A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Year in Review: Highlights include focus on education, health and growth in the urban core

By John Fox
Special to NKyTribune from NKY Thrives

Second of two parts

As 2015 comes to a close, NKY Thrives asked Northern Kentucky leaders to look back at the region’s civic achievements, notable milestones, new businesses and emerging trends to suggest highlights for the year.

The final installment of this two-part series includes their views on access to education, the focus on healthier living and choices, development in the urban core and bringing attention to Northern Kentucky. Part I can be viewed here .

Improving access to education

The Pre-K Works Demonstration Site in the Erlanger-Elsmere School District displayed inspirational collaboration that resulted in over 100 more 3- and 4-year-olds receiving high-quality early learning experiences, which was an increase of 134 percent!
— William Scheyer, President, Skyward



In 2015, Gateway Community and Technical College initiated two partnerships to make college more accessible to students. The Northern Kentucky Chapter of the Kentucky Federation of Advance Manufacturing (KY FAME) partnered with Gateway to offer advanced manufacturing students the opportunity to earn an income while attending college and graduate debt-free. In addition, a partnership with Northern Kentucky high schools allowed nearly 300 high school students to take college classes. Gateway celebrates partnerships with industry, four-year institutions, secondary schools, nonprofits and the community that make the dream of a college education reality.
— Keith Bird, Interim President, Gateway Community and Technical College

A great highlight of 2015 was the opening of the Northern Kentucky Scholar House in Newport, a new Brighton Center facility that provides affordable housing, childcare and case management services to help low-income, single parents complete their college education and achieve self-sufficiency. It’s the first of its kind in Northern Kentucky, and, through the generosity of donors who support our work, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation was able and proud to invest in it.
— Laura Menge, Giving Strategies Officer, Greater Cincinnati Foundation

The opening of Northern Kentucky Scholar House in Newport is a significant step in supporting single parents to achieve an Associates or Bachelor’s degree, leading to a good job. The project also integrates quality early childhood education, making it a two-generation strategy. Not only will parents be able to pursue skills and complete their education to improve their economic security and stability, but simultaneously they’ll be ensuring their children are on a path from the earliest age to engage in lifelong learning.
— Tammy Weidinger, President & CEO, Brighton Center Inc.

Focus on healthier living and choices

Heroin continues to be our greatest challenge as a community. The three counties cooperated this year to hire Kim Moser and Kirk Kavanaugh to run a Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, the creation of which, in my opinion, is our best move yet in seeking to intelligently address the problem and coordinate the efforts of agencies and people in response.
— Steve Pendery, Judge Executive, Campbell County



The advocacy done by Northern Kentuckians to pass Senate Bill 192 (the Heroin Bill) is a model for community advocacy across the country. The Heroin Impact Response Team did not let go of its goals or its values as it worked to make sure that the legislation included everything.
— Ann Barnum, Vice President of Community Strategies, Interact for Health

Green Umbrella is very excited that in 2015 NKY welcomed the state’s first bike-sharing program, with the expansion of Red Bike to Covington and Newport, and secured a $4.5 million investment to develop the Riverfront Commons mixed-use trail project. These two initiatives will significantly increase opportunities for active transportation and outdoor recreation, connect people to jobs and improve health and air quality.
— Kristin Weiss, Executive Director, Green Umbrella

Development in urban core

In 2015, our third year of full financing operations, The Catalytic Fund celebrated groundbreakings for Boone Block and Hotel Covington as investments from our loan fund into urban neighborhoods and business districts reached $2.1 million, leveraging $52 million in total investment. The exciting projects we supported have to date created 105 residential housing units, 226,000 commercial square footage and 308 new permanent full-time job equivalents in NKY’s urban core.
— Jeanne Schroer, President & CEO, The Catalytic Fund



This was a monumental year of movement for Covington. The studio is located on the corner of Pike and Madison and has a bird’s eye view of all the rebuilding of business in downtown’s core. We decided to take a stronger part in the progress and opened a retail shop directly below the design studio this month, Durham Dept., to further diversify the unique offerings and businesses shaping the new landscape of our downtown.
— Austin Dunbar, Founder, Durham Brand & Co.

From my perspective the most satisfying occurrence this year is the continued revival of the urban core on both sides of the river. This year Southbank, partnering with our member cities, was successful in obtaining nearly $8.5 million for development along the riverfront, including a $4 million grant for the city of Covington. These funds are public funds from organizations like the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and OKI, whose commitment to a community of walkers and bikers and acknowledgement that the urban core has value and that the Ohio River may very well be our #1 asset is refreshing and a tremendous departure from even 10 years ago.
— Jack Moreland, President, Southbank Partners

The culmination of many years of effort on the part of residents, police, city and the Center for Great Neighborhoods has led to a revitalization of the Westside neighborhood in Covington. The Sept. 17 groundbreaking for the Hellmann Creative Center will result in a $2.2 million commercial development that will act as an anchor for the Martin Luther King Boulevard’s revitalization and will help continue the development of the Westside as a community where there is an increased quality of life for all residents.
— Tom DiBello, Executive Director, Center for Great Neighborhoods

Bringing attention to Northern Kentucky

The election of Gov. Matt Bevin was a big highlight this year! It’s a new day in our Commonwealth, and Northern Kentucky is well-positioned to thrive with this new administration.
— Gary Moore, Judge Executive, Boone County



In 2015, Northern Kentucky University broke ground on a $97 million Health Innovation Center, a facility that represents a new approach to the education of healthcare professionals and to healthcare delivery. Through transdisclipinary education and research teams as well as partnerships with community leaders such as St. Elizabeth Healthcare, the Health Innovation Center will transform healthcare not only in our community but across the nation when it opens in 2018.
— Geoffrey Mearns, President, Northern Kentucky University

Air service growth at CVG has been consistent and ongoing, with local passengers increasing 16.4 percent and total passengers increasing 6.7 percent over 2014 (through November). CVG was the recipient of the World Airports Award from SkyTrax as Best Regional Airport in North America for fifth consecutive year. Also named #1 World’s Best Domestic Airport serving 5-10 million passengers.
— Candace McGraw, CEO, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

Hosting the 2015 MLB All Star Game gave our region the opportunity to highlight the unique communities on both sides of the river. Working collaboratively with intent to impress, the entire region shined and our thriving Northern Kentucky riverfront played host to thousands of visitors.
— Gina Douthat, Director of Communications & Development, Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky

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