Staff took steps in a new direction when it contracted a market analyst for technical assistance with Kenton County’s first totally-new comprehensive plan since 1972. Based on initial responses to the nature and quality of the data, staff is looking into an ongoing program to marry this type of data with LINK-GIS mapping capabilities for use by local communities, businesses, and economic development officials.
“Our initial reason for engaging the market analyst was relevance,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “The free market is one of the most important factors determining whether a comprehensive plan is viable and likely to be implemented. The Great Recession and the ‘new normal’ it’s created makes it all the more critical that we have our finger on the pulse of the local market.
“What we got from our analyst met our initial goal. It also gave us an idea that if we could keep the data updated and available, we could assist a number of interests that work in support of Kenton County’s economic future.”
According to the program strategy being developed by staff, data developed recently by Dinn Focused Marketing would be kept up to date regularly and made available to local interests along with mapping that would make the data all the more relevant. The result, according to the draft strategy, would be more jobs and more business for the local economy.
Gordon says the idea for a “data clearinghouse” came to staff following a meeting with local homebuilders. They acknowledged that the nature and quality of the data are what they typically use when determining where to locate their next residential projects and the price range on which they should focus.
“Our development community takes huge amounts of risk on their own behalf. That means they need data to make the most accurate prediction of what the market is telling them,” said Brian Miller, executive vice president of the Homebuilders Association of Northern Kentucky. “If this data is maintained and regularly updated, we foresee the ability to heat map any demographic and economic changes in areas within the County in order to facilitate a dialogue for a number of reasons.”
Miller continued, “Zone changes, comprehensive plans, and subdivision regulations are relevant by supportive data and adaptation to changes in the local market. Flexibility is key in a more responsive planning process and it is difficult to be flexible without data that bears your assumption out.”
A recent meeting with a Covington task force looking into redeveloping neighborhoods within that city’s urban core validated the idea further, according to Gordon. “Seeing economic indicators on a neighbor-by-neighborhood basis showed these folks where they needed to focus their efforts.”
When asked when such a program might be up and running, Gordon responded that the strategy would be put on the table during upcoming discussions about NKAPC’s budget for fiscal year 2014 (that begins in July 2013). He said that while the funding necessary to make the strategy work would be minimal, he hoped to be able to raise funds outside the agency budget to help with its costs.
“These data could help private sector businesses and, as such, would make public-private partnerships totally appropriate as a funding source to keep the program going,” he concluded.