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Posted on: January 25, 2024

Kenton County partners to create SparkHaus, a regional entrepreneurial hub

Exterior of former Sim's Furniture building in Covington

Kenton County is partnering with Blue North and the Northern Kentucky Port Authority to transform the former Sim’s Furniture Building in downtown Covington into SparkHaus, an entrepreneurial hub designed to foster Northern Kentucky’s next generation of business leaders.

The project aims to bring together founders, investors and support organizations under one roof, creating a front door for entrepreneurship in Northern Kentucky.

“Northern Kentucky is privileged to be home to so many phenomenal entrepreneurs,” Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann said. “A thriving business environment, alongside education and public safety, is the bedrock of any successful community. And with SparkHaus, we have the opportunity to create a welcoming, community-oriented space for entrepreneurs at each stage of their journey.”

The vision behind SparkHaus is three-fold.

  • Capital: A primary objective in creating SparkHaus is establishing a space where funders, from seed-stage venture capitalists to Northern Kentucky’s largest private equity groups, can easily interact not only with one another but also growing companies. 
  • Growth: With a wide variety of flexible space, SparkHaus aims to be a go-to destination for companies growing and scaling. These spaces are designed to serve companies regardless of their size, from one-man shops to teams of 10 or more until they grow into more long-term space.
  • Collisions: By bringing together founders, investors and support organizations, SparkHaus will foster a collaborative environment where ideas can collide to fuel the region’s next success story. 

"2023 has been a year of tremendous momentum for entrepreneurship in Northern Kentucky and SparkHaus will be a further tipping point for the community,” said Dave Knox, executive director of Blue North. “In 2023, nearly 30 startups raised more than $10 million in grants and venture capital in Northern Kentucky, attracting investment from firms in California, New York City, and Chicago. With SparkHaus bringing together capital, startups and growth companies, the potential in the years to come is limitless.”

SparkHaus will help elevate Northern Kentucky’s role in #StartupCincy and the Greater Cincinnati and Kentucky startup communities by working in partnership with existing organizations, such as Cintrifuse, Blue North and KY Innovation, to create scalable, profitable businesses.

SparkHaus will be located inside the former Sim’s Furniture building at the corner of Madison and Eighth Street in Covington. Prior to Sim’s Furniture, the building was a Montgomery Ward department store and features that brand’s iconic “Spirit of Progress” imagery on its facade, something SparkHaus’ new branding builds upon.

In May 2023, the Port Authority deployed $3 million from the Kenton County site development fund to purchase the site on behalf of the Kenton County Fiscal Court. SparkHaus was the first project to benefit from the $13 million fund, which is overseen by the Port and was secured in 2022 by Sen. Chris McDaniel.

“Activating the NKY Port is a key initiative of BE NKY Growth Partnership’s Build + Elevate NKY investor campaign launched in 2022,” said Christine Russell, executive director of the NKY Port Authority. “We are thrilled the NKY Port will support the development of SparkHaus and its mission to bring founders, investors and supporters together in Covington."

Kenton County and its partners have selected Urban Sites to serve as developer for the project. Urban Sites is a veteran in creating unique apartment, office and retail spaces within Greater Cincinnati. 

For the project's branding, Blue North partnered with Covington Creates, an organization that brings together multiple Northern Kentucky branding and design agencies. This unique collaboration leveraged the region's world-class design talent to build the brand as a community effort.

Total costs for the project are not yet finalized. Kenton County and its partners are working to raise private dollars to help finance the project. Those interested in getting involved can contact Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann at Kris.Knochelmann@KentonCounty.org.

About Blue North:

Blue North is the KY Innovation Hub for the 11 counties of Northern Kentucky. Blue North's mission revolves around three goals: help startups and small businesses to connect with the right resources to accelerate their business; champion Northern Kentucky entrepreneurs on a local, regional and national level; and drive initiatives that exponentially impact our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

About the NKY Port Authority:

The Northern Kentucky Port Authority was formed as a Special Purpose Governmental Entity by the Fiscal Courts of Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties in 1968 under the provisions of KRS 65.510 to 65.650.

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