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Northern Kentucky life: Vibrant community, growing economy

By Lorie Hailey

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Photo courtesy of MeetNKY

Nearly 400,000 people live in Northern Kentucky (NKY), a vibrant, fast-growing community comprised of three counties—Boone, Campbell and Kenton—and a staggering 36 cities. Northern Kentucky is part of the 16-county Greater Cincinnati region, a thriving metro with nearly 2.2 million residents and a labor pool of more than 1.13 million workers. Nearly 68% of Northern Kentucky residents participate in the labor force. 

Northern Kentucky is located within a day’s drive (or a 60-minute flight) from 60% of the U.S. population, at the center of where three interstate highways meet. With I-75 and I-71 running through the heart of the region, the transportation and logistics industries play a major role in the area’s economy.

NKY is home to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), which offers 165 peak-day flights and is the seventh-largest cargo airport in North America. The Amazon Prime Air hub is located at CVG, along with the DHL Express Global Superhub. Dozens of other logistics and transportation companies are located near the airport, including warehouses for eBay, Amazon and Wayfair.

Other key industries in the region include financial services, aviation and aerospace, food and flavor, life sciences, and automotive. Northern Kentucky’s demographics paint a picture of a thriving, growing and impactful region that is poised to continue to attract attention from business and industry leaders for many years to come.

Top employers

The largest employment sector in NKY is transportation and warehousing, followed by health care and social assistance. Manufacturing is the third-largest employment sector.

 Some of the region’s top employers include:

  • Fidelity Investments
  • St. Elizabeth Healthcare
  • Citicorp Credit Services
  • Amazon
  • DHL Express
  • Verst Logistics
  • Robert Bosch Automotive Steering
  • Mubea
  • CVG
  • Kroger Co.
  • Mazak
  • Northern Kentucky University
  • Tyson Foods
  • Cengage
  • Schwan’s Global Supply Chain
  • Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
  • Tyson

RELATED: Northern Kentucky small businesses: Quirky, quaint and one-of-a-kind

Collaborative but unique

NKY is a region made up of many cities and townships that collaborate on several initiatives, including the health department, convention and visitors’ bureau, public transportation, economic development and more. Six cities are located along the Ohio River: Ludlow, Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Dayton and Fort Thomas. 

The largest cities in the region, according to population, are Covington, Florence, Independence, Erlanger, Burlington and Newport. 

COVINGTON

More than 40,000 residents live in Covington, a riverfront city located at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers that was incorporated in 1815. The city is known for its unique small businesses, historic homes, beautiful architecture, repurposed commercial spaces and innovative entrepreneurial environment. 

The Florence Y’all water tower welcomes Interstate 75 drivers to Northern Kentucky.

FLORENCE

Located along Interstate 75, Florence is the retail capital of Northern Kentucky. The region’s second-largest city is comprised of a diverse mix of young professionals, families and senior citizens. The city is home to more than 2,500 businesses and is one of the few cities in the region to operate an independent drinking water system and sanitary sewer system. 

ERLANGER

Just five minutes from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), Erlanger is located at the center of the metro region. It is home to several large manufacturers, like Perfetti Van Melle, Toyota Boshoku, the United States Playing Card Co., Newly Weds Foods and more. Wayfair also operates a large fulfillment center there.

FORT THOMAS

Located along the Ohio River, Fort Thomas served as a U.S. Army post for many years. Today, the suburban city is home to families and young professionals and is known for its schools and small businesses.

BURLINGTON

The county seat of Boone County, Burlington is a Census-designated place that is home to over 17,000 residents and numerous businesses. 

NEWPORT

The river city of Newport is known for its Purple People Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that connects Newport to Cincinnati. The city has many tourist attractions, including the Newport on the Levee entertainment complex and Ovation, a mixed-use development that includes an indoor/outdoor concert venue and more. 

Bircus Brewing in Ludlow is described as a place where the “surreal world of circus meets the love of beer.” Photo by Point & Click Studio, courtesy of Bircus Brewing

Something for everyone

There’s a lot to love about the thriving Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky metro area. The region is a perfect blend of small-town charm and big-city buzz—professional sports teams, Fortune 500 companies and well-known firms, major arts and cultural institutions, nationally recognized restaurants, live music and more.

NKY’s riverfront cities have quick access to Cincinnati and all its amenities, but NKY is far from being in Cincinnati’s shadow. In fact, Northern Kentucky has it all. Quaint downtowns bustling with development. Prominent universities and a successful community college system. Historic neighborhoods and a booming residential real estate market. Global logistics expertise that is driving growth and bringing more high-paying jobs. Quick access to the best regional airport in North America. Four major-league sports teams and successful high school sports programs that bring the community together. Innovative entrepreneurs and a supportive business community. Exciting riverfront development. Multiple arts and culture venues. A cost of living below the national average. 

NKY is one of the largest urban areas in Kentucky. It is a thriving manufacturing center and leader in logistics, finance and technology. It has walkability, world-class restaurants, live music and a variety of craft breweries and bourbon distilleries. It also has an active suburban community with great schools and shopping destinations.

Fans from all over the region celebrated the Cincinnati Bengals’ return to the Super Bowl in 2022, the team’s first appearance since 1989. Who Dey, the Bengals’ mascot, visited with football fans at Newport on the Levee during the leadup to the big game.

Click here to read more articles from Market Review of Northern Kentucky 2022-2023.