By Daniel E. Tobergte, President/CEO, Northern Kentucky Tri-Ed
The experiment of creating the first regional economic development entity in the Commonwealth of Kentucky worked! Northern Kentucky Tri-ED launched on Jan. 1, 1987, initially to attract primary industry companies to Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. Over 30 years, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED added business retention and expansion, and entrepreneurship to our repertoire. Today, with a $2.2 million budget – funded mostly by unique sources of revenue from rental car fees in all three counties – Tri-ED is able to serve a region of 385,000 people focusing on more than 550 primary industry companies, increasing economic diversity and quality of life for our residents.
As technologies advance, the industries we target have changed, incorporating improvements to products and processes and reflecting a world that is far beyond what we could have imagined in 1987. Though we did not imagine a cell phone in nearly every pocket when Northern Kentucky Tri-ED was formed in 1987, we did have the foresight to know that regional collaboration and cooperation would be needed to propel Northern Kentucky forward.
Our region has truly aged well and is on the cutting-edge of industry innovations. The Internet of Things, Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Predictive Analytics permeate our businesses, our industries and our region. Advanced manufacturing firms comprise more than 50 percent of our primary industry companies, and we aim to assist these companies in the aerospace, automotive, machine tool, food, and flavoring industries. In the life sciences field, Northern Kentucky companies develop and test pharmaceutical therapies that positively affect global health, and financial services and informatics firms are trailblazing new approaches daily.
The Kentucky Innovation Network at Northern Kentucky and UpTech, Northern Kentucky’s business accelerator, support a robust entrepreneurship community that thrives on a special blend of small-town warmth and urban sophistication. This network of ambitious start-ups regularly engages with established companies, sparking conversation, capital support and new ventures. Northern Kentucky Tri-ED’s award-winning Business Retention and Expansion program, NKY Boost, helps us keep our ear to the ground in the business community, so we can help overcome obstacles and facilitate growth.
To remain competitive in this increasingly globalized economy, we are doubling down on the building blocks of industry growth and attraction. Our region is collaborating to build a multi-industry talent pipeline for the future. Last year, the NKU College of Informatics graduated more than 500 students with skills in computing, cybersecurity and information technology. Thomas More College is in the process of working towards becoming a university, gaining more regional and national recognition and expanding its international footprint.
Our colleges and universities collectively offer certificates, associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs to support advanced manufacturing education and STEAM learning. We partner with our workforce allies like Gateway Community and Technical College, KY FAME and the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition to take this message into the school systems earlier, reaching the middle schoolers and high schoolers who will be our workforce in only a few short years.
Our sights also are set on our region’s present and future physical landscape. We are working with our counties to evaluate the stock of available land, infrastructure and assets necessary to house new and expanding future industry. We will identify the best strategic uses for our most promising sites, increase our speed to market, and facilitate the site selection process with greater efficiency and less risk.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) plans to lease up to 350 acres of surplus land to primary industry operations, spurring financial independence for CVG and further contributing to the economic vitality of the region. CVG is a top 10 cargo airport in the country, and travelers now enjoy significantly lower overall air fares at CVG.
NKY’s brand of partnership and collaboration is a key strength that will drive our region long into the future. Northern Kentucky Tri-ED is blessed with dedicated board leadership spearheaded by the three judges executive of our counties and a very talented professional team. Though it’s hard to say what Northern Kentucky, let alone the world, will be like in the year 2047, we cherish the opportunity to collaborate and cooperate to fortify and expand our world-class economy over the next 30 years. l