Friday, October 29, 2010

Official: Company might add more than 500 jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Architect chosen for convention center

Virginia Beach Convention Center designed by Trahan Architects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four firms were brought to Owensboro for interviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Editorial: Insight Needed into Economic Efforts

Messenger-Inquirer Editorial, October 23, 2010:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EDC is launching citizens academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second goal is to inform.

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

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

It is expected to be an annual program.

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

Joy Campbell, 691-7299,

To Attend

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

Owensboro taking steps toward bluegrass center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That panel would work with Alberts, Payne said.

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

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

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

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

Indoor/outdoor stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naming rights possible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giant instrument on corner

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

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

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

The bluegrass museum has an Internet radio station.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDC encourages Public Involvement with Economic Development Citizen Academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hafer Associates moving downtown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Louisville, Owensboro will cooperate to grow life-science companies

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Paseo Tower construction to start soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City, Gateway Planning win international award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 8, 2010

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

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

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

How Cabinotch works:

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

Existing businesses want to keep development on track

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

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

Keep the momentum going

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

Do workers have right skills?

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Friday, October 8, 2010 12:25 AM CDT

A gap between workers' skills and what employers need today may be holding back the nation's economic recovery, according to information in a report released this week, and this mismatch also is having an impact on local economic growth, an Owensboro official said.

The skills dilemma for the country is outlined in "From Ill-Prepared to a Well-Prepared Workforce: The Shared Imperatives for Employers and Community Colleges to Collaborate."

Some employers have reported that even with record high unemployment rates, they are continuing to have trouble finding qualified or appropriately skilled workers, the national paper states.

"That doesn't surprise me," said Nick Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. "Five or six companies here are experiencing concerns with finding a qualified work force, even though the unemployment rate is higher than it has been in some time. And in some cases, the companies are not making expansion plans because of this."

Brake would not say which firms are delaying expansions since the EDC is working with them in a competitive environment.

One work force issue is that plants, including those in Owensboro, are part of the shift away from traditional manufacturing assembly lines to more technical work that requires specific skill sets.

On the other end of the spectrum, the EDC president pointed to U.S. Bank. The home mortgage company, which recently announced it would add 500 jobs, has expressed confidence in the region's work force, he said.

The national report issued by Corporate Voices for Working Families highlights successful partnerships between employers and community colleges that allow residents to combine postsecondary education and work.

It quotes the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis who recently said if employers' needs and work force skill levels were at typical levels today, the unemployment rate would be at 6.5 percent instead of 9.6 percent.

"I would say he's probably right," Brake said.

While the Owensboro region is experiencing work force challenges in some areas, it is still well-positioned when compared to many parts of the country, Brake said.

For example, the region's manufacturing retention rate is better than almost all of its peer regions. Owensboro lost about 7 percent of its manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2007. That puts it at No. 2 out of 11 peer groups.

Danville, Va., has lost 79 percent of its manufacturing jobs over that span. Dubuque, Iowa, managed to keep the most jobs in the peer group comparison, losing only 4.6 percent.

OCTC working with employers

A lot of the credit for work force training gains goes to Owensboro Community & Technical College, which has been a crucial partner for more than 10 years in addressing threats to manufacturing, such as finding a qualified work force, Brake said.

Kentucky is further ahead of the curve in addressing the skills gap than a lot of other states, said Jim Klauber, OCTC's president.

"While it's good that Kentucky leads the nation in the number of certificates issued, we can do better," he said. "We need to encourage those students to go on and earn their associate's degree and baccalaureate degree."

The report confirms what earlier studies have shown -- some employees are not ready to work.

When Corporate Voices, The Conference Board, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management interviewed 400 employers, they discovered that new hires do not have the skills that employers view are the most important for success.

Those essential skills, sometimes called "soft skills" found lacking in new employees were: professionalism/work ethic; oral and written communications; teamwork/collaboration; critical thinking/problem-solving/creativity.

Two-year college graduates were better prepared than high school graduates, but only 10.3 percent of employers rated them as excellent in terms of overall preparation.

Klauber commended Kentucky for providing college credit for work force training when possible. That is not done in South Carolina, where he formerly served at a technical college.

The successful strategy to fix the skills dearth involves partnerships among businesses, industry and education to create opportunities for people to advance academically and to follow career pathways, according to the report.

In particular, more opportunities are needed for residents to "learn and earn." Adult learners need to be able to continue to earn a living and take classes.

