Thursday, February 17, 2011

EDC releases community video for marketing

By the Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 12:02 AM CST
The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. has launched the first in a series of new community videos as part of a marketing effort to attract new businesses, young professionals, entrepreneurs and college students to the region.

The first edition of the video highlights Owensboro as a small town with big-city amenities, said EDC President/CEO Nick Brake.

"It is part of an aggressive viral marketing effort including social media promoting the region to new potential residents and investors," Brake said in a news release.

The video incorporates social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Brake is encouraging residents to participate by sending it to at least five people from out of town.

The first video highlights the community's four colleges for use as a tool to recruit college students. Additional videos will focus on business and entrepreneurship, young professionals, family life in Owensboro and the region as a destination for retirees.

The video was produced by Owensboro-based Fleck Media.

"Our goal was to show Owensboro in a new light. We wanted culture, education and livability to be strong themes throughout," said Dave Docimo, Fleck's creative director and owner. "We wanted to give the viewer a sense that there is a lot more to discover here."

It can be viewed on the EDC website,, or on the Owensboro EDC YouTube channel at the following link

Magazine examines Owensboro's economic development

Published: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 12:15 AM CST
By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Owensboro's high-profile, high-dollar efforts to spur its economy and rebuild itself -- from downtown revitalization to the building of a new hospital and a sprawling bank mortgage service center -- are the subject of a lengthy article in the January edition of The Regional Economist magazine.

The magazine is a publication of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Freelance writer Susan C. Thomson, a frequent contributor to the magazine, was in Owensboro in November gathering information and taking photographs. Her article examined Owensboro's economic history and how things have changed from the days when General Electric employed more than 6,000 people and Green River Steel prospered.

Published as one of the magazine's regular community profiles, the article carried the headline of "Federal Funds, Tax Increase Help Owensboro Shore Up Its Economy." Thomson began the piece with a description of the $40 million federally funded downtown river wall project, which is nearly finished. It was designed as an effort to control erosion caused by the flow of the Ohio River through a giant bend at Owensboro. It notes that Sen. Mitch McConnell secured the funding in 2005.

From there, the author moved to 2008 and the unveiling of a downtown master plan and 2009, when city and county governments approved 4 percentage point increases in the local insurance premium tax rates, with the additional revenue dedicated to funding a $79.4 million downtown revitalization program.

Thomson quoted Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. saying that growth of existing companies is contributing to local growth. To illustrate his point, the article described the steady expansion of U.S. Bank's Home Mortgage division, which began as a local startup business. It also had information about First Security Bank's local expansion.

Brake said the article was an accurate and positive review of economic developments in Owensboro. The moves by U.S. Bank Home Mortgage and First Security Bank are what probably caught the magazine's attention, he said.

Brake said the EDC is currently involved in aggressively marketing the community. Articles like the one in "The Regional Economist" can help because it complements what the EDC is trying to do, he said.

"It's good coverage and certainly an accurate depiction," Brake said.

According to the article, a combination of state and city incentives, "speedily arranged," resulted in an offer by the city to build an 81,000-square-foot building and lease it back to U.S. Bank for 20 years at below-market rates.

The first phase of that building is nearing completion at Tamarack and Carter roads in the MidAmerica Airpark. Eventually, 500 jobs will be created at the call center.

Bob Smiley, executive vice president of U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, said the article is good for his company and good for Owensboro-Daviess County.

'The article centered on the good things in Daviess County," he said. "From the standpoint of a direct benefit to us, as we expand, the more people know about Owensboro, the better for us. Within our organization, Owensboro is on the map. But a lot of people don't know about us."

Smiley said he appreciated the article's focus on downtown revitalization.

"To me, the most important thing is the revitalization of downtown," he said. "All that's going on downtown is a huge draw for this area. It really told the story of what Owensboro has to offer. I think (Thomson) really did capture what is coming to reality."

