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

Leadership and Civic Consensus

But Rose and her current colleagues aren’t resting. Nothing about what she sees every weekday morning from the streetcar — and a good number of weekend days, too, because good public transit has meant her family needs just one hydrogen fuel cell-powered car — has been easy to achieve.

Every decade or so Owensboro and Daviess County voters thoroughly debate the civic contest between self-interest and collective action. In government terms, that translates to policy that either focuses on tax cutting and stingy public spending, or welcomes risk taking and imagination. Elections have consistently been won by men and women who valued the latter, an important distinction in an age of aggressive competition for shallow pools of public funds administered by Frankfort and Washington.

One reason that has occurred is that local voters insist that Owensboro City and Daviess County governments collaborate. Instead of rivalry and confrontation, the two governments view themselves as partners, working together to set and achieve aggressive economic goals, and opening more of their deliberations to gain the transparency and fairness that voters seek. That, in turn, has built trust and accelerated the time needed to make important decisions, a competitive advantage for businesses and institutions trying to keep pace with swift market changes.

Bike Lanes

Bike lanes on city streets and promote bicycling is a reasoned, healthy, low-cost transportation alternative.

Some 10,000 people now live in downtown Owensboro, an area loosely defined by the streetcar line loop, and 25,000 people work there. Owensboro’s downtown also is served by an inviting pedestrian and bicycling pathway that traverses the city’s riverfront park, slips by the active convention center and eight downtown hotels, and is connected to the big city and county parks on the 45-mile Greenbelt.

Even at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday, city sidewalks are bustling with workers and residents. Along with the two city college campuses, Owensboro Community and Technical College and the local Western Kentucky University campus turn out capable graduates that have made the city a hub of entrepreneurial enterprise. Signs fixed to storefronts and offices indicate thriving businesses in health, high-tech equipment and instruments, music, food and agriculture, international investment and trade, services, hospitality, and energy.

In fact, scattered atop city and county homes, and on the roofs of businesses and schools, are shiny blue and silver photovoltaic arrays generating electricity from the sun, and revenue for local governments and homeowners. The Owensboro Municipal Utility, which developed the solar program, is a noted and cutting edge generator of cleaner alternative energy, and an innovator of carbon-reducing fossil fuel power.

Arguably the most useful outcome of the utility’s advances has been to help build applied energy research and training programs at Owensboro’s high schools and colleges. That has yielded a steady stream of skilled and committed professionals to staff the city’s energy-focused manufacturing, research, and management sector that generates $300 million in annual combined sales and employs 2,000 people.

Just as significant, the utility’s focus on cleaner power sources, conservation, and energy efficiency have helped power bills stay lower than almost anywhere else in the country. That, in turn, helped preserve 5,000 good jobs in the regional aluminum smelting and fabricating industry.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

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.
Public Life Foundation of Owensboro
The Citistates Group
Red Pixel Studios Website Development