Politics

As Greg Fischer looks ahead to his third term as mayor of Louisville, he is considering global and national trends that could influence the city in the next four years. He said there are several factors likely to be at play, from federal economic policies to worldwide changes in the population.

The mayor sat down with WFPL at his office Monday afternoon. You can listen to the conversation in the player above.

Fischer said his decisive win in this year’s election is a signal from voters that they want his administration to keep doing what they’ve been doing, but that things have changed since he took office in 2011.

“When I started as mayor, the first couple of years were spent dealing with the economic recession and coming out of the recession and making sure our economic base was strong and growing. So let’s say the transition out of that now is, OK, how do we make sure our workforce skills and development are even stronger?”

He traces current economic volatility back to President Donald Trump, who Fischer describes as “unconventional.”

“The tariffs that he’s put into place are having all kinds of economic side effects to us. The top 20 percent of the country, from a financial standpoint, are the ones that are reaping all the gains right now and that is not a sustainable way to build an economy. The only way you can build a sustainable economy [is] if it’s a better shared economy, so people in the middle class, people of lower incomes are all struggling in a significant way, so our country has got to figure that out.”

Fischer said he would be concerned about any decisions at the federal level that affect the auto or healthcare industries, which employ thousands in Louisville. His preparation plan for that is to bolster the workforce here through programs such as Code Louisville, and local schools and colleges.

“They have to be innovative, they have to understand the need for globalization. One of the things you’ll be seeing a lot more from us is scaling the amount of technology talent that we have in the city, both for existing job growth needs but also to attract more companies to move to the city. We’ve got to do more as it relates to increasing the amount of tech talent that we have in our city.”

Fischer also wants to learn from how other cities are approaching the challenge of growing a tech workforce.

“Indianapolis has a tech alliance that’s funded at millions and millions of dollars a year. We do ours on a bootstrap. So are we putting enough resources into these challenges that we have, and is our business community participating in the way that they need to as well?”

He said the government can’t turn Louisville into a strong source of tech talent on its own.

“It has to be a public-private partnership. Look, we’re just trying to be a liaison oftentimes between training and what the needs of the workforce are, convene people, develop task forces so the voices of our citizens and business can be heard so that their needs are clearly identified. Then the market responds to that. … I think our job is just to translate everything that we hear so that the community is aware of what the needs are. And then if government can be part of it, great. If not, the private and educational sector needs to step up.”

On top of economic concerns, Fischer said the changing climate could continue to bring more rain to Louisville than in the past. The city needs to get its infrastructure in order, he said.

“It’s not in the shape that it needs to be, especially the sewer system, which I realize people don’t find very glamorous but when they see these cave-ins taking place in significant parts of our city they’ve got to realize that this system was put into place, some of it, as long as 150 years ago. So we have to invest in modern infrastructure where people are assured of clean water. Fix it now before it gets more expensive later.”

When Fischer zooms out to consider trends on the global scale, he sees opportunities along with challenges. He said he is excited about the growth of the middle class across the world. In September, the Brookings Institute said about half the global population could be considered middle class or rich. That means different things in different countries, but Fischer said it could bode well for Louisville.

“The world population is going to continue to grow. The middle class, globally, is growing at a very rapid pace. So that’s good for a variety of different sectors, the appliance sector, the automotive sector, so we get some boost out of that locally.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.