What does regional growth look like?
New shops and restaurants where there once were empty storefronts? People, noise and traffic where there used to be quiet streets? Construction, expansion and redevelopment where projects were previously at a stand-still?
Northern Kentucky may be enjoying all of these signs of life and more, but the best evidence that the region is growing may be less sensory and more statistical.
In other words -- or, rather, in numbers -- Northern Kentucky's growth in 2011 looks like this:
28 companies expanding or locating in Northern Kentucky
4,127 jobs directly or indirectly created in the Cincinnati MSA
$685 million in regional economic impact
These are key benchmarks from Northern Kentucky Tri-ED's 2011 economic impact study, conducted by Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Economic Analysis and Development.
It's a snapshot of a region that is growing steadily, and in spite of national economic adversity. It shows, in no uncertain terms, Northern Kentucky's crucial role in the vitality of the entire region. And it demonstrates the commitment of firms like Northern Kentucky Tri-ED in cultivating a supportive business climate that enables success.
A rising tide, the numbers indicate, lifts all boats.
Growth begets growth
On average, Tri-ED has annually attracted or helped to expand an average of 22 companies. In 2011, Tri-ED exceeded that average: 11 companies announced new locations in Northern Kentucky and 17 existing companies announced expansions.
The fact that most of the economic activity in Northern Kentucky came from existing NKY companies expresses confidence and commitment to the region: Expansions from existing businesses had nearly $510 million in impact on the regional economy and accounted for nearly 2,900 jobs.
That's a good sign, says Janet Harrah, Senior Director of the Center for Economic Analysis and Development at NKU.
"If our existing companies are not growing … our economy will not grow," Harrah says.
As a company expands, she explains, it starts to buy more raw materials, use more utilities, even purchase more office supplies. As payroll extends, more employees invest in housing, buy more groceries, fuel their cars with more gasoline and spend more money in their communities. These are the indirect effects measured by the economic impact study; they add up to about 1500 jobs and $213 million in economic impact in NKY alone.
Cultivating diversity for future strength
Northern Kentucky's advanced manufacturing sector showed particular promise, as leading-edge companies like Messier-Bugati, ZF Steering, Linamar and Mubea increased efficiencies, expanded production capabilities and sharpened their competitive edge.
The region's economy, however, is diverse, and economic growth occurred across all sectors, including key industries such as aviation, life sciences, logistics and e-commerce. That lays the groundwork for a strong, stable economy that's less susceptible to boom-and-bust patterns.
"A well-diversified economy smoothes out the rough edges of a business cycle," Harrah says.
Looking forward, leaders Northern Kentucky hope to encourage innovation and support entrepreneurs, especially in technology.
"There is a strategic focus in Northern Kentucky to encourage entrepreneurs and innovation," said Dan Tobergte, President and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, in a press release. "We have significant momentum through initiatives like UpTech and are working to make private investment easier and to build on our results in this area. The growth of Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics has greatly enhanced the benefits of the technology sector."
A focus on entrepreneurship underlines one of the most important takeaways of the impact analysis. Overall, the greatest testament to economic progress in the region may not be any single number. What the study reflects is the ability of business leaders in Northern Kentucky to seek opportunity and seize the day, even in the most daunting of circumstances.
"No matter where you’re at in the business cycle, there are business opportunities," says Harrah. "These numbers represent opportunities that the community is taking advantage of."