Deal will bring 50 jobs, $5.5MM in investment

Under the pending deal, Icon Marketing Communications of Fort Mitchell would buy and move into the building owned, recently renovated and occupied by ROAD iD, while …

ROAD iD move makes way for Icon Marketing Communications


(EDITOR'S NOTE: As discussed during tonight's meeting, Libby's Southern Comfort restaurant -- currently housed in the ROAD iD building, will remain with the renovation.)

COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington is set to gain a vibrant company, about 50 new jobs, almost $5.5 million in investment, and another dose of creative intellect in its urban core, thanks to a commercial building version of musical chairs in one of the City’s hottest areas.

The Covington City Commission tonight will discuss whether to grant tax incentives that will allow: 
  • Icon Marketing Communications - a fast-growing marketing and advertising firm now in Fort Mitchell - to move to the ROAD iD building at 35 W. Eighth St. The agency will bring at least 36 employees, add 10 more, and invest $4.13 million in buying and renovating the building, founder and CEO Shawn Murdock said. 
  • ROAD iD - which moved to Covington in 2018 and makes safety identification tags and bracelets for runners, cyclists and people with emergency conditions -- torelocate into vacant warehouse space it owns just south of its existing building. ROAD iD plans to add five employees and invest $1.3 million in the renovation of what amounts to 20,000 square feet of space, co-founder and CEO Edward Wimmer said. 
City officials said the moves accomplish several goals:
  • Continue the high-priority focus on bringing quality jobs to Covington.
  • Expand the tax base and tax revenues.
  • Follow a key recommendation of the recently adopted citywide economic strategy from Garner Economics.
  • And contribute to the high-energy development of what’s called the Duveneck Square commercial district. 
“ROAD iD and Icon Marketing are vibrant companies that contribute a lot of talent and energy, and these new jobs and these investments match our targeted strategies,” Economic Development Director Tom West said. “This collaborative agreement has been a long time in the making with a lot of interactive parts, and we’re thrilled to announce it. Officials from both companies have demonstrated a lot of flexibility and commitment.”
Murdock said he hoped to move Icon to Covington by the end of January and said the projected employee growth was a conservative analysis.
“We believe we’re going to blow that out of the water,” said Murdock, who said he had been looking for a location in Covington for a while.
“The area’s got such a dynamic, urban-core energy,” he said. “It’s just the best place to grow and attract the talent and clients we want. We couldn’t be more excited about our future in this incredible space, and it’s been a pleasure to work with City officials and ROAD iD throughout the process.”
Wimmer said ROAD iD planned to begin its renovation next month and move into its new headquarters in April. During any overlap, it would share space with Icon in the existing three-story building.
The vacant space it will renovate is spread out in three connected warehouse structures just south of the current three-story home, and was already on the market for leasing. About 8,000 square feet of space in a fifth building in the complex is already occupied.
ROAD iD houses all of its customer service, administrative and marketing operations in Covington, as well as its laser engraving and assembling operations.
Wimmer said the company saw the switch as an opportunity to show commitment to a “reciprocal relationship” with the City.
“It’s not something we were anticipating doing but it is definitely something we are very energized about doing,” Wimmer said.
“We're thoroughly excited for the folks at Icon and the City of Covington,” he added. “Icon is not only gaining one of the coolest office spaces in the region but they are also joining an amazing and vibrant community. At the same time, I'm thrilled for the team at ROAD iD as this allows us to begin construction on another ambitious renovation project here in Covington.”

ROAD iD would renovate and move into empty warehouse space in the same complex just to the south. Here is the existing space as it looks now, and a rendering of the finished space provided by ROAD iD.

The deals
As proposed, the payroll incentives for Icon would last for five years with a commitment from the agency to stay at least another five years in Covington after the incentives run out. The agreement with ROAD iD would update a previous forgivable loan related to renovation and reset the clock on a previous payroll incentives agreement. It also carries a five-year commitment by the company beyond the incentives period.
The Commission is scheduled to discuss the proposals at its meeting at 20 West Pike St. and could vote on them in the coming week or weeks.
Given the nature of the development - jobs rather than housing -- both incentive deals would bring a positive return to the City from the start, City Manager David Johnston said.
“We’ve been saying for over a year that Covington plans to target jobs in its economic development efforts, and this is a big coup,” Johnston said.
More big news coming
The ROAD iD/Icon deal is one of several significant economic development announcements expected in the tail end of 2019 and the early part of 2020: 
  • In late October, the City announced that it was buying the landmark YMCA and Gateway Bookstore buildings at one of its most visible intersections - the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and Pike Street - for $1.69 million with the intention of reselling the property to a developer who plans to renovate the site. 
  • The City hopes to announce details of the pending project with the developer before the end of the year. “It’s definitely going to grab some attention,” West said.
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