Northern Kentucky leadership reflects on 25 years of growth
Over the past 25 years, Northern Kentucky's Judge Executives, executive committee and board have been instrumental in the work of Tri-ED, the primary economic development agency for Boone, Campbell and Kenton Counties. The Judge Executives appoint and oversee a 17 member board of directors and are members of Tri-ED's executive committee, along with Secretary/Treasurer Wm. T. Robinson, a founding member of Tri-ED, and Kimberly Halbauer, Vice President, Fifth Third Bank, and Tri-EF representative to the Tri-ED board of directors.
As you might guess, they're uniquely well-positioned to provide insight on the changes they've seen over the years, the hurdles they've leapt, and the developments they see in Northern Kentucky's future.
The region has experienced changes in stride with the rest of the country. Populations have shifted from urban areas to suburban and rural communities. The economy has ebbed and flowed. But Northern Kentucky has persisted, and grown.
We look at some of the biggest changes Northern Kentucky's communities have experienced -- and where those developments will take us from here.
Growth perseveres, in spite of slow economy
There may be no better spokesperson for the growth of Northern Kentucky than Wm. T. Robinson III, Secretary/Treasurer of Tri-ED's board of directors and one of the organizations "founding fathers."
He has witnessed first-hand the changes that have happened in the region. And the momentum created by working together, he says, is what continues to move the region forward.
"Our continuing commitment to regional collaboration propels us upward and onward," Robinson says. "Through NKY Tri-ED, we help facilitate the creation of new companies and additional jobs, encourage the expansion of existing firms and attract new businesses to the region."
One area that has seen that growth happen on a huge scale is Boone County. A quiet agricultural community for most of its history, it had a population of about 57,500 at the time of the 1990 census. By the mid-2000s, Boone County was adding about 11 new residents a day. Current population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau estimate the population of Boone County at 121,700. (For comparison, the total population of the tri-county area increased from about 283,500 in 1990 to about 373,000 in 2011.)
But Boone County has not been defined by population growth alone, says Gary Moore, Boone County Judge Executive and Chairman of Tri-ED's board of directors.
"Boone County has grown by phenomenal numbers in the attraction of new and existing companies, especially in the manufacturing sector of the economy," Moore says. As the home of the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport, Boone County has become a critical transportation and logistics hub, supporting major international firms such as DHL (which announced a major expansion in 2012
), ZF Steering (which completed a $95.8 million expansion in 2011
), and Johnson Controls (which is expanding its operations and creating 45 new jobs
). Over 60,000 people work in Boone County at hundreds of companies.
Quality of life in Boone County has improved as a result.
"We are one of highest per capita family income counties in the Commonwealth. We were selected as the healthiest county in Kentucky last year and continue to see outstanding population and job growth even though we are in a down economy," Moore says.
Building the pipeline
By supplying the skilled talent businesses need to grow and thrive, strong educational institutions contribute immeasurably to the health of the region.
In 25 years, Northern Kentucky has only improved in this regard.
"Northern Kentucky University's growth -- and specifically the College of Informatics -- has brought vision and opportunity to NKY," says Steve Pendery, Judge Executive of Campbell County and chair-elect of Tri-ED's Board of Directors. The founding of the College of Informatics in 2005 created something brand-new to the region, one of just a few of its kind in the country: a cross-disciplinary school of study that confronts the 21st-century challenge of information as it applies across the board -- in media, technology, business, engineering, economics, social networks and beyond. Its new home at Griffin Hall, opened with fanfare in October 2011, is a distinctive sign of the region's commitment to creating the workforce of the future.
NKU has not been alone in changing the game for talent in Northern Kentucky.
"The growth of Gateway Community and Technical College, especially the proposed urban campus in Covington, has been an extremely positive addition to the community, especially the Manufacturing and Trades Technologies program," says Steve Arlinghaus, Kenton County Judge Executive and past chair of Tri-ED's executive board. "Gateway's proposed urban campus will continue to shape the workforce capacity of our community in multiple industries, creating even more opportunity in the Northern Kentucky region for area residents and employers alike."
Pendery believes that the relative strengths of Northern Kentucky's educational institutions have a direct impact on the kinds of businesses Northern Kentucky will be able to grow and support moving forward.
"Given the presence of NKU and the College of Informatics, the high-tech sector is a natural fit for our community," he says. "A continued focus on this sector through programs like UpTech
, incentives, and business programs targeted to these types of companies, as well as the continued development of our high-tech work force, is key."
Redefining the urban core
Development of Northern Kentucky's "front door" -- its riverfront -- has been a "game-changer," says Steve Pendery.
The fate of the riverfront has been cyclical -- vibrant in the 1990s, challenged during the economic downturn of the '00s, now showing promising signs of recovery. From Roebling Point to historic MainStrasse Village to Newport on the Levee, Northern Kentucky's riverfront has energized the area with dining, nightlife, and entertainment. That's making way for new residential and office space developments on the river to take off.
"Some of the biggest changes in Northern Kentucky have occurred through the development of the riverfront and the revitalization of the urban core in Covington, Newport, and the River cities," says Arlinghaus.
Pendery agrees, and adds that residential options along the riverfront are "extraordinary and affordable." Business are moving in, too, and efforts to connect Northern Kentucky's riverfront communities via the Riverfront Commons Trail
are well underway, with a goal of forging a more liveable region for residents and businesses alike.
If trends continue, Northern Kentucky will continue to grow, thrive, and attract new residents, whether they choose to live in a swanky high-rise on the river or in the bucolic outlying neighborhoods that blend the best of city and country.
"Here in Northern Kentucky, we are blessed with a consummate, community-based socioeconomic environment, one that we can be proud to call home,
" says Robinson. "During our travels around the globe this past year representing the American Bar Association, Joan and I saw many different ways of living and doing business. Our quality of life here in Northern Kentucky is superlative and second to none."
Moore points to Tri-ED as one of the key change agents in Northern Kentucky over the years.
"Tri-ED continues to be a national leader in the area of economic development," Moore says. "We are very blessed here in Northern Kentucky to have such a great organization fighting for our communities."