Local News Politics

Economic Development Restructuring Changes New City Offices

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.

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GLI Helps 55 Businesses Grow Using Incentive Programs

Greater Louisville Inc. says it has helped 84 companies grow or relocate in the region since Kentucky expanded its business incentive programs in 2009.

“All those (84 companies) total about 6,958 jobs, so it’s a significant amount of payroll being generated when we’re in the middle of a great recession and the economy is being challenged,” said Daryl Snyder, GLI’s vice president for economic development.

That’s partly due to the economy bouncing back from the recession; some of that growth can be attributed to large companies like Ford Motors and GE expanding, he said.

Around 55 of those 84 companies have used incentive programs, which require a business growth commitment, he said. Incentives come in the form of tax breaks that require significant accounting infrastructure to accept.

Snyder said he’s uncertain how many companies GLI attract to the region that fail. When businesses use GLI to relocate they are often already successful and looking to build off that success, he said.

“Most of the times when we have companies that we’re attracting into the area that are brand new, those are national and multi-national companies,” said Snyder.

GLI executives have been criticized in the past for having high salaries and not producing enough well-paying jobs, and Studies have shown that UPS has accounted for most of the area’s growth.

Snyder said the new jobs created as a result of GLI’s help have an average salary around $42,000.

Overall, however, there are roughly as many jobs in Louisville now as there were ten years ago.

Local News

Reagan Accepts St. Louis Chamber of Commerce Job

Greater Louisville Inc. President and CEO Joe Reagan has accepted the position as President and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association.

Reagan issued a statement saying it has been an honor to serve the city’s business community and the bi-state region.

From Reagan:

“I’ve been blessed to work alongside a tremendous team of leaders at Greater Louisville Inc. who together have delivered strong economic development, financial and programmatic results for our investors and stakeholders.

What I’m most proud of is Greater Louisville Inc.’s leadership in making education attainment the top priority for our community and our commitment to economic inclusion, working to be an organization for all sizes and types of businesses and encouraging Louisville to be the most welcoming region for people from every neighborhood … and all over the world.

The professional, family and leadership opportunities and challenges we now accept at the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association is made with deep gratitude to Greater Louisville Inc. and Louisville.”

Reagan’s resignation will be effective January 26.

GLI Executive Vice President Tracee Troutt will serve as interim CEO. The city’s chamber of commerce and chief economic development organization has promised that an “international search” will be conducted to select the next GLI president and CEO.

Mayor Greg Fischer released the following statement about Reagan’s departure:

Joe has brought great energy and leadership to GLI, and he’s been a strategic partner with the city to grow jobs and our economy. His successes have ranged from the $1.2 billion investment in Ford to the insourcing of products at GE Appliance Park to the daily work of creating an entrepreneurial culture in Louisville. He’s assembled a good team at GLI and leaves the organization on a solid foundation on which we can build.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

GLI Chief Finalist for St. Louis Chamber Job

The president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc. is a finalist for the top job at the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association.

Since 2005, Joe Reagan has led the city’s chamber of commerce, which also serves as Metro Government’s chief economic development organization. The group receives most of its funding from private donations, but does get $1 million from the city budget, which means that over the years officials have been more critical of Louisville’s ability to attract jobs and recruit companies under Reagan’s tenure.

However, GLI representatives highlight that the chamber led the multi-year effort to ensure a $1 billion investment by Ford Motor Company in its two local plants. The project is expected to bring 1,800 new jobs at the retooled Louisville Assembly Plant.

Reagan makes approximately $370,000 annually.

Local News Politics

Officials Defend GLI After Lackluster Review From Brookings

Tomorrow, the mayors of Louisville and Lexington will announce the details of a study from the Brookings Institution on the potential for a super region between the two cities. The last Brookings study of Louisville was critical of several economic development efforts, including the city/county merger, the Bucks for Brains program and the creation of the modern chamber of commerce, Greater Louisville Inc.

The study came out in June. It looked at how various cities fared from 1980 to 2005, and found that Louisville’s growth was driven almost entirely by package carrier UPS. The report also concludes that job growth wasn’t accompanied by a corresponding increase in wages, meaning high-paying jobs left and low-paying jobs took their place.

It also found that GLI’s claims that it’s turning Louisville into an economic hotspot aren’t yet proven and may be “largely rhetorical.”

“It doesn’t grow our city. It doesn’t help our city. People don’t come here. Companies don’t come here,” says activist Curtis Morrison, who has campaigned to cut GLI off from city funding. He says the Brookings study and reports that show Louisville lost 35,000 jobs in the last decade should be enough to make the city pull its $1 million allocation to GLI, which formed in 1998.

“What we need to do is take care of our streets, animal services, fixing our potholes, taking care of our parks. That’s the stuff that lures 21st Century businesses into our communities,” says Morrison.

“Well I think anyone who says that is oversimplifying things,” says Mayor’s spokesman Chris Poynter.

Poynter adds that the Brookings study brings some interesting facts to light, but the study doesn’t reflect the last six years. During that time, he said, GLI brought jobs to Louisville, despite being hampered by the national economy.

“There’s always room for improvement and the mayor wants them to improve, but we think they’re doing a great job,” he says. “If you look solely at what has happened in the last few months that GLI has been a partner in the table at. One, the Ford jobs. Two, the GE jobs.”

“There may have been some time in the very beginning that it took to get the momentum going, but I’ve been at GLI for nine years and I disagree with the assertion that there was nothing but rhetoric that happened from 2000 to 2005,” says GLI spokeswoman Carmen Hickerson.

Hickerson says any lackluster economic development performance was likely driven by the national economy and poor education. She particularly points to the Bucks for Brains program. It provides fundign to bring experts and research to universities. The Brookings report showed that it did achieve that goal, though the economic benefit of doing so was unclear.

