With Northern Ky.'s bridge, airport and heroin worries, Grayson's newest gig could be his toughest yet

06/03/2014 09:45 PM

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — In his new role as president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Trey Grayson will be asked to help navigate the region through tricky problems with the airport, job creation and a heroin problem that has threatened the area.

Grayson, the former Kentucky secretary of state, returns to Northern Kentucky from a more than three year stint as director of the Harvard Institute of Politics at a time when the region is looking to replace 1,600 jobs that are about to leave over the next two years as Toyota moves its American headquarters to Plano, Texas.

In addition, the region has two key logistical problems that could be hampering some of its economic development: there are now fewer flights at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and the Brent Spence Bridge that carries I-71 and I-75 traffic is “functionally obsolete.”

“It’s an opportunity for the region to look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out what what are we good at and where do we need to get better to either lure the next Toyota or more likely, grow a bunch of other businesses here that’ll start to grow and have a lot of employees,” Grayson said.

Toyota’s move to consolidate its North American headquarters from Kentucky, California and New York to Texas initially caught the Northern Kentucky Chamber by surprise in late April.

Grayson is also encouraged that, after a number of years of a shrinking number of Delta flights at the international airport, some more airlines are giving it a look.

“Hopefully this greater competition from Allegiant and Frontier, some of the other smaller carriers that are coming through that will help lower the cost of travel. Because that is one of the challenges — yeah we have more direct flights but we’ve been near the top for the average flight per ticket,” Grayson said.

Another major issue legislators have been trying to deal with is the increased use of heroin after the prescription pill crack down. Legislators failed to pass a bill in the 2014 session, but both General Assembly leaders listed the problem as the top issue for the state.

Grayson said he needed time to study the problem to see what the chamber can do to help.

“Heroin it’s a problem and it does impact businesses…it’s a challenge there’s a lot of lost productivity. I know there was a legislative attempt in this last session to try to ramp up some coordination and some law enforcement that didn’t pass, so that’s one piece of this is to make some changes that are necessary — focus on rehabilitation,” Grayson said.

Grayson hopes to spend the next several months before he takes over as chamber president on July 1 talking to different role players in the heroin epidemic — from families to physicians and police.

Developing an entrepreneurial economy and transportation will also lfill the top roles for Grayson and the chamber in the next two years. Grayson plans to kick-start the conversation with the community on an “argument and evidence” for
tolls to become part of the formula for a replacement to the Brent Spence Bridge.


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