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State of the City: Mayor Calls for New Economic Vision

Thursday January 27, 2011

Louisville needs to act more boldly, take more risks

In his first State of the City address, Mayor Greg Fischer today called for a new economic development vision for Louisville, saying the city has lost too many jobs the last decade while competitor cities have grown.

He said Louisville needs a culture change and must act more boldly to be relevant in the 21st Century. He also proposed to begin a dialogue with Lexington to create a “super region” along I-64 and he has asked the Brookings Institution to help craft the vision.

“The world is rapidly urbanizing and we need to begin to think of Louisville and Lexington as a super region,” Fischer said. “Between the intellectual and research power at U of L and UK – and our clusters ranging from health care to logistics to automotive to military – we can place ourselves on the global map. Just look at what happened in North Carolina when the Research Triangle was formed and Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill began to think regionally and act strategically.”

Fischer, speaking before the Downtown Rotary, questioned why Louisville lost nearly 25,000 jobs in the past decade while top eight competitor cities, including Indianapolis and Nashville, increased their jobs, despite the recession.

“Our problem is that making improvements means that we have moved from the bottom to solidly in the middle – the second tier,” Fischer said. “That’s not good enough – and that is not the Louisville my fellow citizens tell me they want. We have no desire to be labeled as average.”

In addition to crafting a new economic development vision, Fischer also outlined five economic goals for the next four years. They are:

1. To significantly increase the amount of capital and investment dollars. “I was among those who started the first business incubator, bCatalyst, in Louisville and I’m a venture capitalist and angel investor -- so I know how to make that happen,” Fischer said.

2. To make Louisville a city of entrepreneurs, where people are eager to take risks. “Louisville must be mentioned in the same breath as Austin and Minneapolis when it comes to an entrepreneurial culture,” he said. “We need a blast of even more entrepreneurism in Louisville.”

3. To create the Office of Innovation in city government – so the city begins to think about breakthrough ideas that thrust Louisville into a new direction. This office will seek to grow jobs around economic sectors that are the city’s strengths, such as aging care.

4. To overhaul the city Planning and Design department so it will be the best in the country, balancing growth with sustainability, thinking and working with responsible builders to grow jobs and world class projects. “I want the department to be customer focused and laser like on problem solving so it encourages business and job growth,” Fischer said. “We can set that example with our many projects including the Floyds Fork-21st Century Parks project and our Louisville Loop 100-mile hiking and biking path – one of the largest and most innovative initiatives of its kind in the nation.”

5. To encourage Louisville businesses to internationalize and export more. “Exports create jobs and value for those firms that pursue this competitive imperative,” he said.

To read the full state of the city address, see www.louisvilleky.gov/mayor