Wednesday, May 11, 2011 site makes debut

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 12:01 AM CDT is now live.

This new website — touted as an economic development marketing tool — brands Owensboro as an exciting and safe college town and puts a lot of information about its four partner colleges in one place, officials said Tuesday.

Representatives of Western Kentucky University-Owensboro, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro Community & Technical College and Brescia University joined Nick Brake, the president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., in officially launching their partnership at a news conference in the Commerce Center.

A small crowd of educators, business and community leaders and public officials attended the launch.

“Economic development has long been based on the location decisions of companies,” Brake said. “The overall goal of our partnership is to focus on the location decisions made by college students and their parents.”

The EDC is continuing to pursue a strategy that educational attainment drives the new economy. The goal of this partnership is to boost the community’s college enrollment to 10,000 from its current number of nearly 8,000, he said.

The idea is for the community to be able to continue to retain at least two out of three graduates to live and work in the community.

The web portal is the primary marketing tool the partners will use to “Enroll, Engage and Employ” students who choose Owensboro.

The site lets the institutions sell themselves and lets parents see what the colleges and the community have to offer.

Links to the colleges as well as to social media and other sites also are plugged into OwensboroU.

“Our hope is that this initiative will help us work together as a region and recognize the role that higher education and a baccalaureate degree play in economic development,” Brake said.

As the partnership continues, other organizations will be engaged to tie the college population together, he said.

The new website and partnership provides a way to demonstrate the collaborations the four colleges already have and an opportunity to continue those relationships, said Gene Tice, Western’s Owensboro campus director.

The four leaders have been meeting regularly for a number of years.

“Parents are very interested in the community where their students will live,” said Cheryl King, KWC’s president. “This gives us a chance to showcase our community for its safety and amenities such as our emerging downtown which is exciting to students and to show that we are a community that will care about them.”

The partnership shows that more may be achieved through collaboration, even though each college is different, King said.

Jim Klauber, president of Owensboro Community & Technical College, likes the idea of each institution sharing the message that it’s an exciting time to be a college student and to come to Owensboro. That message rings true for OCTC as it is creating niche programs to help students pursue their careers, he said.

Bringing together both the message of quality education with quality of place in Owensboro is important to Brescia, said its president, Rev. Larry Hostetter.

“Our students who come here do tend to stay,” he said

Brake said city and county officials support the idea that “education is about preparing for work, but it also is about making your life better.”

Lyn Cooper, president and CEO of First Security Inc., said the partnership and website is a unique collaboration among the colleges and EDC.

“It promotes knowledge of what we have in Owensboro,” Cooper said. “And we especially like it because on one site, students and families can compare the institutions. I applaud the EDC, and I think this is a great move in the right direction.”

Students, including existing college students, will find information links about internships, activities and housing.

Parents have their own sections with separate links to a number of data points including crime statistics, arts, jobs, housing and night life.