Seamless transition for City’s new business ‘recruiter’

Susan Smith, who spent 22 years at meetNKY, is the City’s new Manager of Business Attraction.


Smith spent 22 years at meetNKY

COVINGTON, Ky. – Covington’s new Manager of Business Attraction has biked through the Rockies in a hailstorm, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, rafted the Grand Canyon, and walked amid glaciers and geysers in Iceland.
Fortunately for Covington, Susan Smith brings her same affinity for outdoor adventure travel to downtown spaces teeming with attractions: “I love urban areas, and learning about the personality of cities,” she said. “That’s what brought me to the hospitality industry, and then to Covington.”
Smith moved to City Hall from about four blocks away: For 22 years, she recruited regional and national conventions to the area as a senior sales manager for meetNKY, the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau. She first came to the area from Columbus, Ohio, with the completion of the convention center at One West RiverCenter Boulevard, i.e. the corner of RiverCenter and Madison Avenue, so she’s witnessed – and had a hand in – The Cov’s narrative of growth and excitement.
It’s an almost seamless transition: Having “introduced” and “sold” the city and the region to visitors for over two decades, now Smith is selling The Cov to prospective businesses and investors.
“I fell in love with Covington as soon as I began working here,” she said. “It’s a city that holds its place in time, with all its historic buildings and spaces, and there’s also a lot of vibrancy and momentum here. Being on the Ohio River adds to its character and charm.”
Smith’s hiring for the newly created position in December taps into that experience as a way to help Covington accelerate that momentum, Economic Development Director Tom West said.
“Adding Susan’s community knowledge and marketing skills to our team is helping us expand and bring cohesion to efforts to grow The Cov’s economy,” West said. “She’s been focusing on attracting new business but is also adding depth to our efforts to support our existing businesses – it’s all intertwined.”
In the coming weeks, the public will see that cohesion firsthand with the completion of two projects Smith has been spearheading:
  • For the first time since 2017, the City is updating a Business Guide designed to aggregate the resources, tools, and partnerships that help new businesses set up shop in Covington and existing businesses thrive. It will be available online and through email.
  • And for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, the Economic Development Department is creating an annual report to highlight significant accomplishments in 2020 as well as projects and initiatives under way. It will also be available online, although a limited number of hard copies will be printed.
“It’s taken me a while to put together because so much happened in 2020,” Smith said.
As previously reported, the City announced the creation of 2,100 jobs and $85.6 million in private investment during the last calendar year, despite the pandemic.
While the Department is proud of that progress, especially given the challenges of a year that upended the national economy, Smith said she and the rest of the City recognize that there is much more to do in the way of creating jobs, filling vacant spaces, helping entrepreneurs turn ideas to reality, and supporting small businesses.
“By no means is the work ever finished,” she said.
One of the first things Smith did was to help four Covington businesses get recognized through REDI Cincinnati’s recent “Growth Awards.” Going forward, Smith said her priorities will include a mix of general and specific goals:
  • Continue to link property owners with commercial, retail, and office space available with those who need space through the City’s periodic “Covington Leads” emails.
  • Help the City be more proactive and aggressive in reaching out to and recruiting prospective businesses.
  • Help align the City’s economic efforts with the citywide economic development strategy unveiled in mid-2019 with the help of Atlanta-based Garner Economics. That report recommended Covington focus on four target niches, or sectors, that build on its strengths and opportunities: office and “new-collar” jobs, particularly in the financial service operations and design industries; life and bioscience; micro manufacturing and process technology; and the experiential and entrepreneurial economy, i.e. local and unique boutique retail.
  • Help to write and publicize Covington’s “narrative,” or story, on a national level.

As for “recruiting” businesses, Smith said she’s been in ongoing conversations with several businesses that are considering relocating to Covington.
“But those things take time and demand confidentiality,” she said. “Stay tuned.”

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