Photo feature: NKY celebrates success, looks toward bright future

Recent years have seen sweeping changes for the better in Northern Kentucky, but the most recognizable changes came when, early last year, Vision 2015 rebranded as Skyward and introduced a four-point plan for the region, targeting improvement in business and innovation, health and wellness, community vibrancy and education.
NKY Thrives has worked to highlight some of the most noteworthy stories within those four sectors, and now as we close out another successful year, we offer a look back at the people, places and projects that will continue to define our region for generations to come.
Business & Innovation
For the past several years, Northern Kentucky has focused on target industries including manufacturing, automation, healthcare and food production — areas of strength identified by Northern Kentucky Tri-ED’s five-year Target Industry Analysis.
Working collaboratively, Skyward and NKY Tri-ED developed a goal for Northern Kentucky business of cultivating an environment that facilitates innovation, entrepreneurial success and business expansion. The groups partnered with the area's leading companies and organizations to implement short-term strategies to fill gaps in the labor market and build a framework to support connecting people with appropriate training to earn high-paying, satisfying careers.
To that end, workforce development initiatives included Gateway Community & Technical College’s Raise the Floor program and the One Vision One Voice campaign launched last summer through a partnership between Skyward and Northern Kentucky Tri-ED. Both programs served to highlight the need for skilled workers in all industries, but gave particular regard to elevating our region’s workforce contributions in advanced manufacturing.
NKY tech startups like Wyzerr also showed considerable promise and progress in recent years, thanks in part to local incubator programs such as those offered by The Brandery and UpTech, who, in September announced its fifth cohort of diverse startups with a community-driven focus.
Bolstering the success of the region’s large corporations were hundreds of small businesses like those in Ludlow, Fort Thomas and Newport, who met an influx of newcomers and joined forces to drive economic development across Northern Kentucky’s six riverfront communities.
Health & Wellness
In 2008, St. Elizabeth Health Care merged with St. Luke Hospital to form one of the region’s largest healthcare providers. In its first full year under the leadership of CEO Garren Colvin, St. Elizabeth added a state-of the-art Simulation Center and merging with OHC’s adult cancer and blood disorders practice in order to create NKY’s first Comprehensive Cancer Center.
At the community level, outdoor living and walkability have been major areas of focus for the region in recent years. An ongoing LiveWell NKY initiative rolled out in the five pilot communities of Covington, Newport, Ludlow, Ft. Mitchell and Gallatin County. The program, which has been well received by residents and businesses across NKY, began awarding Worksite Awards to businesses like HORAN that have implemented policies that place a high value on employee health and overall wellbeing.
Similarly, community-wide initiatives like Gen-H and TANK’s Transit-Friendly Destinations program worked to connect residents and ease access to public transportation, while shedding additional light on the area’s strengths and areas for improvement with regard to residential and organizational health.
Those efforts were underpinned by a national wave of young professionals and some families returning to the urban core, seeking green space and opportunities for outdoor activities like walking and cycling.
Community Vibrancy
Northern Kentucky responded to the aforementioned influx by increasing its urban residential offerings. In Newport alone, recent years have seen the addition of 102 units at Monmouth Row, 239 upscale rentals at Aqua on the Levee and a planned renovation of the Fourth Street School building which will bring 200 more housing options to the riverfront.

Similar housing developments have broken ground in Covington and Dayton and will join Bellevue’s high-rise Vue 180 in the wealth of upscale urban housing stock now available in Northern Kentucky.
Peripheral communities saw a residential influx, too, as showcased in the Catalytic Fund’s popular Beyond the Curb series, which invited visitors to tour iconic residential and commercial properties in Ludlow, Covington, Bellevue, Newport and Dayton — many of which are available for lease or purchase.
Renaissance Covington was another major contributor to Northern Kentucky vibrancy this year. The nonprofit organization spun off from Covington’s city government with ongoing projects that highlight creative placemaking and economic development.
Cherished events like the Pendleton County Wool Festival and Bellevue’s Old KY Makers Market rounded out a robust outdoor calendar for Northern Kentucky this year. Meanwhile, organizations like Skyward, The Catalytic Fund and Covington’s Center for Great Neighborhoods began awarding “nano grants” of up to $250 to spark community vibrancy projects. Recipients used these funds to support a wide variety of projects, including walking tours, beautification projects and even an event to honor the late Dayton resident who founded Slush Puppie frozen drinks.

Last month, we talked about how NKU’s College of Informatics is leading the region’s cybersecurity efforts with its award-winning Center for Information Security. That’s just the most recent in a long list of accolades for the state’s fastest-growing four-year postgraduate institution, which continues to celebrate an era of ongoing transformation.
Elsewhere, the region’s most recognizable names in manufacturing have made significant strides in recent years to attract high schools students — particularly women and girls — to high-paying careers in advanced manufacturing. This strategy continues to have marked impact on the region’s talent pool.
Meanwhile, Kenton County Academies and NKY FAME worked with other institutions at the high school level to increase the region’s focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, while the NaviGo Scholars program continued its efforts to connect local high school juniors with prospective careers in environmental science.
In 2015, Northern Kentucky implemented Pre-K Works, a bold new kindergarten readiness initiative piloted by Erlanger/Elsmere Schools with the goal of becoming a model for all NKY districts.
In closing the books on another great year, NKY Thrives would like to thank our readers, as well as residents and organizations large and small whose efforts continue to bolster our region’s growth and contribute to our ongoing success. Here’s to many more healthy, productive and economically successful years to come for Northern Kentucky. Stay tuned!
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