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Gov. Bevin in Covington Thursday for Thomas More College Work Ready Incubator ribbon cutting

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Gov. Matt Bevin was in Covington Thursday to cut the ribbon on the Thomas More College Work Ready Incubator.

Left to right, Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey, Gov. Matt Bevin, Thomas More College President David A. Armstrong, Gravity Diagnostics CEO Tony Remington,and NKY Tri-ED President Dan Tobergte cut the ribbon for the Work Ready Incubator (photos by Mark Hansel).

The Incubator is a partnership between Thomas More College and Gravity Diagnostics, a genomic and toxicology laboratory that opened in Covington in 2016.

The Work Ready Incubator is ultimately envisioned as a talent pipeline that allows an employer to directly recruit Thomas More College students and alumni to fill a variety of workforce requirements.

In 2016, about the same time Gravity Diagnostics was setting up shop in Covington, the Bevin Administration introduced the Work Ready Skills Initiative. The $100 million statewide bond program was aimed at developing a highly trained, modernized workforce in the Commonwealth to meet the needs of employers

Bevin said the Work Ready Incubator is different from that program’s workforce initiatives and apprenticeships, that focus on field such as advanced manufacturing, but it could be just as effective.

“It‘s really a private-private partnership between a private college and a private company to say, ‘how can we be part of the solution,’” Bevin said. “That is the whole point. It’s how are we preparing young people to become 21st century virtuous citizens, the integral parts of their community.”

The Incubator concept started with a meeting  between Thomas More College President David A. Armstrong and Gravity Diagnostics CEO Tony Remington, facilitated by Bexion Pharmaceuticals Chairman of the Board Chuck Scheper.

“We decided we were going to do something to help businesses in Northern Kentucky, our Work Ready Incubator,” Armstrong said. “What we will do as a small, faith-based institution with phenomenal students and phenomenal faculty, we will be in your business. When you have a skill that is needed, we will fill it because we have 44 majors, we can fill all the needs of a small and growing company.”

Armstrong said Gravity Diagnostics was a great fit because the company had gone from a staff of four to 70 employees in a short time and was looking for a way to recruit and train its workforce.

“We said, we can help you with that,” Armstrong said.

Remington said the growth of Gravity Diagnostics, and his own experiences entering the workforce, convinced him the Incubator concept could benefit the company and the students.

“When I met David, he shared this vision and I thought of my internships,” Remington said. “I was in sales and marketing and I just did the dirty work all day long. I said ‘David, we’ll put an office in here for your students, they can be in the work meetings, they can see our financials, they can do anything.’”

The first two candidates Remington met with were hired and he expects to see the pipeline continue to grow.

Gravity Diagnostics is located on Russell Street in Covington, near the aptly named Innovation Alley.

Remington said he was met with skepticism when he told people in the industry he was going to come to Northern Kentucky. He was encouraged to go to Boston or San Francisco because that is where all of the talent is and that’s where the people with PhD’s in these areas of science are.

“I said no, we’re going to do it in Kentucky,” Remington said. “This wouldn’t have been possible without people like David Armstrong and Thomas More College.  This is the right place to be.”

Gravity Diagnostics conducts testing focused on decreasing the impact to the community caused by the misuse and overdosing of controlled substances.

Gravity Diagnostics is located on Russell Street in Covington (provided photo).

“We are big on this opioid epidemic that we are facing nationally and the money, $78 billion in costs,” Remington said. “We believe there is a way to take our testing and implement that in a cost-effective way, to not only reduce the health care costs, but to help people and save lives.”

Bevin said it’s easy to kind of gloss over the work being done at Gravity Diagnostics, but it is critical to finding a solution to the scourge of opioid addiction.

“We are feeling it and seeing it in powerful ways in this community and in this state and this entire region and in this nation.” Bevin said. “Pharmacogenomics…is the study of the impact of a drug on the human physiology and the human body and the fact that this is being pioneered here as significantly as anywhere in America is impressive. There are so many people taking drugs knowingly and unknowingly and they don’t even know the impact on themselves.”

It is equally impressive, Bevin said, that the work is being done through a partnership that is helping to redefine collaborative efforts with institutions of higher learning.

“Apprenticeship does not (just) mean you are putting overalls on – could, crawling under a vehicle – could, getting dirty and greasy, it could mean that,” Bevin said. “But increasingly in the 21st century, it means anything but that. It means finding young people, who will literally come here…and do what is expected of you.”

Armstrong said one of his goals is to see the Work Ready Incubator in use at companies throughout the region and Bevin embraces that idea.

“What I’m excited about as it relates to this, we’re celebrating one perfectly good example of how this works,” Bevin said. “You have 44 disciplines, there’s 43 other possibilities. What entrepreneurs know is that there is no one path to being a successful contributor.”

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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