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River Cities Prepare to Show Off Assets, Possibilities to Legislators

Some Frankfort power players will be wined and dined in Northern Kentucky, and then a day's worth of brags and wants will be laid out for them.

Some of Northern Kentucky's most influential people have been busy practicing together for the occasion, gathering upstairs at Southbank Partners, eye level with the World Peace Bell, going over notes and making sure their timing is perfect.

The Kentucky General Assembly's Appropriations and Revenue Committee will officially conduct one of its traveling sessions in Covington on August 28 and local leaders are seizing the opportunity on what they call "Developer's Day", a chance to show off the positive developments happening in the cities of Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, Ft. Thomas, and Ludlow.

"Someone will come to Northern Kentucky and tell us we're the economic engine for the state and we're happy with that position," said Jack Moreland, president of Southbank Partners, "but in order to keep the engine running, you have to feed it a little."

Here's the plan: On Wednesday night, the 27th, members of the large committee made up of members of both the House and Senate, will attend a Cincinnati Reds game where they will mingle with local developers and real estate professionals. The legislators will spent the night at the RiverCenter Marriott.

On Thursday, August 28, a day-long plan will be executed. After breakfast at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, the official legislative meeting will begin. Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder) will offer introductions and a wrap-up of the meeting. The hearing will include presentations by the Catalytic Fund and its vision for the urban core and the need for more resources in the form of tax credits and land banking.

Northern Kentucky University President Geoff Mearns will join Convention Center executive director Gretchen Landrum in talking about the need to expand the center. Moreland will likely join Eric Summe, director of meetNKY, in talking about tourism in the region with a tie in for Riverfront Commons. Casey Barach and Tom Prewitt, of UpTech, will talk about entrepreneurship, growing new companies in the urban core, and the importance of the new angel investor individual tax credit.

Dr. Ed Highes will highlight the new Urban Metro Campus for Gateway Community & Technical College in Covington.

And then, the developers line up with a message on what they need to succeed with speakers including: Arn Bortz of Towne Properties, which just completed the Monmouth Row project in Newport; Guy van Rooyen of the Salyers Group, which is creating The Hotel Covington; Bill Kreutzjans of Ashley Development, which, with the Salyers, is recreating the Mutual Building; and Greg Fusaro of Capital Investment, and Harold Dull of NOL.

Pat Crowley of consulting firm Strategic Advisers will then moderate as the River Cities mayors make their pitches. 

At lunch, a panel discussion will include Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce president Trey Grayson, Campbell County Judge-Executive and Chairman of Tri-ED Steve Pendery, and Mike Mangeot, chairman of the state's travel & tourism commission.

In the afternoon, a program moderated by Chamber Vice President Adam Caswell will include Duke Energy and information on why the company is investing in the urban core. 

The city managers and city administrators of each of the River Cities will also present on a project taking place in their community. Newport's Tom Fromme will discuss the Route 9 expansion and Newport Pavilion. Covington's Larisa Sims, an assistant city manager, will touch on UpTech and creating space for new companies. Bellevue's Jody Robinson, an assistant city administrator, will highlight historic business district revitalization. Dayton's Michael Giffen will show off the Manhattan Harbor project. Ludlow's Elishia Chamberlain and Ft. Thomas's Debbie Buckley will also present, though their topics were not immediately available. 

Jeanne Schroer of the Catalytic Fund will join local attorney Jim Parsons in a presentation titled, "How We Get Things Done in Northern Kentucky". Michael Dinn will discuss demographic trends in the River Cities. 

The event ends with afternoon cocktails at TiER1 in the RiverCenter towers.

It's a long, comprehensive day entirely focused on urban issues in Northern Kentucky. "Everything we're doing here is about the urban core," Moreland said. "This is not about big boxes out in Boone County."

"We want these folks from the General Assembly to hear from developers who have chosen to do work in the urban core," said Joyce McMullin, of Southbank Partners, and a Ludlow City Council member.

Moreland said it's about showing solidarity among Northern Kentucky's urban cities. 

"Rather than do it in a piecemeal, we do it together," said Naashom Marx, City of Covington business development manager. "Every community would like to host the most influential group in Frankfort and we've got them. There's a magic that comes when you put the right people at the table."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo via The Catalytic Fund