Allan to continue CGN work nurturing entrepreneurs, minority voices
COVINGTON, Ky. – Covington’s new assistant Economic Development director loves seeing the potential in things – and seeing that potential realized.
“It’s why I love Covington so much,” Sarah Allan said.
Over the last 12 years, Allan has quite a bit of experience realizing potential in The Cov, having had a significant hand in some important – and visible -- initiatives and projects in the city.
As economic development director for The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington (CGN), a longtime non-profit that supports residents’ efforts to improve their neighborhoods, she helped develop $1.2 million of multiple food and arts-related businesses along M.L. King Jr. Boulevard; secure more than $3 million from national funders, including the Kresge Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, to further CGN’s Creative Placemaking Program; and develop programmatic planning and financing of The Hellmann Creative Center, the $1.2 million new home for CGN, its programs, and several entrepreneurs.
Now Allan is ready to help make things happen under the City’s framework.
“My passion is really small-business development,” Allan said. “I love working with people just starting out, who are entrepreneurial but just need a little boost, whether it’s technical training, redoing their building or figuring out a space, I love having the tools to be able to do that. That’s super exciting for me.”
Allan replaces Ross Patten, who left to take a year off cycling through France.
The open position attracted 23 serious applicants, and Allan was picked from three finalists who were all extremely qualified for the position, Covington Economic Development Director Tom West said.
“It was a really tough decision,” West said. “But Sarah’s background with the real estate component of economic development stood out, especially as we begin to focus on the redevelopment of the 23-acre Central Riverfront site.”
Allan is committed to doing work to “lift” the Eastern Corridor, one of the City’s priorities, and says she intends to bring more voices to the table – voices of diversity, and from among the city’s low-income residents.
“I also want to make sure we have more black- and brown-owned businesses,” she said. “I’m really focused on that, and I think there’s room for us to grow and keep accelerating that.”
Allan said she enjoys working with the “bigger development deals” too but believes that small businesses are “what make a city a city.”
“I especially like working with residents who want to start a business,” she said. “It’s super exciting to me to help foster homegrown talent – people who have been here a long time who are exploring the possibility of using their gifts and talents to further the city’s story.”
Allan’s love of economic development was a bit of a development itself, and one that came about by accident. She was completing her college degree in secondary education at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., when the college career center accidentally sent her resume to a community development corporation instead of a school. She interviewed for the job and got it.
“That’s how I got into economic development,” Allan said. “It opened a door for me, and I thought, ‘Oh, I actually love this.’ ”
Working in government, however, was not something Allan thought she’d be doing, though she believes good government can do great things. She said she certainly wouldn’t have gone to work with “just any” city, but Covington was the right fit.
“In my interview for this position, they told me they wanted someone who was creative and entrepreneurial, and I believe those are my gifts,” Allan said. “I’m looking forward to having more tools and incentives available to work with folks, to help them find solutions.”
From 2012 to 2016, Allan served as a City Councilperson for the City of Norwood, where she chaired the Economic and Community Development Committee. From 2006 to 2010, she was Housing Development director for Over-The-Rhine Housing in Cincinnati. She has worked as an adjunct professor at Eastern University in Philadelphia, PA, where she also earned her MBA in economic development.
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