A Kentucky model, Metropolitan College, which is a partnership between Jefferson Community and Technical College and the University of Louisville, is featured in the national report.

In that public-private partnership, UPS funds half of the tuition for Metropolitan College participants, and Kentucky, Louisville Metro government, JCTC and U of L match the other half and provide the infrastructure costs.

That initiative has kept thousands of jobs in Louisville by helping UPS stabilize its overnight, part-time work force.

Closer to home, OCTC is working with Hancock County industries to prepare for what could be massive retirements coming in the next three years.

"We're doing a lot of job training there with employers and creating great partnerships," said Jim Klauber, OCTC's president.

OCTC now has a satellite campus in Lewisport that provides on-site training. That partnership with Hancock County's government and industries will help to preserve high-wage aluminum and energy industry jobs and help in attracting more industries to Hancock County, officials said.

OCTC administrators also are talking to U.S. Bank about offering some job training during the work day that would include college credit toward a degree.

High school students throughout the region also are getting a quicker start on postsecondary training and education.

OCTC also does a lot of routine job training with employers, including identifying apprenticeship opportunities in which current employees can get career training they need to move up, Klauber said.

Recently, the Green River Workforce Investment Board and three local trades organizations created a pre-apprenticeship program with state funding to give laid-off or displaced workers a leg up on landing apprenticeships in construction jobs. Training for that program is offered at OCTC.

The community college, through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, also taps into funds from the KY WINS program. With those funds, employers contract with OCTC to provide work-specific training.

"It's great to be in a state that is ahead in the ballgame, but we can't rest on our laurels," Klauber said. "We've got to have a work force that's ready."

Work force development also is a part of the Regional Alliance for Education or P-16 meetings.

The EDC also will continue to gather representatives from business, industry and public sectors to the table with secondary and postsecondary leaders for round table planning and discussion to address the community's economic needs.

That group has been idle for a time but will meet again in October or November, Brake said.

Joy Campbell, 691-7299,

To Get the Report

A copy of the report issued by Corporate Voices for Working Families, "From an 'Ill-Prepared' to a Well-Prepared Workforce: The Shared Imperatives for Employers and Community Colleges to Collaborate," is available online at:

Hollison Technologies Announces Issuance of Core Patent for Food Safety

OWENSBORO, KY--(Marketwire - October 6, 2010) - Hollison Technologies, provider of products and services to the food industry to detect and track contaminants in the food supply chain, today announced that it has been awarded US patent number 7,807,344 on October 5, 2010 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The patent covers the collection, detection and identification of contaminants in particulate food including food commodities, food intermediates and finished food products. This approach enables the particulate food to be sampled much more effectively and efficiently than the traditional approaches used currently.

The contaminants can be biological, chemical or radiological in nature and may typically include E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella, as well as many others, such as aflatoxin.
The technique is applicable to a wide variety of particulate foods including, grains, rice, wheat, finished cereals, dry pet foods, pepper, nuts, spices, and coffee.
About Hollison Technologies

Hollison Technologies is focused on providing breakthrough solutions for ensuring and maintaining food safety. Hollison provides unique products and services for food protection and the detection of contaminants in the food supply chain including, but not limited to, farms, bulk storage facilities, commodity transportation, food processing, food distribution and point of consumption. The company offers capabilities for the protection of the entire food supply chain with the detection and identification of chemical, biological and radiological contamination in food commodities, processed food and beverages. Hollison has developed a proprietary secure web-based food tracking capability for use with its breakthrough sampling and detection technologies to offer complete chain-of-custody information complete with available contamination test data.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Downtown projects impress Georgia visitors

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 12:22 AM CDT

The RiverPark Center, Mitch McConnell Plaza, the English Park boat ramp and the Smothers Park construction zone were the points of major interest for a delegation of eight business and community leaders from Columbus, Ga., who paid a visit to Owensboro Monday.

"I have to really commend Owensboro and its vision," said Matt Swift, president of the real estate division of the W.C. Bradley Co., the major player in a proposed downtown riverfront redevelopment project in Columbus. "The one thing that impressed me was the vision for the future and the willingness to stick with it for 10 years. It's more than a little vision. It's a big vision, and then to have incremental successes. I'm very complimentary."

Columbus is the city that 40 Owensboro community leaders visited eight years ago looking for inspiration from that city's downtown redevelopment. Now, Columbus is interested in embracing its frontage on the Chattahoochee River.

At the suggestion of EDSA, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., planning, landscape architectural and urban design firm that has been heavily involved with Owensboro's downtown development, the Columbus delegation came to see examples of what Owensboro is doing to its downtown and riverfront.

