City Taking Over GLI’s Role Under Louisville Mayor’s Reorganization Plan

The city is taking over the day-to-day economic development role of Greater Louisville Inc. under Mayor Greg Fischer’s reorganization plan.

It’s a change that will significantly scale back Metro Government’s relationship with the local chamber of commerce, which has been plagued by internal strife, financial woes and organizational troubles over the past year.

Saying the city needs a unified job creation approach, Fischer announced “Louisville Forward” Wednesday morning. 

The idea will combine city agencies dedicated to business development and the built-in environment.

“The old economic model said people move to where the jobs are,” Fischer said in a news release. “Now jobs locate where talented people are—and people are moving to cities where the quality of life is high.”

“Changes in the world are happening faster than ever and the need for cities to respond quickly for economic development opportunities while thoughtfully integrating a quality of place strategy with all available public and private tools is more important than ever. This plan will help us achieve that.”

Fischer’s deputy chief of staff, Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, will lead the initiative that takes effect on July 1.

The biggest change is that city will end it’s nearly $1 million contract with GLI, but it will continue to pay the organization for services related to market and industry research and some client development activities.

“These changes come at a time when GLI was already in the process of recalibrating and setting its agenda for the future, one which is centered on serving the interests of our members and the regional business community,” says GLI board chair Kerry Stemler. “As outlined in our new strategic plan, Advantage Louisville, those critical areas of focus are retaining and growing existing businesses, including supporting the entrepreneurial and start-up community; increasing our region’s human capital and workforce readiness; and expanding our advocacy efforts aimed at creating a more business-friendly environment.”

Earlier this year, Greater Louisville Inc. President and CEO Craig Richard resigned for undisclosed reasons just months after making staff cuts and imposing a hiring, traveling freeze to help cut costs.

Louisville businessman Doug Cobb, who was the chamber of commerce’s founding president and CEO, said via Twitter this decision marks the end of GLI altogether.

Under Fischer’s reorganization plan, economic development will contain a full spectrum of business engagement and support to include retail, commercial and industrials businesses from small business through the city’s larger enterprises.

The mayor’s office also says the initiative will also have a real estate development arm, called Develop Louisville, which will focus on the full range of land development activities. Those involve planning and design, vacant and abandoned properties, advanced planning, housing programs, permits and licensing, land acquisition, and development partnerships.

There are no additional tax dollars being used to fund “Louisville Forward,” according to the mayor’s office. 

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