ASHLAND, Ky. — Ashland Alliance President Tim Gibbs said Wednesday the Alliance is considering a plan to visit Owensboro to study how the river city has “reinvented itself” in recent years.
Gibbs said Owensboro’s economic growth is “en fuego,” Spanish for on fire, in part because it invested $140 million into its downtown with more cultural heritage programs and tourism initiatives, such as riverboat cruises on the Ohio River.
“It’s a good example of a river community that has reinvented itself,” he said.
He told Ashland Alliance board members in a meeting Alliance officials had been in contact with the chamber of commerce in Owensboro over the past year and was invited to visit the area and learn about how it has reinvigorated itself in.
Some of the Alliance members plan to take a trip to the city this summer, Gibbs said. Chambers of commerce across the state often trade ideas with one another, Gibbs said after the meeting, noting that another river town in Kentucky visited Ashland last year to learn new ideas for economic development.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Daviess County, of which Owensboro is the county seat, sliced its unemployment rate from 11 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent as December 2016. Boyd County’s unemployment rate was also about 11 percent in 2010 and is now 7.2 percent, as of last December according to the bureau. Daviess County has a population of about 98,000. Boyd — 48,000 — and Greenup County — 36,500 — have a combined population of about 84,500.
In other Alliance business, a representative from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development told the group the state only awarded “about half” of the $3 million it set aside for small business tax credits last year.
Kristine McNiel, project manager for the Office of Entrepreneurship, was the guest speaker at the monthly Alliance meeting and said $1.3 million in Kentucky Small Business Tax Credits were left “on the table.”
The under-utilized tax credit has been available since 2011 for for-profit businesses with 50 or less full-time employees, including retail, service, construction, manufacturing and wholesale businesses. Small businesses can receive $3,500 per employee, up to $25,000.
“This is job driven,” said McNiel. “The more positions you have, the higher your tax credit.”
Small businesses that have hired at least one new full-time employee and invested at least $5,000 in new equipment or technology in the past 24 months could be eligible, according to NcNiel.
Gibbs said the program is “one of the only incentives in the state that looks back.”
“The fact that you can look back at the last two years and say we’ve made this investment or hired these people and be eligible makes it pretty powerful,” he said.
The credit applies to the state tax return for the year it was awarded, with a five-year carry forward. There are “specific requirements for wages paid and hours worked,” and “qualifying equipment and technology must meet certain requirements” that are listed on kytaxcredit.org.
Few small business owners in the area who could be eligible for the tax credit have sought it out. Kim Jenkins, management consultant for the Small Business Development Center of Morehead State University in Ashland, wrote in an email she’s only aware of one Ashland SBDC client who applied for and was approved for state tax credits.
“I’m hopeful more eventually take advantage of tax credits & other state business incentives offered,” Jenkins wrote.