Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EDC releases Dates for Inaugural Economic Development Citizen Academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jagoe Homes honored nationally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Web

* Jagoe Homes - www.jagoehomes.com

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

Red Pixel owners get Third Street property

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiscal picture 'very healthy,' Barber says

By Rich Suwanski, Messenger-Inquirer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Century will add jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Officials tout 3G network arrival

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farmers Market Moving Downtown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Brake, others praise Community Campus

By Beth Wilberding, Messenger-Inquirer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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