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Op-Ed: Downtown Covington's Momentum Will Boost it Past IRS Job Losses

This past week the IRS announced they were eliminating more than 1,600 jobs in Covington by 2019. The announcement took everyone by surprise, especially city officials. While some in the community were quick to throw out panic and condemnations, from my perspective, it isn’t all bad news.  

Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants to see jobs disappear, and I certainly feel for those employees who are affected. My hope and expectation is that the IRS will work with the Kentucky Career Center and local schools to provide job placement or retraining services, so the displaced workers will have other opportunities in the community.  

Regardless, this announcement isn’t the end of the world for the city. Not even close.   

From a big picture perspective, freeing up that real estate for development will have a tremendous positive impact for Covington, and the entire region for that matter.  

People seem to forget that, for years, the City, County and the Northern Kentucky Convention Center have all expressed a desire to develop the space the IRS currently occupies. They will finally have an opportunity explore options. Hopefully federal officials will help expedite the process.

And remember, over the past month alone, we’ve seen announcements of 250 jobs coming from CTI (with 500 more to come), and another 100 jobs coming from Huntington Bank. That’s just the past few weeks. These are good jobs with good salaries and benefits, coming into Covington. And more announcements will be coming.

So, it seems to me the fear mongers and doomsday folks need to gain some perspective.

Yes, this is a hit. But the future is bright for Northern Kentucky’s largest city.  

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that, over the coming years, the total amount of job gains will far outweigh any losses from the IRS.

Why do I believe that? Because the foundation for Covington’s success is apparent and substantial.

When I moved my business to Covington in 2003, I used to joke we were surrounded by strip clubs and banks. Now we’re surrounded by restaurants, apartments, condos and banks. We’ve got new sidewalks, flowers on the street, and an ever-growing and engaged business community.  

Just twelve years ago the old Oddfellows building was a burned out shell of a building. Today that building is one of the most beautiful in the region. It’s been joined by terrific developments including the Gateway Urban Campus, Braxton Brewery, Boone Block Lofts, Mutual Building, the Doctors building, Market Lofts, and Pike Star.   

And what about the exceptional restaurants and taverns in MainStrasse and Roebling Point?  And oh yeah, what about Hotel Covington opening in a few weeks?

This summer we’ve seen announcements in Covington about new market-rate residential units (600) scheduled to appear over the next few years.

By this time next year, construction for a new riverfront park will be underway, and all the entrepreneur activity at Uptech, Bexion, the NKY Innovation Network, and Bad Girl Ventures will be blossoming in Covington, Kenton County, bringing a rising tide of new jobs.

This isn’t just me being optimistic; I’ve put my money where my mouth is. Two-thirds of my net worth is at 5th and Madison.  

Brent Cooper (provided)

And I truly believe any objective observer would agree, the number of new businesses and housing developments happening in Covington forecasts a bright future.

Look, I fully concede that losing jobs from the IRS, even staggered over time, is going to hurt.  And I’m sure the long-term potential for the city is little comfort to those IRS workers facing adversity.

But I think focusing on the loss, while ignoring the positive momentum in Covington, is doing a real disservice to the community.

The IRS announcement is a speed bump in the road for a city and county headed in the right direction.  

Brent Cooper is the president of Covington-based C-Forward, an IT services firm