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Op-Ed: Convention Center Plays Pivotal Role in Northern Kentucky's Economic Development

The Northern Kentucky Convention Center is proud to play a pivotal role in the collaborative effort to bring CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services to Covington.

The company, which helps businesses develop drugs and medical devices to obtain regulatory approval, will invest $36.4 million in its new Covington headquarters while providing a major boost to the region’s burgeoning life-sciences industry.

CTI has committed to bringing 250 employees to the RiverCenter II office building next year and an additional 500 high-paying jobs to Covington over the next 12 years.

To attract CTI to Covington, the Convention Center board of directors agreed to convert 5,300 square feet of space in Ballroom A on the upper level of the center into a 466-seat, state-of-the-art training center, which will be operated by the convention center.

The state-funded training center is expected to be finished in early 2018. When completed, the auditorium will be similar to the Digitorium at NKU’s College of Informatics, with a two-story digital wall that can display a videos, images, and graphics; seminar seating with retractable desk tops; and state-of-the-art technology.

While CTI is the catalyst for this facility, the training center also will be available to conventions and business, government, and nonprofit groups that use our convention center.

A number of Cincinnati businesses – such as GE, P&G, and Fifth-Third Bank – regularly conduct meetings at our facility and the new training center will provide yet another amenity that further brands our facility an attractive destination for these businesses.

Transforming a portion of our space at the convention center into a state-of-the-art training center is an important component in bringing economic vitality to Northern Kentucky, something we have done in the region since our facility was constructed in 1998.

Not only does the convention center help support approximately 350 jobs in our community, more than 2,700 events have been held in our facility since it was constructed, generating an economic impact of more than $1 billion for our region – a 38 percent increase over original projections. Unlike other convention centers operating in our state and across the country, our center always has operated in the black as self-sufficient facility, paying for all of its own refurbishments and renovations to date.

Because of the convention center, local hotels book an average of 37,000 room nights each year and our restaurants, entertainment venues, and retail establishments receive thousands of customers who otherwise would not visit our area, bringing with them out-of-town dollars they spend in our region.

The convention center continues to find unique ways of generating additional revenue for our region and the Commonwealth. In 2014, the center invested $2 million of its operating funds to renovate our first-floor event center, which created a more finished space for our guests to utilize. This updated event center also will serve to assist our facility as we repurpose part of Ballroom A into the new training center.

Despite our past successes, the expansion of the convention center is still a crucial need for our community. Even with the creative restructuring of our existing space, we are still running at full capacity. An expanded convention center will generate much needed tax dollars for our community and the Commonwealth of Kentucky and provide growth and vibrancy for Northern Kentucky and the state.

We welcome CTI to Covington with open arms. We also look forward to the continued growth of our region and we fully expect that the convention center will continue to play an important role in the facilitation of that growth for years to come.

Gretchen Landrum is the executive director of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Photo: NKY Convention Center entrance (RCN file)