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Transformation of Former Car Lot to Kentucky Career Center Underway

Though work has already begun, ground was ceremonially broken at the former Robke Chevrolet site at the 1300 block of Madison Avenue in Covington.

A new Kentucky Career Center will occupy the site once the $4.8 million renovation is complete.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear joined local civic and business leaders at the ceremony on Wednesday, part of a four-hour tour in Covington that included remarks at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce government forum and the announcement of hundreds of new jobs at the RiverCenter Towers.

The new center, which will replace its current location at the corner of Third & Garrard Streets, will be a model for other career centers across the state, Beshear said.

“The Kentucky Career Center provides many valuable employment and training services,” Beshear said in prepared remarks. “The new facility will offer more comprehensive services of multiple agencies from one convenient location, and will help foster an environment that is attractive and functional to job seekers and businesses.”

The governor also acknowledged the significance of the development in this part of the city.

"It breathes new life into an area of Covington that needs new life," Beshear said. "I'm proud that the state government could be a part of that."

In a complicated real estate deal announced over the summer, the City of Covington will buy the renovated property at 1324-1414 Madison Avenue and lease it to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD). The project includes a single-level 28,000 square-feet building in addition to a parking lot for more than a hundred cars.

The City swapped the Stewart Iron Works Building with Corporex which owned the Robke site and will put the Life Learning Center at the Stewart Building nearby.

Though the real estate transaction caused tension among the Covington City Commission with one city commissioner angry after not understanding how the process worked, all city leaders were in attendance for the ceremony on Wednesday save for Mayor Sherry Carran who is attending a mayors conference in Louisiana.

Commissioner Steve Frank spoke on her behalf.

"It's a great day in Covington," Frank said. "This is the beginning of a revitalization of a whole other part of town."

"What a difference this is going to make in the lives of people all over Northern Kentucky, but especially in Covington."

The Kentucky Career Center space will house 66 employees, and will have facilities to accommodate visits by large employers to conduct information sessions and interviews for potential employees. The NKADD will sublease a portion of space to community partners including the Brighton Center, Goodwill and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK).

The renovation is projected to be completed in six months. The eight-year lease includes management and maintenance of the facility which will be contracted with a professional property management firm. The city has issued bonds for the project.

“This investment addresses a number of challenges for both the city and the state,” Beshear said. “It breathes new life into an area by revitalizing a vacant building and brings together multiple community partners to create a focal point for state and local education, training and employment programs.”

All Department of Workforce Investment agencies will provide services at the career center in addition to the numerous community programs that will be located in the facility. This will provide an opportunity for services to be more functionally streamlined and more convenient for both job seekers and business customers.

“This is not just a building that’s being renovated,” said Tom Zawacki, secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. “We are also modernizing the way we do business to be more customer-centered.”

(Zawacki's predecessor, former State Senator and Covington resident Joe Meyer, who retired this year, was recognized for his work on the project.)

This shift, developed with input from business and industry, reflects a new workforce development system in the Commonwealth that is demand-driven, business-led and solutions-based. Internal changes are occurring by promoting better collaboration among system partners, training for staff and streamlined services in local career centers across the state.

The new Kentucky Career Center website features a free-to-use, online job-matching portal called “Focus Talent” for employers and “Focus Career” for job seekers. It uses technology to match skilled workers with employers in need of those skills. Focus Talent allows employers to post job advertisements and search for resumes and offers employers quick and easy access to a large repository of relevant talent. Focus Career provides job seekers both a professional resume builder and a path to job registration.

The Kentucky Career Center in Covington is currently located at 320 Garrard St. It is one of 75 Kentucky Career Centers located across the state.

Services for job seekers include career coaching, access to local job openings, job leads and referrals, professional resume services, job search resource centers with free Wi-Fi and Internet access, unemployment insurance claim filing assistance, employment services for military veterans and individuals with special needs, and education and training opportunities.

Services for businesses include talent recruitment assistance, candidate pre-screening and assessment, free use of onsite conference space to conduct interviews, coordination of job fairs and hiring events, tax credit incentive programs, free access to Kentucky’s online job posting portal, and business services representatives available to provide personalized support.

Lisa Cooper of the NKADD also applauded the effort that made Wednesday possible. "The City of Covington, you really stepped up to the plate," Cooper said. She called former Mayor Chuck Scheper "a visionary" and The Catalytic Fund's Jeanne Schroer "amazing" for their roles in securing the deal.

"We are excited to be a part of the revitalization of Covington," Cooper said.

Scheper also hinted at future deals to come.

"We have many more announcements about the urban renaissance of Covington," he promised.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News, with some information from a news release

Photos by RCN:

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