Brain Drain Series: ‘There’s This Hospitality’ in Louisville

This month and next, WFPL is exploring the idea of “Brain Drain” and Louisville’s ability to keep talented young professionals in the city. What challenges does the city face? What do young workers think about staying in the River City?

In this second installment, we meet Brett Jeffreys, digital program manager of North American Whiskies at Brown-Forman.

Jeffreys had no intention of living in Louisville. He was born and raised in Toronto, and worked in the advertising industry there in his 20s. But then, in 2005, at the age of 29, he took a road trip through Kentucky with his now wife. He visited Louisville, and something unexpected happened — he stayed. Why? He explains in our interview below:

What kept you in Louisville?

It turned out — and this was to our advantage — that we both has some global and pretty significant experience with advertising agencies and being a big fish in a small pond was really exciting for us. And so right away my wife got a job and shortly after that I did. Pretty soon I realized there’s a lot of advantages to this city.

There seems to be this thick pro-Louisville vibe right now in the city. Was it like that when you arrived?

Not at all. [People] looked at lot to other cities to say, ‘Oh were not as good as that or we’re kinda like them but not so cool.’ However if you weren’t from here and ran into people that had moved here from New York or Atlanta, they had the opposite opinion. They thought ‘ Wow I can get around town, I can meet people, I can talk openly, and there’s this hospitality.’

Has the city done a poor job marketing its best qualities?

A: Yeah I don’t think the city knew or had any intention. And that was the thing that was exciting in the time I was here is that there started to become this growing collective need to say,  ’Collectively we need to be a be a city unified with one voice. We may not be Austin or San Francisco or Cleveland or Chicago but that’s okay, we are Louisville.’ And when you can start saying that and believing it first internally as Louisvillians then the rest of the outside acknowledgement will come.

(Interview condensed and edited for style and clarity). You can hear the full interview here:

The Next Louisville project is a partnership of WFPL News, the Community Foundation of Louisville, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and The Gheens Foundation, Inc.

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