For Rhonda Whitaker, economic development isn’t just about acres of land and large manufacturing facilities. The Government and Community Relations manager realized the company’s Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas were primed for urban redevelopment.
“The company’s urban core has different challenges and opportunities than our suburban or rural areas,” she said. “If we allow these urban areas to deteriorate, we end up potentially hurting economic development in other areas.”
For the past three years, Duke Energy Ohio/Duke Energy Kentucky has overseen the Urban Revitalization Initiative – funded by the Duke Energy Foundation. The initiative has funneled more than $700,000 to 19 different projects. These funds serve as a catalyst to help redevelop and reinvent the heartbeat of urban communities across the region.
The goal is to sustain the core of Duke Energy’s urban communities, reduce blight in neighborhoods and produce something new out of something old – while spurring job creation or retention.
“Our interest is in projects that have real momentum and will become a reality,” Whitaker said. “We want to target those projects that can have the greatest impact.”
A panel of a dozen urban redevelopment experts help the company pinpoint where Duke Energy can best use its money. Whitaker said a combination of private and public funds is needed to get most projects off the ground.
“When a project comes together, and you helped make it happen – it’s rewarding to know that our funding played a role,” she said.