Friday February 25, 2011
Also announces WorldFest grows to three days
Saying Louisville needs to open itself to the world to grow the economy and jobs, Mayor Greg Fischer today announced the creation of the Office for Globalization and appointed a director to oversee it.
Businessman Suhas Kulkarni will operate the office as a volunteer on an interim basis – and he will devise a plan to help fund it long term, most likely with a mix of public and private dollars.
“In the last few decades, the world has come to Louisville. Our population growth in the 1990s was due largely to internationals moving to our city,” Fischer said. “Now it’s time for Louisville to take itself to the world.”
The Mayor also announced that the popular WorldFest, held for two days over Labor Day weekend, will be expanded to three days – Sept. 2, 3 and 4th. The event draws more than 100,000 people to the Belvedere downtown to celebrate the world’s many diverse cultures.
The Office for Globalization, which will help plan WorldFest, is designed to not only assist with human and social needs of recent immigrants, it will work with local businesses to expand into the global market, thus creating new jobs and opportunities for Louisville. The office also will work to integrate internationals into Louisville by encouraging them to be active civically and, for example, to apply for openings on boards and commissions.
During his mayoral campaign, Fischer pledged to reopen the Office of International Affairs, which was closed due to budget cuts, and the Office for Globalization is the next generation of that office, with an expanded focus on economic growth.
Fischer said he wants Louisville businesses to explore global opportunities – and he pointed to the recent in-sourcing from China of new hybrid water heaters being manufactured at GE Appliance Park.
Kulkarni moved to Louisville from his native India in 1985 and operated a neighborhood grocery in Germantown, at Swan and Oak streets. From the back of the store, he also founded Omnitrade International, which supplied industrial mining and earth moving equipment across the world.
Since 1991, he has owned and operated Omnisys, an information technology company. Over the next several months, he will devote much of his time to establishing the Office for Globalization while family members and others manage his IT company.
Kulkarni said the Office for Globalization will be focused on four areas – human needs, cultural development, economic growth and global outreach.
The human needs are those services which new immigrants need -- food, clothing, shelter, English classes. Kulkarni said the office will be working closely with many agencies, from Kentucky Refugee Ministries to Catholic Charities to JCPS and Jewish Vocational and Family Services.
Economic development will look for opportunities for internationals to start and grow businesses and will also help develop the skills and education levels of internationals so they are incorporated into the workforce.
Cultural development will help connect Louisville residents and the international community through fairs, festival and other events, such as the expanded WorldFest.
Global outreach will look for ways to grow Louisville companies on an international level.
“We will be working to increase Louisville’s exports and working closely with state, federal and other partners,” Kulkarni said.