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New Work Ready Incubator Brings Thomas More, Bevin Back to Covington

Thomas More College returned to its Covington roots on Thursday with the launch of its new Work Ready Incubator at Gravity Diagnostics, a growing bio-tech firm based in the Russell Street building where bioLOGIC, the Kentucky Innovation Network NKY office, and Bexion Pharmaceuticals are found.

The program will benefit Thomas More students through real-world work experience while also helping businesses in their search for high-quality talent.

At Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, which brought Gov. Matt Bevin to town, TMC president David Armstrong said the idea all started one day shortly after Bevin's election. Armstrong felt that he had not been cordial enough to the new governor at an event and returned to engage him further, but in his recollection, the conversation ended up with both men on the defensive.

So, when the Bevin administration launched a program to emphasize work-ready initiatives, Armstrong saw an opportunity to showcase Thomas More - and to make it up to the governor. Thomas More, Armstrong said, is a perfect fit for such a program because preparing students for the workforce through the teaching of essential skills such as communication, writing, and simply showing up, is what happens on the Crestview Hills campus.

"We will be in your business," Armstrong said to the gathered crowd, which included representatives from other high-tech firms in the city. "When you have a need, a skill that is needed, we will fill it. Accounting, marketing, biology, research, whatever it is. 

"Because we have forty-four majors we can fill all the needs of a small, growing company."

And that is what Thomas More found in Gravity Diagnostics, a firm focused on toxicology, genomics, and infectious disease testing. Its CEO, Tony Remington, spoke Thursday about why he chose Covington to locate his business a couple years ago when it only had four employees. It has since grown to have seventy.

"We are big on this opioid epidemic," said Remington, a Massachusetts native who said he had looked at a variety of locations across the country to grow Gravity Diagnostics before landing in Covington in July 2016. "We want to take our testing and implement that to reduce health care costs and help people save lives.

"This is the place to be."

Bevin, who joked that he did not remember Armstrong's defensive nature - but emphasized that he did now​, said that a small school like Thomas More offered a good model to reflect the principles of his work-ready goals for the state. "There is no one-size fits all approach to how we put young people in the workplace," the governor said.

But, the effort in Covington would produce results, he said.

Though the focus was on 21st century technology and workforce needs, both Armstrong and Bevin turned to late 18th and early 19th century American leaders to inspire the crowd. Armstrong turned to Alexander Hamilton.

"I'm a Hamiltonian. I believe that Alexander Hamilton had the vision for this country and it is about economic force, economic vitality," Armstrong said. "We, as an educational institution in Kentucky, a small, faith-based institution, can do that."

Gov. Bevin cited Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president, whom the governor claimed wanted the government involved in education.

"The purpose," Bevin said, "was to produce virtuous citizens."

​Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: ​(from left to right) Kentucky Secretary of Labor Derrick Ramsey, Gov. Mayy Bevin, David Armstrong, Tony Remington, and Tri-ED CEO Dan Tobergte (RCN)