Friday, May 25, 2001

New UK faculty members told of area's economic clout

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — A group of new University of Kentucky professors touring the state got a taste of Northern Kentucky's economic power during a panel discussion Thursday at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing office.

        Jack Blanton, UK's vice chancellor for administration and a business professor at the school, told the 28 traveling educators that Northern Kentucky “has been the most dynamic, thriving area in the Commonwealth in terms of development in the past 10 years.”

[photo] Jim Wiseman, Toyota vice president for external affairs, tells the touring UK educators why Toyota chose Erlanger for its North American manufacturing headquarters.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        The group, comprised of professors from a variety of departments at UK, heard from Jim Wiseman, Toyota vice president for external affairs; Mark Berger, director of UK's Center for Business and Economic Research; and Dan Tobergte, senior vice president of Tri-ED Corp.

        Tim Stonebaugh, a professor in the college of agriculture, said following the panel discussion that gaining information about the economic makeup of the state and its citizens would be helpful to him in his classes.

        “Looking at the economic distribution of wealth in the state was valuable,” said Dr. Stonebaugh, a Pennsylvania native in his first year teaching at UK. “It will help to know what areas my students come from and the economic makeup of those regions.”

        Mr. Wiseman, a former sports writer, educator and coach, explained why Toyota chose the site in Northern Kentucky for its North American manufacturing headquarters.

        “The central location and the access to a major airport were key factors,” he said. “We deal with some 500 suppliers, and we can travel quickly to most of those sites from here.”

        He said Toyota, like other large companies, has problems attracting and keeping people in technical jobs because of the demand nationwide for computer and programming specialists. He said the company also has problems attracting minority managers, especially at the higher levels of management, but is working to change that.

        On Wednesday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had called for a national boycott of Toyota products by African-Americans to protest a lack of support for black workers and customers.

        Mr. Tobergte explained how he basically “sells” Northern Kentucky to companies considering moving here or expanding existing facilities.

        Tri-ED, a non-profit agency that works with officials in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties to bring in commercial development, was instrumental in bringing Toyota to the former Cincinnati Bell buildings off I-275, and has been at the forefront of negotiations with most of the larger companies — including Fidelity and Citibank — that have moved to Northern Kentucky in the past 10-15 years.

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