Press Release:
Foundation Launches New Analysis of Owensboro-Daviess County
New York Times writer heads team

by Keith Schneider
June 1, 2011

OWENSBORO, KY – How have we done in the last 20 years? What’s in store for our city and region?

The Citistates Group, supported by a grant from the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro, is updating its 1991 comprehensive analysis of Owensboro-Daviess County, conducting interviews and research to lay out a fresh path to success for Owensboro in the 21st century.

The Citistates Group was established by Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson. Peirce, an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, specializes in exploring the challenges that cities face, and offering actionable solutions. In 1991, he led the research team that produced Owensboro, Kentucky: Reforging Community, a probing study of the shifts in approach — civic, economic, social, and even psychic – that Owensboro needed to consider to thrive at the turn of the 20th century. The report ran as a series of seven front page articles in the Messenger- Inquirer.

Curtis Johnson, president and CEO of Citistates, is a principal in the 2011 project. Johnson brings rich, diverse and relevant experience to the project as former chairman of the Metropolitan Council in Minneapolis-St. Paul, college president, author, leader of a public affairs research organization, and policy advisor to former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson. Johnson and Peirce have co-authored similar reports in 26 regions over the past quarter century.

The 1991 Peirce Report largely characterized Owensboro as a Heartland city on the verge.

The Owensboro of the early 1990s, reported Peirce and Johnson, was a conservative community clearly comfortable with American economic and social convention. It chased smokestack industries, for instance, and disregarded the value of women as community leaders.

But Owensboro also was starting to respond to some of the emerging market trends that were pushing other big and small U.S. cities toward a new era of civic health – building new educational institutions, redeveloping the riverfront, constructing new civic spaces for the arts and culture, inventing festivals that could become regional and national brands, investing in downtown, and recognizing the threat from sprawling patterns of development.

Twenty years later the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro asked Citistates to update the 1991 findings and write a new narrative for Owensboro that takes into account what people want and provides a formula for success in this century.

We plan to dive deep into Owensboro-Daviess County’s governmental, economic, and political infrastructure to produce a civic x-ray of public decision-making in an era of high velocity change. The project’s goal is to understand what’s different since 1991 in how our community is managed and to provide guidance to citizens on how to more effectively engage, lead, and influence the governing process, effect change, and establish better public policy

The primary researcher and writer of the 2011 Owensboro report is Keith Schneider, a former national correspondent and 30-year contributor to the New York Times. Schneider’s cutting edge career includes reporting on the environment, agriculture, energy, water, land use, urban development, and public policy from four continents. He’s a leading innovator in applying the principles of original reporting and commentary to secure public interest advances. Long considered one of the top American journalists covering natural resource and policy issues he has twice won the George Polk Award, among the most prestigious in American journalism. Schneider has appeared on CNN, C-Span, National Public Radio, CBS-TV, ABC-TV, Westinghouse Broadcasting and others, and delivered talks to Congress, the United Nations, the U.S., Embassy in Beijing, and on more than 40 university campuses, including in Europe and China.

Schneider is in Owensboro this week to conduct iinterviews with community leaders, innovators, and advocates from all walks of life. He will return periodically over the summer for more interviews. The 2011 report will be released in three chapters — in July, August, and late September. The 2011 study will be published online and in text, and report findings will be disclosed during public meeting at the conclusion of each chapter. The interactive process also includes sharing drafts with sources for comments and to check facts.

The Citistates Group oversees all editorial decisions to ensure the project’s independence.

The $100,000 project is funded by the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro. Founder John Hager was owner and publisher of the Messenger-Inquirer when the 1991 report was completed.

For more information, contact:

Citistates Group

Keith Schneider
(231) 920-0745

Curt Johnson
(651) 686-8198

Public Life Foundation

Rodney Berry, President
(270) 685-2652

We really want to know your thoughts. Get in touch with me at Thanks — Keith Schneider.

Public Life Foundation of Owensboro
The Citistates Group
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