The visitors also came to evaluate the effectiveness of EDSA. The Columbus group is considering hiring EDSA to do the design work for its project. W.C. Bradley, a Columbus-based national company best known for its Char-Broil barbecue grill and Zebco fishing tackle companies, is committed to the proposed project. The company is considering investing $25 million to $30 million in the project, some of which will be developed on company property.

During a morning session at City Hall, the Columbus officials visited with city and downtown officials, where they learned about the history and progress of the city's downtown placemaking initiative, going all the way back to the EDSA-designed expansion of the RiverPark Center patio and construction of Mitch McConnell Plaza.

"What stood out for me, on your website and in your marketing materials, is your fantastic performing arts center and patio," Swift said. "It's an icon you have, especially the way it looks at night. That was a terrific vision. We have some areas like that for a patio or deck on the top of our riverfront."

David Arrington, deputy city manager of Columbus, said the group received good information about the quality of EDSA's work and how the company interacted with the community.

"We want to make sure our process includes public input," Arrington said. "We really appreciate the hospitality of the mayor and city staff and the other stakeholders."

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne welcomed the visitors.

"We literally are rebuilding our community," Payne said. "It all started on the river. ... We are really excited. It's been a great team effort."

During the sit-down session at City Hall, Columbus officials asked questions, some pertaining to business and job creation sparked so far by downtown redevelopment, the residential component of the master plan and the community's support or lack of it for the entire downtown project.

"This is all about placemaking," City Manager Bill Parrish said. "People move because the want to live in a place. We have to make it attractive."

Second local Shaker's Pizza opening

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 12:09 AM CDT

Jerry McCoy drove a coal truck in eastern Kentucky for a number of years, but in his down time, he worked for a friend who started the first Shaker's Pizza in Manchester.

When McCoy moved to Owensboro about a year and half ago, he knew he didn't want to drive a truck any more, so he decided to open his own business.

He and his mom, Dola McCoy, opened Owensboro's first Shaker's Pizza, which is actually called Shaker's Pizza 2, at 3010 W. Fourth St. on Jan. 4 of this year.

They are set to open a second Shaker's later this week at 3118 E. Alvey Park Drive, behind Auto Zone, just off Kentucky 54.

Dola McCoy is a financial partner in the business, and both McCoys work at the restaurants, he said.

McCoy's friend allowed him to use the Shaker's name, and that simplified things for the Owensboro business owners, he said.

The McCoys did not expect to open a second store so soon, but the Fourth Street restaurant is "holding its own," Jerry McCoy said.

"Kentucky 54 is really building up," he said. "The way we looked at it is, now is the time to get out there."

Shaker's offers pizza, wings, pasta dishes and more, Jerry McCoy said.

The pizza maker said there is a difference in pizzas.

"All I can say is try ours. I love it. I eat it every day," Jerry McCoy said. "Our slogan is, 'Better Pizza, Better Price.' "

Shaker's has a one topping pizza at a pick-up price of $5.99, and large specialty pizzas are $10.99. A small, cheesy bread order is $2.99 at the pick-up price.

Shaker's Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. The new location will operate with the same hours.

Owensboro on Forbes' list; position may improve with projected new jobs

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Sunday, October 3, 2010 12:10 AM CDT

Owensboro is the nation's 89th best small city for business and careers, Forbes magazine said this year in its 12th annual survey.
The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. expects the rating to get better as more jobs come online over the next five years.

The rankings included 184 communities with fewer than 245,000 people.

The Owensboro metro area -- Daviess, Hancock and McLean counties -- scored its worst numbers on projected job growth (No. 142), income growth (No. 143) and projected economic growth (161).

But those numbers are based on the past few years. They don't include announcements that have been made in recent months.

"We're going to have a lot of construction jobs over the next five years," Madison Silvert, EDC executive vice president, said recently.

Earlier this year, city officials predicted that construction of the new hospital Owensboro Medical Health System is building, the planned Hampton Inn & Suites downtown, the planned downtown events center and other projects already announced would create 10,000 construction jobs.

Some would argue that that number may be high.

But the hospital is expected to create an average of 500 to 600 construction jobs and grow to between 900 and 1,000 during peak times.

The hotel is expected to create 344 construction jobs and the rest of the downtown development, 1,376 jobs.

Then, there's the bypass extension, Southtown Boulevard and the roundabout at Kentucky 56/Kentucky 81 along with several storm-water projects.

