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