Ride sharing company makes contact after Thursday campaign

An official with the Chamber Young Professionals say an all-day online campaign Thursday aimed at attracting the interest of a ride sharing service such as Uber or Lyft to invest in Owensboro did produce at least some communication with company representatives.

Andrew Howard, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce young adult arm, said Friday that he was “overwhelmed” by traffic the all-day social media blast produced. He said he was contacted by one of the two ride sharing companies regarding the campaign, but he opted to keep details regarding the communication private.

“I can say that we are very hopeful that we will be able to take a big step forward very soon,” he said. “I believe what we were trying to do happened (Thursday).”

Chamber Young Professionals last month began recruiting help from chamber members and the general public to “blast” both Uber and Lyft on both Facebook and Twitter. Officials said they hoped to simply attract the city’s attention and help them realize that Kentucky’s fourth largest city is without service.

Mobile, real-time ride sharing allows users to request local drivers using their smartphones. It’s much like a taxi service, except drivers can often use their own vehicles and work from their homes. Plus, people needing a ride can order and pay for the drive using a mobile app. Uber and Lyft, the two dominant ride sharing services in the U.S., are available in most major markets around the world. They’re both available in Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green, while Lyft alone is serving the smaller cities of Elizabethtown and Bardstown.

Those two communities, with populations of 30,000 people or less, are significantly smaller than Owensboro, which is why Howard has said he believes Owensboro should be worth a look.

He said CYP met late Thursday night to discuss the results of Thursday’s campaign. Overall, he told them he was impressed by the geographic and demographic reach. People from outside the city or county who just have connections to the region were participating, he said, and many of those who engaged Uber and Lyft weren’t just young people, either.

“If we don’t see some movement within a month, we’ll decide what direction we need to go then,” he said. “It may mean that in the beginning of 2018 we’ll do something similar, but I think we’ll know our plan of attack in about a month.”

The chamber has said that it has been approached by individuals in the community who say they are either ready to begin Uber or Lyft drivers or have already qualified and are awaiting the go-ahead to begin driving locally. That’s a good sign, they say, that either one or both of the companies may see Owensboro as worth the investment, especially since start-up costs are relatively low for an online-based platform.

By Austin Ramsey Messenger-Inquirer