photography by Craig Schneider, Power Creative
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Chapter Three:
Next Up for Owensboro and Daviess County: A New Narrative That Stokes the Fires of Innovation

by Keith Schneider
October 17, 2011

A Proposed New Narrative For Owensboro

Such trends are a reality check for a city and county that really aren’t that far removed from the mainstream. Still, Daviess County’s most recent narrative is an exception. Local governments are actually leading understanding the globally competitive context, visualizing the local response, then deciding and managing specific actions.


Construction on the Owensboro Medical Health System Hospital, and on other major projects, has sharply increased tax revenues in Owensboro and the number of jobs.

Working collaboratively with each other, as well as with schools, colleges, business organizations, and non-profits, the city and county have gathered the raw materials of a mission-oriented community environment that allows entrepreneurs and their staffs to flourish. The result, already emerging, has led to more home-grown businesses where effective executives are rewarded with opportunities to move up in the organization instead of out to a different job in another place.

Great communities are distinguished by their ability to instill such value-based incentives, which reward hard work and provide favorable conditions for people to succeed. The United States in the first years of the century has temporarily lost that ability. Owensboro offers invaluable lessons about how to recover that skill. It is steadily empowering its young people and its business owners to be adept in an unpredictable era of transformation.

Owensboro, it turns out, is an example of hope for a sore and confused nation. It is trying something new in order to spark something different. Here are recommendations, several of which were also made in previous Owensboro planning documents, to blow more oxygen into the fire of change that Owensboro has started.

These suggestions are not all-inclusive. They don’t, for instance, deal with the medically uninsured, or alterations in Medicare and Medicaid that are likely in the next generation, and will affect Owensboro’s growing population of seniors, and the region’s less economically fortunate.

These recommendations, rather, focus on what Owensboro’s residents and leaders can achieve over the next generation to write a new narrative for what Mayor Ron Payne calls “this little city on the move.”

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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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