Be NKY Growth Partnership Research Director David McAleese recently completed the Encounter NKY program, powered by Citi and run through the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. This program is designed for young professionals, and those newer to the region, to form professional and personal relationships while exploring and learning about Northern Kentucky.

During the months of January through March, participants met twice a month for a half-day immersive activity.

Read below to learn more about David’s experience!

What is Encounter NKY?

The program brings together leaders in different areas of Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati and is skewed toward people that are either new to the region or new to their job. One course day was built around government and we visited the Kenton County administrative building. Another was focused on non-profits and we volunteered at the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky. The purpose is to help us develop an appreciation for this area and better understand the social, economic, and governmental factors that make Northern Kentucky the dynamic region that it is.

Why did you decide to participate?

I recently joined BE NKY after 16 years at Macy’s Inc. At BE NKY, we work with a lot of local entities. For someone switching gears in my career, although I have lived in the Cincinnati area for 17 years, I wasn’t super familiar with Northern Kentucky and the organizations in the area. It was important for me to learn how the region operates through interacting with a cross section of people from different sectors in Northern Kentucky.

What were some of the most interesting or surprising things you learned?

On the first day, we were given a historical overview of the region. One of the things that sticks out to me was one of the reasons the Cincinnati side of the river developed faster relative to the Kentucky side, and in the way that it did, was because the current of the river favored boats landing on the north side. Before there were bridges connecting us, Northern Kentucky really developed as its own region. We’re not just a suburb of Cincinnati. We have our own urban centers and our own manufacturing base. But, we do operate as a cohesive region and we are part of that larger Cincinnati area.

Did you get to visit any new sites?

We visited the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati.  The museum takes something as ubiquitous as signage and gets you thinking about how it impacts our daily lives and how the design, materials, and placement of signs have changed over time. I doubt I would have visited had it not been for Encounter NKY. We also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, including the emergency response center, and the landing area for charter flights. It was interesting getting up close to the DHL and Amazon Air cargo facilities and seeing the massive scale of those operations. It really hit home how much of an economic driver the airport is for the region.

Did you learn about any issues that you think are important to tackle?

Volunteering at the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky was really eye opening, especially learning how easy it is for someone to fall into a situation where they don’t have a home. It’s encouraging that there’s an organization that’s helping people dealing with this situation. Housing affordability is a key topic and challenge for our region. We need to make sure if someone has a job, they can afford a safe and reasonable living environment, and that’s not something we are able to guarantee today.

Would you recommend others participate in Encounter NKY?

I came out of it with a better understanding of our region and a better appreciation of the different organizations that are out there, whether it’s in arts, non-profit, or the government. Beyond that, it’s always inspiring to connect with passionate people. There are people that truly care about making our region better and a good place to live and work. It’s a great opportunity to learn, and the chamber does a really nice job of putting this program together.