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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

OPINION: NKY Lodging Tax A Regional Moment

Northern Kentucky Convention Center.
By Brent Cooper

If you think of Northern Kentucky in the same way the state of Kentucky does, we have 8 counties, 54 cities, and 18 public school districts.  Over the years, we have learned that if we want to accomplish really big things, we have to work together.  We formed regional entities to foster collaboration.  It seems to me that over time, some forget where we came from and question why we have regional entities in the first place.

Leaders throughout the region find moments to remind folks why we are stronger together.

The proposal to increase the NKY lodging tax is one of those moments.

The proposed additional 1% tax is designed to help fund the NKY Convention Center expansion, as well as other tourism projects in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

The increased tax would be paid by visitors, not residents.  It would enable additional expansion and marketing for tourism throughout the region.  But most importantly, it would enable us to keep the business we currently have.  Without the expansion, we will continue to lose conferences that have been with us for years.  They are going elsewhere because they are outgrowing our current space.
During a meeting with state officials last month it was pointed out that Northern Kentucky, as a region, is a really good investment when it comes to tourism & economic development.  We are only 10% of the state’s population, but we represent over 20% of the state’s tourism.

So when I heard comments from an elected official that one particular city was “getting the short end of the stick” when it comes to this proposal, I was taken aback.

With that logic, why would anyone in Fort Thomas (where I live) support any regional entity?

The answer is obvious to most us.

Fort Thomas doesn’t have an airport, a large manufacturing base, a big economic development team, a convention center, etc.  We support regional efforts because the stronger the region is, the better off we are collectively.

As a region, Northern Kentucky is just under 20% of the Greater Cincinnati region, but we represent over 35% of manufacturing jobs.

It’s true that most of the manufacturers aren’t in the city where I live, but Fort Thomas citizens work at those facilities.  Those companies are our customers.

We have terrific businesses in Fort Thomas, but we still often visit other NKY cities to shop. Do the majority of people shopping in malls each holiday season actually reside in the same city?

Most of us work outside the city we live in. That’s ok with us.  We understand that we don’t get a vote when those cities choose to raise their payroll tax.  Nevertheless, we recognize we are stronger collectively.

For those that might agree with the “short end of the stick” comment, answer this question: “When visitors stay in our hotels, are they only visiting one city?”

Do they not also go to MainStrausse in Covington, the Aquarium in Newport, Thomas More College or NKU, the Florence Mall, the Florence Freedom, Turfway, or a variety of other regional destinations and attractions, on both sides of the river?    

Are business travelers only visiting businesses in one city?

The biggest event in recent memory was when the All Star Game came to Cincinnati.  MeetNKY and the NKY Convention Center promoted the entire region in support of that event.  Every hotel throughout the region was sold out.   Everyone benefitted.

Thankfully, it appears the majority of leaders support the additional lodging tax and recognize the obvious benefits.

Regardless, I think this is a good time to remind each other that we are interconnected.  We aren’t one city.  We are a collection of small towns.  Only together can we accomplish big things.


Brent Cooper is President & owner of C-Forward, one of the top I.T. service firms in Ohio and Kentucky.  He lives in Fort Thomas with his wife Lisa and his daughters Sydney and Emma.

Brent Cooper. 

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