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Company's New Mural Shows Two Decades of Covington Change, Pride

C-Forward was founded by Brent Cooper in 1999 and four years later moved into a building at the corner of Fifth Street and Madison Avenue in downtown Covington.

The move was facilitated by what was once known as the Covington E-Zone, an enterprise that helped technology-focused start-up businesses get off the ground. A fellow tenant at the time was TiER1, which has since grown to encompass multiple floors at RiverCenter.

C-Forward, an information technology firm, has also grown.

The company now owns that corner building and fills it with its twenty-six employees.

Cooper is now president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and has turned over day-to-day operation of his company to new C-Forward president Brian Ruschman. The company celebrated its twentieth anniversary last Friday along with the unveiling of a new mural on its east-facing side.

The mural, designed by BLDG, speaks to C-Forward's journey and points of pride, along with those of Covington.

As the city took a turn for the better, C-Forward was there to witness it.

"It's been fun to see all of the growth," Cooper said. "When we moved in, we were within a block of two strip clubs. Now, we're surrounded by banks."

He notes the arrival of Gateway Community & Technical College, Hotel Covington, and Braxton Brewing Company as some of the larger catalysts of change in the city. "Before of all that, we were here," Cooper said.

"Everything on the mural symbolizes something that has made our company who we are and something we've impacted on the way," he said.

The mural features colorful depictions of Covington landmarks that do in fact precede the company, like the Roebling Suspension Bridge and the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower, but also newer landmarks, like the Ascent tower, and fresher amenities like Red Bike and Hotel Covington. It also celebrates local schools, including the city schools that C-Forward has assisted over the years, and the colleges and universities. Cooper, a University of Kentucky graduate, swears that the small cardinal bird depicted in the mural is not a representation for the University of Louisville, but rather a nod to the state bird. 

The Bengals, the Reds, Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More University, and Gateway are all celebrated within.

"Like I always say, if you're a Pittsburgh fan, all we ask is that you keep it to yourself," Cooper said. 

Ruschman has taken the baton at C-Forward and continued many of its traditions and, most importantly, its growth. The company brought in $5.5 million in revenue last year, he said, and now has offices in Cincinnati and Lexington.

"It's been great for me personally, and for the City of Covington I think it's been great, too," Ruschman said. "We've been here for the last sixteen years in this building and I think we've really left a mark on the community and this area."

And now the company has left a literal mark on the community with its new mural.

In remarks at the Covington Business Council annual dinner, held the night before the mural's unveiling, Cooper, who received the CBC's Founder Award, explained the art's significance.

"The girl on the mural is my daughter, Emma, wearing a (Covington-based Donnal Salyers') Fabulous Fur. That’s the Ascent in the cloud we’re all working under. The NKU guy is drinking a Braxton brew. My oldest daughter Sydney is working on a Gateway laptop. There’s a Red Bike and the Hotel Covington logo," Cooper said. "It’s our way of recognizing Covington’s successes since C-Forward came into existence."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher