photography by Craig Schneider, Power Creative
Chapter Gallery of Images

Chapter Three:
Next Up for Owensboro and Daviess County: A New Narrative That Stokes the Fires of Innovation

by Keith Schneider
October 17, 2011

Owensboro, Kentucky, May 2036 – On a sky blue Ohio River morning Mayor Denise Rose walks from her home on Baylor Place to a station platform on Frederica Street where she boards the sleek red and white Owensboro streetcar. The 15-year-old line links the shopping district at Southtown Boulevard to a downtown loop bounded by Third Street, Hathaway, and Ninth Street.

The ride, on dedicated tracks in Frederica’s wide center, is inexpensive and worth every penny. The view from the clean glass windows is a tour of a mid-size southern city founded in the 19th century, and renowned in the 21st century for risk-taking, innovation, collegiality, and hospitality.

Natural and Human Resources

South of where Owensboro meets the Ohio River, Daviess County unfolds in ridges and valleys of breathtaking beauty. Daviess County's natural and human resources are impressive. The question the community must answer in the 21st century is whether residents and leaders can embrace a shared view of how to succeed. The first decade of downtown development and community investment was a start.

Just beyond the line’s Southtown Boulevard terminus is Daviess County’s thriving farm sector, historically among Kentucky’s most productive and profitable. A new generation of growers is tapping multiple markets that includes Asia’s unyielding demand for grain, Owensboro’s own biotechnology sector that converts plant genetic material for a $35 billion global pharmaceutical market, and for switchgrass and other sources of plant sugars to convert to biofuels.

During the last 25 years, the joint Owensboro-Daviess County Food Policy Council, a panel of citizens, market gardeners, academics, and food industry executives also fostered the investments and connections that generated a $150 million-a-year local foods sector that employs 1,000 people to produce, transport, and sell fresh food produced in Daviess County.

Local food and the region’s recreational facilities kids say the swimming lake and park are great during the ever-hotter summers help reduce obesity and lower levels of heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and other illnesses connected to being inactive and overweight. That, in turn, has improved civic vitality and reduced health insurance rates, which makes employment expenses and the cost of doing business in Owensboro more competitive.

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Chapter Video

Chapter 3 Video

Recommendations for More Success

  1. Undertake a New Community Strategic Plan – A new strategic planning initiative is needed to propel the city and county to the next stage of its progress as a center of opportunity.
  2. Cultivate and Recruit Women to Serve as Elected and Appointed Leaders – Almost 52 percent of Daviess County’s adults are women and that percentage is not reflected in elected positions in the city or county governments.
  3. Strengthen Internal and External Marketing and Communications – More focused outreach is vital to show citizens why a publicly-funded program of education, downtown development, and innovation makes sense in strengthening the economy over the next generation.
  4. Establish a Joint City-County Office of the Ombudsman – Thin out the cross-cutting permitting process while also providing the fairness and access that citizens expect.
  5. Establish and Fund the Owensboro Promise – Provide every graduate of the six Owensboro, Daviess County, and Catholic high schools scholarships for tuition and fees to attend a two- or four-year college in or outside Kentucky.
  6. Establish the Owensboro Top 20 Young Achievers Program – Provide the most talented young adults the chance to be part of Owensboro’s future and to stay connected.
  7. Foster Local Foods and Develop More Recreational Infrastructure – Healthier cities note their success as a marketing advan- tage in promotional campaigns.
  8. Generate More Diversity in Civic Life and Improve Business – Recruit investment and development capital from Asia, and especially from China.
  9. Promote New and Cleaner Energy Sources – Owensboro’s city-owned utility should serve as an innova- tor in carbon reduction technology, conservation, effi- ciency, solar development and other cutting edge thinking about energy production and consumption.
  10. Strengthen Transportation Hubs, Build a Streetcar Line – Owensboro’s opportunities over the next two decades are significant in air, ground, and river transportation.
  11. Put a Brake On Sprawl – Replace the love affair with big surface parking lots with a marriage to homes and businesses, recreation, and education infrastructure that is reachable on foot, on a bike, public transit, or a very short car ride.
  12. Promote Events and Bluegrass Music – Design and develop a new music center that houses the International Bluegrass Music Museum.
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