River Ridge Featured at Louisville Business First's 'Corridor of Opportunity'
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Feb. 10, 2020) - Where will the 6,000-acre River Ridge Commerce Center be in 10 years?
That was one of several topics explored Friday morning at the America Place headquarters inside the massive Southern Indiana business park.
A panel discussion featuring movers and shakers in and around River Ridge took place as part of a new quarterly Louisville Business First feature series called Corridors of Opportunity that explores high-growth areas in the Louisville market that still have immense potential for development. You can see images from the event in the attached gallery.
River Ridge kicked off the series, and future installments will explore investment opportunity in Oldham County, West Louisville and the Old Henry Road corridor on Louisville’s East End.
Business First was joined Friday by an expert panel that included Jerry Acy, executive director of the River Ridge Development Authority; Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana; John Hollenbach, a principal with Louisville-based development firm Hollenbach Oakley LLC; Jim Karp, founder and CEO of development firm America Place; and Nitin Sahney, president and CEO of Louisville-based pharmaceutical company PharmaCord LLC. .
The panelists discussed River Ridge’s attractiveness and growth potential, the need for a unified regional voice and why workforce is so important to River Ridge’s future, among other topics. Below are some takeaways from the one-hour discussion.
Walk through the big doors that open
Both Karp and Sahney argued that Louisville and Southern Indiana must be united as one force at all times if it wants to sell the area for future economic growth in a competitive manner.
Division between the two sides of the river is a recipe for disappointment, Sahney warned.
Karp took it one step further, saying the invisible lines separating Louisville and Southern Indiana should be erased from our minds.
“We’re one city separated by a river,” he argued.
America Place is the largest landowner in River Ridge while PharmaCord plans to establish an office and operations center in River Ridge next year that will bring up to 850 jobs in an investment that surpasses $50 million.
Dant Chesser didn’t dispute their assertions, noting how important the Louisville market is to recruiting efforts.
“We’re best known for a city we’re not, in a state we’re not part of,” she said of Southern Indiana.
That’s why it is important to not only have support from Louisville but also state government in Indianapolis, Dant Chesser said. She argued it is a hard sell to Indiana lawmakers on the idea that what is good for Louisville is good for Southern Indiana, and what is good for Southern Indiana is good for Indianapolis.
Karp has been urging Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to visit River Ridge and see the growth for himself while Dant Chesser said she treks to Indianapolis as much as possible to ensure Southern Indiana’s voice is heard.
She thinks the area may be on the verge of a breakthrough after Holcomb recently offered emphatic praise toward the area. Now it’s imperative they capitalize on the recognition, she said.
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“If the governor opens a door like that, we have to be standing there ready to walk through it."
Building and retaining an educated and skilled workforce is a national worry, and it may be the single biggest challenge to Louisville maximizing its full potential.
River Ridge is not immune to this challenge, which is why Karp is championing a 53-acre early education and adult tech center campus at River Ridge that he envisions as a premier workforce training center in the region once completed.
Acy said during the panel discussion that “we’re all in” on providing land for the complex and doing whatever the park can to ensure the center is a success in producing talented workers. River Ridge is home now to more than 50 companies employing nearly 11,000 people.
America Place will roll the learning center out in phases, and it intends to have a temporary facility ready by fall 2020 to educate more than 50 students in the early education center.
Sahney stressed the need for educated workers, saying his company’s competitors boast workforces in which every worker has a college degree. He said companies must know they can find and then retain the workers they need at River Ridge or the momentum can go away.
Looking far ahead
Louisville Business First Editor Shea Van Hoy wrapped up the discussion by asking each panelist to envision something they want to see at River Ridge in the next 10 years.
Acy said he believes the development authority will be developing parts of the north end of River Ridge on the Charlestown side by that point. He noted there are still hundreds of buildings to demolish and infrastructure to install on the north end to get it primed for development.
Meanwhile, Hollenbach-Oakley has been tasked to develop the Gateway Office and Research Park that could include 600 acres in two phases.
Hollenbach said he hopes to have 50 or more acres of the Gateway completed within 10 years, saying his firm wants to create an office campus vibe in which multiple developers are buying land and constructing new facilities. The firm plans to kick off the Gateway later this year by breaking ground on a three-story, 45,000-square-foot complex.
“If done right, the (office) park should be a huge success,” Hollenbach told the crowd. “... We can’t wait to dig in."
Explore the event's photo gallery at Louisville Business First