Why Northern Kentucky economic development is flying high

May 20, 2013

Northern Kentucky has generated lots of economic announcements in the past year--business expansions here,  job expansions there--and the momentum continues into this year.  Much of the growth is thanks to a wealth of resources such as available land, a well-trained workforce and nearby transportation, including the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and DHL.

The economic development organization for Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, attracts about 22 new projects a year.  Senior Vice President Karen Finan said last year there were 24 that generated $300 million in capital investment and thousands of jobs.  She's projecting another signature year for the region.

"Right now, we have ten projects that we have announced; we have over 500 jobs that have been created and over $80 million in capital investment," said Finan.  "The first half of this year has been very strong, in part, because of the pipeline we have established in attracting and creating that awareness about Northern Kentucky."

The list so far this year includes companies such as Southern Air, Legion Logistics, Zoom Essence, Newly Weds Foods, and Jacobs Automation.  

It helps to be in the middle of things     

Even though it's about 1880, this sign at the airport is still pretty current when it comes to how businesses view Northern Kentucky--close to their customers.
Credit Mark Heyne / WVXU News

The latest addition to the development list is food service company Lyons Magnus.  The California-based business has a facility in Boone County, which is adding 50 jobs and investing $5 million as it expands.  

It's a prime example of the old saying about the three things that matter in real estate:  location, location, location.  

"Sixty-five percent of America lives within 600 miles of Northern Kentucky, so it's a great place to have a redistribution center," said company chairman and CEO Robert Smittcamp.

And he says the Northern Kentucky site puts Lyons Magnus near one of its largest customers, Kroger.

Much of the region's growth is from hard work paying off during hard times

Tri-ED's Finan says in 2009, Northern Kentucky, like the rest of the nation, was affected by the economic slump, but her organization left nothing to chance.

"During the downturn we continued to market ourselves," she said.  "We continued to travel to other markets where we knew we could compete aggressively because of cost of business, cost of living, a number of factors."

What are those factors? 

  • Nearby cargo capabilities 
  • Industrial infrastructure
  • Collaboration among neighboring communities on both sides of the river
  • Support from state and local governments and from local higher education institutions
  • Being along the I-75 corridor

That's how Adam Bruns sees it.  He's the Managing Editor for Site Selection magazine and has covered economic development in Kentucky for about 15 years.

"You look at the number of location expansions that Tri-ED reported last calendar year, you can't help but be impressed with that kind of performance out of a three-county area," said Bruns.

Tri-ED's Finan says the group  will continue seeking advanced manufacturing, office technology, aviation, and distribution, e-commerce and logistics businesses.  That bodes well for Northern Kentucky, which is recognized as one of the fastest growing regions in the state.