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

Owensboro Takes A Different Path

Plant-based Pharmaceuticals

Great communities are distinguished by their ability to instill value-based incentives, which reward hard work and provide favorable conditions for people to succeed in places like Kentucky BioProcessing, which produces genetically modified tobacco plants for plant-based pharmaceuticals.

Owensboro has always regarded itself as a kind of Heartland island difficult to reach, distinctive in its habits, and parochial in its choices. That may explain why in the first decade of the century the city and county resisted the corrosive effects of retrenchment. Whatever the reason, it’s paying off.

These are some of the measures of Owensboro’s achievements:

  • Revenues from Owensboro’s occupational tax rose 7.8 percent last year, the highest on record. City finance officials predict that because of new job growth downtown and at the Owensboro Medical Health System hospital under construction east of town, revenue will continue to grow 5 percent annually for the foreseeable future.
  • For seven straight years city government has ended the fiscal year with surpluses, most recently with $1.1 million in its accounts at the end of the 2010/2011 fiscal year. The city, in fact, has $10.8 million in reserve in its general fund and $2.2 million in interest income in its Sanitation Fund.
  • Daviess County, meanwhile, established a $1 million economic development fund earlier this year to encourage entrepreneurs.
  • Airline service is growing, and the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport this year received $2.1 million in state loans and a state grant to expand the passenger terminal.
  • Daviess County’s unemployment rate has fallen to 7.7 percent, well below the national rate of 9.1 percent. For two years in a row Daviess County produced more new jobs, 2,400, than any other city in Kentucky.

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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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