“Bucks for Brains has been a very, very successful program. I think every way you’re able to look at it, the investment has paid off multiple times over,” says Hickerson.

The city is currently reviewing its economic development strategy and exploring possible changes. That’s something the next Brookings study may recommend as well. And not all of the city’s allocation for GLI has been given out. The Metro Council will review the agency’s progress in January before awarding the remaining $500,000.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Fischer’s Former Company Given Hefty Tax Breaks

A company recently owned by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was recently awarded $1.2 million in state tax breaks which it can collect over the next decade if it meets wage and hiring requirements.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave the incentive package to the Dant Clayton Corporation last week on the condition it add 72 jobs paying an average hourly wage of $23. Fischer is the former President and CEO of the privately owned company, which manufactures bleachers and other outdoor sports seating.

According to the secretary of state’s website, Fischer is still an active officer with the company as of its February annual report. However, mayoral spokesman Chris Poynter says Fischer sold all of his stock to other investors two months ago and won’t benefit personally from the deal.

“The company came up for incentives after the mayor was no longer an owner. He was not involved in that process,” he says. “You’d have to maybe ask GLI or Dant Clayton about that.”

The spokespersons for Dant Clayton and GLI were unavailable for comment.

State records show Fischer received $500,000 for his shares of Dant Clayrton in May after it gobbled up another business in a merger agreement. But Fischer still owns half of a building located in west Louisville that is being leased by the company, Poynter said.

The tax incentives were awarded through a lobbying effort aided by Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce. Asked if Fischer had any knowledge of or involvement in the incentive package since taking office before or after he sold his stock, Poynter only said the mayor recused himself from the process and that his chief of staff, Ellen Hessen, signed all the appropriate documents associated with the deal.

Local News

Ford CEO Alan Mulally Praises Louisville

Ford CEO Alan Mulally spoke highly of Louisville Tuesday night at the KFC Yum Center.  Mulally was the keynote speaker at the Greater Louisville Inc. annual meeting.

Ford is in the middle of a $600 million retooling of the Louisville Assembly Plant. Mulally hailed the new model of the Ford Escape, which will be built at the plant, as revolutionary.

“This is going be absolutely not only the best quality, fuel efficient, safe and smart designed vehicle but the very best value that we can bring to all of our customers around the world;” Mulally says,” and right here is a center of excellence in Louisville, Kentucky.”

Several versions of the Escape–including hybrid models–will be produced from the same platform in plants around the world. Mulally also praised Louisville for competing on a global level.

“Well I think the most important thing is having a point of view that you are competing with the best in the world and you want to win and you want to be competitive the commitment that Louisville has made to creating a business environment where we can compete with the rest of the world is the most important thing.”

Louisville is also home to Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer Names Economic Development, Policy Chiefs

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has filled two top positions in his new administration. Fischer has named an interim chief of economic development and a director of policy.

Margaret Handmaker most recently worked with the Downtown Development Corporation. She will lead the city’s economic development department for six months, or until a permanent director has been found. Handmaker is working on what Fischer calls a “holistic review” of the economic development department and the city’s relationship with Greater Louisville Inc. Louisville has lost thousands of jobs in the last decade, but Handmaker says that’s not likely due to inaction on the city’s part.

“I think that’s more of an economic issue than a Louisville issue and we’ll do everything we can to support them non-financially and, if possible, financially,” she says.

Fischer’s new director of policy is Tony Peyton, who has worked as a director of policy for the National Center for Family Literacy.

Local News Next Louisville

Candidates Debate, Trade Jabs At GLI Forum

Some familiar campaign themes re-emerged Monday at a mayoral debate sponsored by Greater Louisville Inc.

The debate focused on business issues, but the candidates discussed other topics as well, and frequently criticized each other’s positions. Democrat Greg Fischer said he represents a newer way of leading the city than Republican Hal Heiner

“My opponent’s been an insider on the Metro Council now for nearly eight years, and he’s been the voice of ‘No’ time and time again,” he said. “Hal has said ‘No’ to the STAR clean air program that now many people see as a model throughout the country. He said ‘No’ to Fairness, our anti-discrimination ordinance.”

Heiner said Fischer doesn’t offer many new ideas, and defended his council experience.

“I’ve said no to new taxes on the people in Louisville. We’re already the 5th highest taxed city in the country. If we increase taxes any more how will we ever grow jobs in this community?” he said. He later added, “Does having been through eight budgets and seeing the city up-close, from the police department to the parks department to the fire department to the ambulance department and seeing what needs improvement now, does that matter in the next mayor?”

Independent Jackie Green stood in between the candidates on stage, and said neither of his opponents has an environmentally sustainable economic platform.

“The new economy does not ignore energy,” he said. “Energy will rule economies in the future and both of you will need to start addressing our energy weaknesses.”

Local News

GLI Leaders Leave for Pittsburgh Today

by Stephanie Crosby

About 300 business, government and education leaders from Louisville and Lexington are going to Pittsburgh today.

The fact-finding trip is coordinated by GLI and Commerce Lexington. GLI spokesperson Carmen Hickerson says it’s the first time the two chambers of commerce have worked together on such a venture.

“We’re really excited about this partnership and both of us going,” says Hickerson, “and not only the opportunity to hear and learn from what’s going on in Pittsburgh, but for the opportunity for our two communities to get to know each other better and to network on this trip and get some excitement between the two communities on the ideas we’re going to hear about.”

Hickerson says both organizations are interested in learning more about Pittsburgh because they say it’s been transformed from a manufacturing town to a multi-faceted, world-class city that recently hosted the G-20 Summit.

They’ll return Wednesday.