The new Kentucky National Guard Armory and a new U.S. Bank Home Mortgage office will also create construction jobs.

U.S. Bank Home Mortgage also plans to create 500 jobs with its new office in MidAmerica Airpark. And the hospital has said it expects to add up to 800 jobs over the next five to 10 years.

Those projects should raise Owensboro's numbers in surveys like Forbes, Silvert said.

Important trifecta

Earlier this year, Money Magazine ranked Owensboro at No. 93 in its "Top 100 Best Places to Live" survey.

And in November 2009, BusinessWeek selected Owensboro as the best place in Kentucky to raise a family.

That's an important trifecta, EDC President Nick Brake said.

"People pay attention to those lists," he said.

"The top 20 (in Forbes' rankings) are nearly all college towns," he said.

That makes it hard for cities without regional universities to score big in such surveys.

The Forbes rankings put three small Kentucky metros in the top 100.

Bowling Green was ranked No. 33 and Elizabethtown, No. 83.

Both are ahead of Owensboro.

"Bowling Green gets huge points for education," Silvert said. "A lot of people who graduate from Western stay in the community. Elizabethtown gets a lot of job growth from Fort Knox."

Bowling Green was No. 70 in educational attainment; Owensboro, 124; and Elizabethtown, 144.

In projected job growth, Bowling Green was No. 41; Elizabethtown, 78; and Owensboro, 142.

Owensboro's placed No. 30 in the cost of doing business. Bowling Green and Elizabethtown tied at No. 21.

EDC uses 11 "peer cities" -- communities around the country that are roughly the same size, do not have regional universities or an interstate highway -- to gauge Owensboro's success.

"We were third among our 11 peer cities," Silvert said. " Of our peer cities, Dubuque (Iowa) was 15th, Jonesboro (Ark.) was 49th. The next closest to us was Victoria, Texas, at 146."

Education level hard to change

The toughest area for Owensboro to improve on is education, he said.

"We tend to hit a wall there," Silvert said. "But Western's two-plus-two approach (two years of community college followed by two years at Western's Owensboro campus) is a good start."

But, he said, "it's a chicken-and-egg thing. It's hard to attract companies that need workers with bachelors' degrees when our percentage of college graduates is low and it's hard to keep people with college degrees here when they can't find work."

The U.S. Census Bureau said last week that in 2009, roughly 17 percent of Daviess Countians had a bachelor's degree or higher. Only 11 percent had not graduated from high school.

Another 30 percent had some college training -- including 9 percent with an associate's degree.

Getting those people to finish college would raise the community's educational attainment level significantly, Silvert said.

The census said 4,600 Daviess Countians were enrolled in college or graduate school last year.

Here's how the community ranked in other areas:

Number of colleges -- 82
Cost of doing business -- 30
Cost of living -- 18
Crime rate -- 63
Culture and leisure -- 121
Economic growth projected -- 161
Educational attainment -- 124
Income growth -- 143
Job growth -- 104
Job growth projected -- 142
Net migration -- 107
Subprime mortgages -- 63

Four firms in running to design events center

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Saturday, October 2, 2010 12:00 AM CDT

The number of companies seeking to design Owensboro's downtown events and convention center has been reduced to four -- and one of them is expected to be chosen Oct. 27, a downtown official said Friday.

Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves said the four finalists were selected from the list of 26 companies that responded to a request for qualifications from architectural firms. The events center steering committee issued that request.

Sept. 13 was the deadline for receiving qualifications from the companies. Since then, a subcommittee has been poring over the submissions, some of which came from as far away as California, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Many of them have experience in designing convention centers and arenas. Several proposed partnering with local firms to design the events center that is planned for the former Executive Inn Rivermont hotel property overlooking the Ohio River north of West Second Street.

The names of the firms submitting qualifications are confidential while they are being evaluated, Reeves said.

The responses from architects were evaluated, and the finalists were selected 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.

After the four finalists are interviewed, Haire, Payne and Horn will recommend an architect for the entire committee's consideration.

"We will interview the four firms over the next two to three weeks," Reeves said. "We were really looking for firms with experience designing convention centers. Then we began to look for firms that would give the most interest to our project and have the kind of knowledge and experience we value. Some of them (the finalists) are large, national firms. Some are paired with other firms. Some are smaller firms. Of the four, any of them could do our project very well."

Payne said it wasn't easy cutting the list of firms from 26 to four. "We had a great group of proposals," he said. "I'm quite pleased with the final four."