After a yearlong review, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has restructured and renamed the city’s economic development department. And the new Department of Economic Growth and Innovation will incorporate or replace several offices Fischer created in the last year.
After six months, the $100,000 a year Office of Innovation is no more. Director Ted Smith will lead the new economic development department with a salary of $113,000. Smith will perform many of his previous duties at his new post, but his new and old jobs are not being combined.
“The Director of Innovation was a brand new appointment that did not exist before. That was something that was very near and dear to Mayor Fischer’s heart, something he’s wanted to cull out and have us focus on,” says Mayoral spokeswoman Rebecca Fleischaker. “So if the next mayor wants to focus on something else, that’s another person’s call. We’ll see how it goes for the next three years.”
Two other offices Fischer created—those of sustainability and globalization—will operate under Smith. The planned office of military affairs will not be created, and the tasks that would’ve gone to the office’s leader will be assigned to an economic development department employee.
The changes to the economic development department come after Interim Director Margaret Handmaker’s agency-wide review. Handmaker finished the report, then stepped aside to lead the city’s Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative.
Handmaker recommended the agency increase its focus on urban planning and develop a long-term plan for the city. She did not suggest the city change its relationship with the chamber of commerce, Greater Louisville Inc. GLI receives one million dollars every year from the city, and city officials say the organization provides a valuable service in exchange.
“They actually go out and recruit new companies to be looking at Louisville,” says Fleischaker.”Our [economic development] department works on a small scale with small businesses, helping them through regulatory processes, we have our own low-interest loan program. It’s a totally different flavor, what our agencies do.”
The number of jobs in Louisville is almost exactly what it was a decade ago. That, and a study showing that most of the city’s growth has been spurred by UPS, prompted criticism of GLI over the last year. The Metro Council briefly considered cutting GLI’s allocation during the budget process, but ultimately did not.