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Campbell County Mayors Discuss Needs to Improve Development Opportunities, Talent Retention

Campbell County Zoning and Planning Director Cindy Minter and Economic Development Officer Seth Cutter led a discussion with the various Campbell County mayors on Tuesday evening about what transportation and/or development projects that they would like to see in their cities.

Minter talked about how the typography and soil conditions in Campbell County provide an extra challenge to develop there as opposed to more suitable ground conditions of neighboring Northern Kentucky counties. Also, Campbell County has large portions of farmland within its borders, which serves as a benefit in terms of producing local food sources, but also acts as a barrier to heavy development.

In terms of job creation and job growth, Campbell County is faced with an aging population that is increasingly leaving the job market and must be replaced with younger workers. Campbell County Judge/Executive Steve Pendery talked about the need to promote manufacturing and trade jobs to younger workers who may have been dissuaded from entering into what many consider more blue-collar careers.

Seth Cutter also addressed the age gap of workers and how it reflects what the nation as a whole is currently experiencing.

“If we don't have enough young labor and talent to replace what we are losing, what does that mean for the overall economy's growth? That leads us into the new normal, and our region kind of tracks as the national averages do, at least right now,” Cutter said.

One of the goals Cutter discussed for the county was to retain students who come to Northern Kentucky University from other parts of the country and keep them employed within the region.

“How do we provide their quality of life needs and the amenities they are seeking,?” he asked.

With these new challenges and opportunities at hand, Minter recommended that cities take a close look at their individual zoning codes to assess if there are any changes that could be made to facilitate the kind of development the mayors may like to see within their jurisdictions.

“These are the kinds of items that come up when a developer calls and expresses interest in something,” she said. “I then look at the zoning, and if we're not even close, often times, we don't make the short list, because they're ready to move on to the next topic.”

She said that because of the improved financial climate compared to the Great Recession that preceded this year, now is the time to start moving towards growth rather than austerity measures.

“The time is right,” Minter said. “We couldn't have had this discussion three years ago, but we can have this discussion today because things are really starting to gel. We have physical assets, but we also have some restraints. We have to work around the restraints and at times, use them to our advantage. If we work together, we can make a lot of stuff happen here.”

Silver Grove Mayor Neal Bedel said that he felt his city was not ready for any kind of development in the city because of the heavy flooding that he and other residents have experienced in recent years.

“I think we have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said. “We have a lot of issues that maybe would prevent people from coming to our community. The biggest thing is the flooding issue that we have.”

Highland Heights Mayor Greg Meyers said that his city is prepared to bring in new development, specifically increasing the single-family housing stock there. He echoed the interest in retaining more students at NKU in hopes they will settle permanently in Highland Heights.

“We're educating a workforce in a group of young adults, older adults, and middle-aged adults. We're educating them daily and we're sending them on their way,” he said. “They're leaving Highland Heights, they're leaving Campbell County, and they're leaving the area. We need to look into how we can attract them to stay.”

In Alexandria, the Baptist Life Communities senior campus is on the way. While the city is excited to be a part of the new project, Mayor Bill Rachford said that some infrastructure improvements may prove necessary to accommodate the state-of-the-art facility.

“One of the problems it's going to create, I think, is the connector road 709 that goes to Route 27 down to the AA Highway. I'd like to see if we can somehow get that on the active highway plan, because with our Acadia on the left side of 27, and the Baptist Life facility on the east side of it, we're going to have a traffic problem for people getting out of there and with Colgate Road on the backside of it, I'd like to see our infrastructure be ahead of the curve rather than behind it,” Rachford said.

The new mayor of Cold Spring, Angelo Penque, said that he would welcome new development plans but that his community suffers from a lack of sewers in order to attract businesses to set up shop. Specifically, Penque would like to expand the intersection of U.S. 27 and AA Highway, but needs more sewage infrastructure there to accomplish that goal.

“I think that our next move is to negotiate or find some way to get a sewer. We've filled a number of different things across the board, but I personally think we could get a hospital. We have 95 acres across from Meijer. Based on the number of ambulances coming in from other counties, I personally feel that a hospital would be a thing for Cold Spring and neighboring communities, but again, there is nothing we can do without sewer,” Penque said.

The next Campbell County mayor's meeting is schedule to take place in April at the Fiscal Court chambers in Newport.  

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor