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Op-Ed: Creative Solutions Help Growing Company Land in Covington

I was sitting in the NKY Convention Center Board meeting last week, listening to some of the wonderful things going on regarding our region, and I looked over at one of my colleagues and said, “I don’t think the average person in Northern Kentucky knows this is happening.” I was referring to the collaboration between the NKY Convention Center (NKYCC) and a new business (CTI Clinical Trial & Consulting Services).
 
In case you missed it last year, Covington landed a terrific business called CTI, a global firm that does clinical trials.
 
While new to Kentucky, this research firm is a heavy hitter that has been in business for nearly two decades.
 
They are 10 times as large as they were just twelve years ago, with locations all over the world.
 
They’re bringing 250 local jobs, and projecting they’ll employ 750 in Northern Kentucky, (500 new jobs), over the next ten years.
 
They are in the process of moving into Covington’s RiverCenter right now. According to CTI’s CEO Timothy Schroeder, “We’re in the process of moving and should have all of our 250 plus employees in Covington by the end of June”.
 
And these jobs aren’t your average jobs. They pay an average salary of $80,000 per year with benefits.
 
Combined with companies like Bexion, Tier1, and startups coming through UpTech, BGV, and the NKY Innovation Network, the tech sector in the urban core is shaping up nicely.
 
And bringing CTI to Covington may not have happened without collaboration from our NKY Convention Center. You see, CTI has a weekly staff meeting, and they needed a state of the art training center. Covington didn’t have it.
 
So, working collaboratively with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, NKY Tri-ED, Corporex, the City of Covington, Kenton County, and NKU, the NKY Convention Center Board agreed to convert 5,300 square feet of space in Ballroom A on the upper level of the Convention Center into a 400-seat, state of the art training center.
 
This story was widely reported on, but what wasn’t reported was this: That wasn’t an easy decision for the NKY Convention Center.
 
The NKYCC is constantly struggling for space. We have groups that have “outgrown” our convention center, and until we expand, that will be an ongoing problem.
 
What makes the problem even more glaring is that hotel stays in NKY are up double digits. Tourism is booming in our region, which is why we account for over 20 percent of the state’s tourism. As good as things are, we could be doing a lot better if we could expand.
 
Committing space like this to CTI was not as obvious a decision as you might think.
 
However, because of the collaboration between those many partners, at both the state and local level, Northern Kentucky was able to recruit a terrific business.
 
It looks like it may be a win-win for everyone, as the NKYCC already booked people in that space during times CTI won’t be using it. This is before the build-out is even finished!
 
It turns out companies from all over the country may benefit from this new offering. So in turn will our local hotels, restaurants, etc., and our collective economy.
 
I wanted to share this because we’ve got some big challenges in front of us. Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in the country, and we don’t have enough state dollars to pay for improved education, transportation, and our pension obligations.
 
Overcoming these challenges will take a collective effort.
 
The story of CTI is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when we think creatively and work together.
 
We need to see more of this if we are to improve the state we are in.
 
Brent Cooper is the president of Covington-based C-Forward
Photo: The NKY Convention Center & RiverCenter Blvd. (RCN)