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Duke Energy Promotes Urban Revitalization in Northern Kentucky

Duke Energy’s Urban Revitalization Initiative program has seen big results in communities across the region.

By Livability on March 16, 2023

Incline Theater in Cincinnati
Courtesy of Duke Energy

Duke Energy has long been an economic development partner with Kentucky and Ohio communities, but one special program recently marked its 10th successful anniversary, bringing jobs, neighborhood rebirth and new businesses to the Northern Kentucky and the Greater Cincinnati area. 

The company’s Urban Revitalization Initiative program is unique to this region, focusing on smaller, but no less vital, areas where an economic boost can produce big results, moving neighborhoods, communities and the region toward a viable future. 

“The funding we give through Urban Revitalization is often challenging for developers to tap into for pre-engineering dollars and pre-development needs,” says Rhonda Whitaker Hurtt, vice president, Community Relations for Duke Energy in Kentucky and Ohio. 

“That’s very important as developers are going after larger capital needs. When we started this program, we interviewed a lot of urban redevelopment experts, asking ‘where is the funding gap?’ So, we decided to fund specifically these kinds of efforts. It’s been pretty evident that this is where the need is.” 

In the past 11 years, the program has awarded more than $3.2 million in grants to more than 100 projects, funding things like architectural planning, environmental assessment, engineering services and consulting. 

Projects are focused on combatting urban blight, restoring vacant buildings, promoting job growth and spurring additional local businesses. Among its successes are the Incline Theater in Cincinnati ($35,000), Hotel Covington ($50,000), Road ID in Covington ($50,000) and High Grain Brewing Co. in Cincinnati ($35,000). 

“These communities tell us how critical these dollars have been,” Hurtt says. “We have seen how these cities and neighborhoods have been transformed — that’s what is exciting to us.” 

Bar at Hotel Covington in Covington, KY
Courtesy of Duke Energy

The Urban Revitalization Initiative program is a natural complement to Duke Energy’s other economic development initiatives, many of which the public may be unaware of, Hurtt says. 

Among those services has been their Site Readiness program, helping to identify and evaluate sites for potential future industrial development, a boon to local communities in their own economic development efforts. 

“We’re at the table with regard to many large-scale projects,” Hurtt adds. “Economic development is a team sport, and we are the voice of energy on these projects that require substantial investment and bring jobs and tax benefits to the community.” 

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