $14.1 million.

On that same day, Beshear announced that Swedish Match, with the help of state incentive money, would invest $3.7 million to upgrade equipment, allowing the company to retain almost 300 jobs.

"I hope you are not getting tired of me coming," Beshear said to the crowd jammed into First Security Bank's lobby. "This is another exciting day for Owensboro. Without question, we are digging our way out of the recession, job by job and company by company. There's no better example than right here in Owensboro-Daviess County."

Beshear said the incentives approved for First Security Bank were made possible by legislative changes to Kentucky's economic development incentive program. The governor said those changes were sponsored by Rep. Tommy Thompson, a Philpot Democrat, and supported by Rep. Jim Glenn, an Owensboro Democrat, and Sen. David Boswell, a Sorgho Democrat.

Earlier this summer, First Security Bank purchased several properties downtown, including the office building at 313 Frederica St. At the time, Lynn Cooper, president and CEO of First Security Inc., the bank's holding company, said the company had experienced fast growth over the past couple of years and needed room to expand. First Security also purchased parking lots at 310 St. Ann St., 319 Frederica St., and 307-309 Frederica St., all of which adjoin the four-story building. The price for all the properties was $2.35 million.

Cooper said Wednesday the new headquarters building will be renovated and ready for occupancy in about 18 months. He said the company is not sure what it will do with the building it now leases and occupies at 300 Frederica St.

The new jobs will be "high level, back room, administrative support, nonsales jobs," Cooper said.

While Evansville tried hard to entice First Security to move its headquarters there, Cooper said the bank decided to stay in Owensboro because of support it received from the city, county and the state, and because of its customer base.

"I'm a big fan of downtown redevelopment," Cooper said. "I love what Owensboro is doing downtown to be a strong, viable community."

Payne said Wednesday's announcement is important for three reasons: "It creates additional jobs, it locates a corporate headquarters here and is locates it downtown. Years ago pioneers created this city. Today we have new pioneers like First Security recreating this city. We are doing an extreme makeover with the governor's help. Thank you so much."

In March, First Security Bank announced that it was purchasing eight Integra Bank locations -- four branches in Bowling Green, one in Franklin and one each in Paoli, Ind., Mitchell, Ind., and Bedford, Ind. The acquisition of the branches was to result in total assets of about $430 million and deposits of about $340 million for First Security. In mid-August, First Security terminated the agreement to buy the three Integra branches in Indiana.