Mayor Ron Payne said the article is more evidence that positive news about the city is getting out. He noted that a recent Lane Report, a Kentucky publication, is devoted to economic activities in Owensboro.

"All the activity that is happening here is radiating throughout the country," Payne said. "This (Thomson's article) is more of the same. That is why it is so important that we finish what we have started."

Tracing the growth of OMHS (then Owensboro-Daviess County Hospital) back to its 1995 merger with Mercy Hospital, the article stated that the hospital has increased employment by 1,200 since then and will add another 300 jobs by the time the $385 million replacement hospital opens between Pleasant Valley Road and Daniels Lane, and then add another 200 or so jobs after that, according to CEO Jeff Barber.

The article stated that U.S. Bank and OMHS had "serendipitously evolved over the years into job-creating powerhouses" with current combined employment of more than 4,400.

A significant portion of the article was devoted to the emergence of plant-based pharmaceuticals research at OMHS-owned Kentucky BioProcessing, bought with the help of a $6.4 million loan from the state's tobacco settlement fund. The plant in the MidAmerica Airpark received a $17.9 million U.S. Department of Defense contract and has grown from six workers to 32.

The article also described these developments:

* Construction of the U.S. 60 bypass extension, using equal parts state and federal funds.

* Downtown revitalization and the progress of the convention center and the 150-room downtown hotel that will sit next to it.

* First Security Bank's decision to keep its headquarters in Owensboro and expand its downtown headquarters (aided by state incentives).

* Larry and Rosemary Conder's campaign to fix up downtown buildings.

The entire article and seven photos accompanying it can be seen in the magazine's online edition at

Monday, February 14, 2011

EDC Video: Viral Marketing Effort focusing on Attracting Businesses and Talent to Region

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation (GO-EDC) launched the first in a series of new community videos as part of a marketing effort that will target the attraction of new businesses, young professionals, entrepreneurs, and college students to the region.

EDC President/CEO Nick Brake said the first edition of the video highlights Owensboro as a small town with big city amenities. “It is part of an aggressive viral marketing effort including social media promoting the region to new potential residents and investors,” said Brake.

The first version of the video highlights the four colleges in the community for use as a tool to recruit college students to the region. Additional videos will focus on business and entrepreneurship, young professionals, family life in Owensboro, and the region as a destination for retirees.

The video was produced by Owensboro-based Fleck Media. Dave Docimo, Creative Director and owner said it was an honor to develop a concept that supports our hometown. “Our goal was to show Owensboro in a new light. We wanted culture, education, and livability to be strong themes throughout,” said Docimo. “We wanted to give the viewer a sense that there is a lot more to discover here.”

The video can be viewed on the EDC website ( or on the Owensboro EDC YouTube channel at the following link

The video incorporates social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The EDC encourages all that view to participate in the viral marketing effort by sending it to at least five people from out of town.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jobs search: EDC uses a number of approaches

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Sunday, February 6, 2011 12:02 AM CST

We need good-paying jobs.

That has been a common statement at forums in Owensboro.

And economic development officials at local, regional and state levels across the country are incorporating a number of approaches to find those jobs.

One of the models is relatively new to Kentucky.

The Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation and its bricks-and-mortar companion, the Centre for Business and Research at 1010 Allen St., now hold a relatively new place within the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.'s long-term strategy.

Emerging Ventures, which is also called an innovation center or IC, is integrated in the state's innovation-driven economic development strategies.

This focus on innovation, however, is in addition to the traditional model of competing to win industries through tax breaks or other incentives such as cheap land or loans.

The EDC's website shows that agency's three main goals are to grow and diversify the regional economy, innovate and educate, and develop the community to attract people.

"It's a three-legged stool," said Madison Silvert, the EDC's executive vice president and Emerging Ventures' executive director. "If all you do is compete for plants, you can't sustain your economy."

What is an innovation center?

