Transportation, businesses highlighted in State of City

In what will likely be his last State of the City address, Owensboro Mayor Watson recapped numerous events of the past few years Thursday, focusing mostly on economic development, recreational activities and transportation.

Downtown livability will be a focus this year, Watson said. Late last year, the city approved an $80,000 contract with A+ leadership to create a plan for downtown livability. Watson said establishing downtown living is made up of a three-legged stool compromised of retail, recreation and parking.

“We’re still concerned about housing,” he said.

Among recreational improvements or events in Owensboro, Watson said highlights include such things as the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum drawing more than 35,000 visitors in its first year and the ongoing renovations at Jack C. Fisher Park, which includes the installation of infield synthetic turf, expanding the front and back parking lots and adding batting cages and a warm-up area. The renovations are expected to be completed by mid-May.

“It’s going to be a park unlike any other in our community,” he said.

Numerous business expansions have happened in Owensboro, Watson said. Owensboro Grain more than doubled its receiving capacity of inbound soybeans and its drying capacity. Swedish Match had a $115 million expansion and added 120 jobs. EM Ford and Company returned downtown and Castlen Steel employed 171 people last year.

Watson listed recent city and regional transportation-related successes such as the widening of Kentucky 54, Natcher Parkway being renamed to Interstate 165 and Cape Air coordinating flights from the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport to Nashville International Airport beginning Jan. 22.

Watson, who will not be running for reelection this year, encouraged the audience to get out and vote.

“Understand who’s running. Understand who can lead you,” he said.

To conclude his address, Watson asked several questions to the audience with topics focused on economic development and business.

“Are we active enough on the state and national levels in attempting to influence and change the environment in which we carry out our business? You got to stay connected. You got to build relationships,” he said.