Goal of citywide business strategy: Action

Sorting through the proposals from the many companies that wanted to help guide economic development in Covington was a lengthy and time-consuming process.

COVINGTON, Ky. - The competition was stiff, but Covington has picked a Georgia firm to spend the first seven months of 2019 creating an overarching strategy in the City for business attraction, retention, expansion, and entrepreneurial support over the next five years. 

“We want an ‘action plan,’ and so we’re recommending Garner Economics,” Covington Economic Development Director Tom West recently told the City Commission. “They’re known for data analysis and making things implementable. We did not want something that’s so philosophical or something so technical that no one would be able to touch it.”
The Covington City Commission agreed, and voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to approve a contract with the firm for up to $100,000. The allocation was previously approved as part of the City’s budget in June.
Garner Economics was one of 12 firms to answer the City’s request for proposals in August. Five firms were brought in for a day-long series of interviews by a panel that included City staff and members of the City Commission, the Covington Economic Development Authority, and Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, the regional economic development agency.
“I want to thank everyone who spent almost the entire day studying economic development in the City of Covington,” West said.
Vice Mayor Michelle Williams, who was on the selection panel, said Garner Economics was the clear choice and one she and others strongly recommended.
The goal won’t be to write detailed plans for any specific area of the City but to create an overarching strategy that would keep the City and its partners from falling victim to “squirrel syndrome,” West said. When officials are distracted or consumed by the latest project, overall progress is slowed and neighborhood business districts in particular feel neglected, West told the Commission in August.
“We need a clearly defined vision and an authoritative set of goals to keep us on track,” he said.
Garner Economics’ work will include creating an economic and demographic profile of Covington; analyzing current policies, incentives, funding resources, and other tools; engaging stakeholders; identifying specific sectors of business to target; and, most importantly, creating detailed action steps to implement the recommendations.
"We do not want a plan that sits on a shelf,” West said. “We want strategies that result in jobs for citizens, energy in the City, and success for our businesses, both those here now and those we want to attract. Years from now we want to be able to point to a string of accomplishments that happened because of this process.”
The City will make partial payments as various parts of the process are completed.
Specific questions to be answered are: 
  • How can the City leverage the energy stemming from unprecedented investment in its northern area to realize development potential elsewhere in the City?
  • What sectors should Covington focus on attracting in terms of jobs and investments?
  • What existing tools - such as incentives and policies - should be modified, eliminated or expanded, and what new tools are needed to attract jobs and investment?
  • Where should the City focus its time and resources to retain businesses and help them expand?
  • What should the City’s relationship with its many partners look like?
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