In 2000, the state passed the Kentucky Innovation Act. Soon after that, a Department of Commercialization and Innovation was created within the Cabinet for Economic Development. The DCI focuses on high-tech companies -- creating them, recruiting them and retaining them.

The DCI's goal is to create products, new companies and jobs for Kentuckians.

The state has six regional Innovation and Commercialization Centers (ICCs) and seven local Innovation Centers (ICs).

Emerging Ventures is Owensboro's IC.

Until last year, Owensboro's center was called a Kentucky ICC satellite, not a full-fledged IC. The main difference was the level of funding.

"We had to show that we had the stuff here," Silvert said. "The EDC raised the funds, and with the help of OMHS, U.S. Bank and the Messenger-Inquirer, we started our center."

Most people don't realize that companies such as MPD Inc. hold numerous patents, and Kentucky Bioprocessing has significant intellectual property, he said.

The push for Owensboro's innovation infrastructure came after Kentucky Bioprocessing ran out of space to lease to other high-tech companies in its area of plant-based therapeutics and pharmaceuticals.

"Even if the demand for this wasn't already here, it needed to be, and we needed the infrastructure to support it," Silvert said. "For three years, we demonstrated to the state that the demand was here and that a number of innovators were here and could use the help."

In 2010, the Owensboro IC became an equal with the other six state-sanctioned centers, and its funding increased to about $70,000.

Open for three years now, the center's resources are available in the Commerce Center at 200 E. Third St. It is a one-stop shop for people who want to start or are on their way to start a business, Silvert said.

The resources include access to the Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), which offers coaching and mentoring, and the Murray State University Small Business Development Center, which has been in Owensboro for about 30 years and can assist with business plan development and more.

"If you have an idea for a business, this is a great place for you," Silvert said. "We have a wide range of services for start-ups."

Another even more recent piece of the region's innovation efforts is the Entrepreneurship and Business Academy, one of five academies within the new Community Campus plan that will be offered through four regional school systems.

"We hope to create the next generation of entrepreneurs," Silvert said. "Big companies here, like WaxWorks and Titan, were started by local entrepreneurs. We want them to know that we support them and have a place where they can grow. And education is a big part of that."

Successful local companies will have a point at which they ask whether Owensboro is the place where they want to grow, Silvert said.

"We want to make sure we have the work force ready so that we can say, if you want to grow, you should do it here," he said.

Business accelerator poised to take off

The EDC leases about 37,000 square feet of space for the Centre for Business and Research from developer Malcolm Bryant, who owns the former tobacco warehouse. The center, also called a small business accelerator, is modeled after WKU's much larger facility.

Silvert said Batavia, N.Y., is recognized as having the first business incubator in the U.S.

"There is a fine line difference between a small business incubator and accelerator," he said.

The difference apparently is found in the support services the centers provide and other contract relationships with clients.

Western established its small business accelerator about nine years ago and now has 17 clients that employ a total of about 400 people.

The Bowling Green center is in a renovated former mall with more than 300,000 square feet of space.

The largest employer is a call center providing 300 jobs. Some of the companies are one-person operations.

Doug Rohrer is the new director of Western's Center for Research and Development and has been on the job a little more than a month.

"I would say the small business accelerator is robust, very successful," he said. "We're about full and will need to renovate more of our space soon."

Companies that start or move into the Bowling Green center receive finished out space with access to multiple conference rooms and high-speed Internet at attractive rates, Rohrer said.

"They also get advice and support. We connect them to the appropriate university staff to get expert counsel," he said.

Western's business school, for example, can help them create business plans. "The goal is to grow companies and create jobs for Kentuckians," Rohrer said.

The traditional economic development model didn't give weight to finding high-tech companies, he said.

"The Innovation Act provides the framework for this," he said. "Everybody would like to have a new Google or Facebook. These companies come up fast and grow fast. The whole innovation system is about finding those kinds of companies." still growing

One of those fast-developing high-tech companies in the Bowling Green business accelerator is

Hitcents, the center's first tenant, now employs 33 people.

