Last year, the city announced Louisville had lost thousands of bachelor’s degree holders, reversing nearly a decade of steady gains that help prevent the phenomenon known as “brain drain.”

The largest declines came from young adults between 25 to 34 years old, according to 2011 data. As cities across the country continue competing for brilliant minds and to grow the number of young professionals, WFPL is asking the question: What does Louisville have to offer?

According to Louisville’s 55,000 Degrees initiative—the city’s clearinghouse for how many degrees are being earned—the city is not on pace to meet its goal by 2020, according to the 2012 progress report. Part of the reason, the report says, may be due to Louisville’s weak wage growth when measured up against peer cities.

But Louisville has been making an effort to encourage entrepreneurs, grow its downtown and increase the number of job opportunities in certain sectors.

Over the next month, WFPL is exploring the stories of why people stay, why they leave and the challenges the city faces.

Brandon McReynolds, 22, is very Louisville. He’s from here. He went to U of L. And now he works at Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce.  

McReynolds is also an important Louisville statistic. He’s a native with a degree who still lives in Louisville. The city hasn’t always had the best of luck at keeping talented, educated young people in town. 

McReynolds is the first of several stories we’re featuring over the next month who had to make or are making the decision on whether to stay….or leave.

“I’ve grown up here my entire life. I’m a graduate of Seneca High School. It’s a progressing city. It’s a city that’s really growing. And when a city is growing, you can really make it what you want to make it. You can either be on the front edge, or you can be here after it’s all said and done.”

Is there an example of this?

“I think one of the greatest things that I’ve seen coming out of Louisville is our growing entrepreneurship community and the things that are going on around that. I think that type of excitement really helps you see, helps me see  the investment in our city in the future, and that there are a lot of great minds here that are going to start up and do a lot of great things.”

You’ve stuck around, you’re a working adult, where do you live now?

“I live in downtown. I want Louisville to become more of a city, more of this place, which I think the whole city is pushing towards that. So the way I’ve become part of that is I’ve wanted to move downtown so I live off Third and Broadway.”

What do you think of downtown?

“It’s grown. If you haven’t been here in the past 10 years, or you didn’t know what Louisville was like 10 years ago, pre-arena,, pre-NULU, pre-all this build up, pre-development of U of L’s expansion, Louisville and U of L and everything around here has really developed and it’s an amazing thing to see.”

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