Northern Kentucky Tri-ED has some great numbers to show for its regional impact: thousands of jobs created over the years, hundreds of businesses and industry leaders attracted to Northern Kentucky, billions of dollars pumped into the local economy.
But there's another, smaller number they're touting now: 25.
It was a quarter of a century ago that like-minded Kentuckians thought the northern part of their state should consolidate its economic development efforts. Since then, Northern Kentucky has been marketed, capitalized upon and brought to the forefront of American economics as a success story.
At Tri-ED's 25th anniversary celebration, held at Northern Kentucky University's METS Center on Oct. 30, the region's leaders came together for "a brief look back and an aggressive look forward." As vintage photos of speakers flashed on the screen –some in black-and-white and met with laughter by the crowd – the message was clear: Take a brief moment to look back through the memories of hardships and good times, but don't stop here. A new era of economic progress is just cresting.
"No one could've ever guessed the three counties would come together as they did," said Bill Robinson, a founding member of Tri-ED's Board of Directors and a past chairman of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, speaking of Tri-ED's founding in 1987. "We did it together."
The aim was to make good on then-Gov. John Brown's suggestion of bringing together what Robinson called three "fragmented" counties and bringing the collective entity to prominence in Frankfort. Without a spirit of cooperation and a shared vision of success, Northern Kentucky's economy could have been imperiled, Robinson said.
"What would Northern Kentucky be like without the companies Tri-ED brought here?" he said. "As much as anything we've done in this community, Tri-ED is our collective success."
That success, quantified in numbers, has resulted in an average of 22 new or expanding companies courted into Northern Kentucky annually, more than 109,000 new jobs inclusive of the indirect impact created from the primary positions, $6.3 billion in company investments and 200 international companies – with recognizable names like Toyota – with a stake in the region.
With the gradual addition of dozens of voices and input from leading businesses in the area, Tri-ED's success and influence on bringing companies and business to Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties have grown.
Since its inception, Tri-ED has attracted 554 new or expanding companies to the region, including big companies like Amazon and DHL – both of which have announced new jobs or locations in Northern Kentucky in 2012.
"We do have a lot in store for the region," said current president of the organization, Dan Tobergte. Kentucky, he said, was recently ranked as experiencing the second-highest job growth in the United States. A third of those jobs were created in Northern Kentucky – in part because of Tri-ED. And with those jobs came $24.2 billion in economic impact.
The celebration also highlighted the future of Northern Kentucky. Eight members of the UpTech business "super-accelerator" showcased their work in one-minute "rocket pitches" to the audience. From blogging about beauty to innovating in the water industry, Northern Kentucky's UpTech companies were given just one minute to make their case and, possibly, garner investment.
For Jim Uber, 52-year-old co-owner of water management company CitiLogics, the help brought on by UpTech's $50,000 was only sweetened by the ability to pitch his ideas to the region's most influential businesspeople.
"It was a genuine gamble," he said of starting CitiLogics. "If we didn't win UpTech, we'd be out of business."
Uber said he didn't know what to expect coming to the anniversary celebration, but was grateful for the reception he had received.
"They've been very supportive," he said. "It took me by surprise."
Adam Triester, 24, owner of Student Source, which outsources work to university students studying in a variety of industries, agreed.
"It was a little overwhelming at first," said Triester, whose company won an "instant poll" that surveyed which of the eight companies seemed most promising — and perhaps most likely to garner investments. "The entire community just wants you to succeed."
It's companies like these that Tri-ED has been there for, Robinson said. And although his decades-long involvement with developing Northern Kentucky was quantified by the photo of his younger self on the screen – the silver hair he has now, he jokingly insists, allows him to charge more for his legal counsel – he made clear to the audience what both he and Tri-ED were there for that night.
"This is not the culmination of anything," he said. "This is just another chapter."
If you're a Start-UP, new or existing business and are interested in hearing more about the services of Tri-ED, UpTech or the ezone, call 888-874-3365 or email [email protected].