Ed Mills and his twin sons, Clinton Mills and Chris Mills, started the company in 1999 when the younger owners were 16 years old.

"They were working at Steak 'n Shake and said we've got an idea," said Ed Mills, who is the company's chief financial officer. "I said great, let's run with it. And they never looked back."

The company, which started in web design and programming, now has five divisions and is still working by its motto, "dare to dream it real," Ed Mills said.

Hitcents still offers web design, but it also creates software and can provide software packages that can manage multiple business functions.

The company recently received approval for up to $150,000 from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority to help in buying information technology infrastructure equipment.

That investment helped Hitcents launch a new enterprise resource planning product, Omniprise, on Feb. 1 which was five years in development. This is expected to create about 10 new jobs.

As expected, its website has all the details.

Ed Mills said when the time came for his sons to go to college, Hitcents already had national corporations as clients.

"WKU President Gary Ransdell said, 'We want to give you entrepreneurial scholarships and try to entice you to go the center and be our first tenant,' " Ed Mills said. "That was the best decision we made."

The CFO said Bowling Green's business accelerator gives the company access to Western's professors for collaboration and provides an extensive support system.

"With that, we feel like we have a long arm that can reach out at any given opportunity," Ed Mills said.

Hitcents was number 191 on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies in 2007. Clinton Mills was one of only four CEOs on the list under age 30.

Owensboro's center also growing

Owensboro definitely is in the game, Rohrer said.

Western now has two full-time assistant professors in food processing and biology opening research offices in the Owensboro center. The university has a food manufacturing degree that was developed for the Owensboro campus.

This model recognizes that ideas flowing from the students and professors could turn into start-up companies.

Hollison Technologies, a start-up biotech company, was the first tenant in the business and research center. The company describes its business as providing unique products and services for food protection and the detection of contaminants in the food supply chain.

The company earned a $50,000 investment from the Emerging Ventures Seed Fund and a $200,000 investment from the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.

Kevin Humphrey started the company along with partners Doug Wood of Island, Eric Dodd of Evansville and Tony Bashall of Massachusetts.

The company has an office in Boston.

Silvert expects to have five clients in the center by the end of this year. Two of those are Alisha Hardison, owner of Dalisha's Desserts, and Joshua Vandgrift, owner of Owensboro Consulting and Business Services.

Hardison wants to open a dine-in business as well as to fill custom orders for individuals and businesses, sell products online and operate as a wholesaler to local restaurants.

Vandgrift's consulting firm provides direct consulting services such as web design as well as connects start-up companies with what he calls top-notch freelancers to help them maximize profits.

At the state level, the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. has a contract to manage the whole innovation network. The company provides training for Silvert and other innovation center directors, financial modeling and other support.

Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. also has analysts that look at deals submitted by state start-ups to determine if they are good investments.

Other pieces of the innovation model include potential funding sources including the Kentucky New Energy Ventures Fund; Rural Investment Fund (for companies not based in Lexington or Louisville) and the Kentucky Enterprise Fund.

Owensboro's innovation center is part of the Central Region Innovation and Commercialization Center, and Rohrer also serves as the executive director of that network managed through Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.

Western's Center for Research and Development includes seven research labs in which different university departments conduct applied research.

The center will be hosting a grand opening in March for a scanning electron microscope that has the largest chamber of any similar technology in the U.S., Rhorer said.

"In the world of electron microscopes, this is huge," he said. "We will be selling space and time on it and expect a lot of interest in it."

Private and public universities and colleges are affiliated with Owensboro's center.

The University of Louisville, for example, will collaborate with the center through Nucleus, the Life Science Innovation Center on its campus.

Nucleus will provide resources for start-up high-tech companies in business planning and information technology. New companies also can use U of L's buying power of to help control expenses in health insurance and other areas.

"All of these programs are working together to foster innovation and support entrepreneurs to increase their chances of success," Rohrer said.