“We’ve managed it as a community,” Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson told CNN Business on Wednesday.
To date, Watson said the city had about 500 confirmed coronavirus cases, which have led to 53 people being hospitalized and eight deaths.
But according to Mayor Watson, the city’s major private employers compete in some of the few industries seeing economic gains during the pandemic and have been hiring as a result.
Owensboro’s largest employer — its hospital, Owensboro Health — has been doing well financially throughout the pandemic, according to the mayor.
The city is also home to bourbon makers Sazerac and O.Z. Tyler. Unsurprisingly, nationwide sales of booze and beer have gone up during the pandemic.
Owensboro also has a tobacco products factory owned by Swedish Match. The Stockholm-based company said it saw surprising double-digit sales growth in the second quarter, fueled by demand for its nicotine patches in the United States.
Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Candance Castlen Brake says the city is also centrally located between some of the nation’s largest population centers, including Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Nashville and Indianapolis, which makes it an optimal distribution hub.
Brake acknowledged that Owensboro’s luck is an anomaly, but says that it wasn’t an accident.
“During the last recession, our economic development team put a large amount of money in our downtown area kicked off by a $40 million grant from the federal government,” Brake said. “The private development that’s occurred downtown because of that has really put us on the map as a community. I think we’ve just been lucky so far that the growth sectors in our community when the pandemic hit were still flourishing and thriving.”
—Annalyn Kurtz contributed reporting.