Politics

As is annual custom, Mayor Greg Fischer will later today give a speech touting his administration’s ongoing initiatives and describing the direction he sees for Louisville in the coming year.

His remarks during the annual annual State of the City address are an opportunity for the mayor to set the tone for the coming year.

Last year, Fischer unveiled a program focused on developing a skilled workforce. This year, he’ll center his address on the notion that Louisville is a city in the midst of a transformation, a spokesman said.

Here are a few things to watch for:

Infrastructure

In his current budget, Fischer boosted funding levels for road and sidewalk repair. The Metro Council followed up on that last year by approving a $5 million bond for road resurfacing.

Fischer may discuss further efforts to improve the city’s street grid during the address. Some city officials and developers have advocated for turning certain one-way streets into two-way corridors.

Planned improvements to Dixie Highway may also be among the projects Fischer highlights. Last year, the city was awarded a nearly $17 million federal grant to improve traffic signals, sidewalks, crosswalks and bus stops along the roadway. The funding will also allow for the beginnings of a Bus Rapid Transit Line in Louisville.

Fischer may also give a nod to when the MOVE Louisville plan will be released. It’s a long-term — and long overdue — transportation strategic plan for the city that is costing about $750,000. The plan is expected to lay the foundation for future efforts related to cycling and public transportation, as well as pedestrian and vehicle travel.

Housing

Last year Fischer unveiled a $12 million initiative aimed at boosting the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Just this week, Louisville economic development officials began accepting applications from developers seeking to tap a Metro revolving loan pool to help construct affordable housing units. The initiative is expected to create about 1,500 affordable housing units in two years. To date, the program is right on schedule.

But the work of the initiative is still expected to fall short of the actual need for affordable housing in the city, housing advocates say.

A 2015 needs assessment survey administered by the Louisville Metro Department of Community Services found the most pressing issue among responding residents is the need for more affordable housing.

The city needs about 65,000 more units of affordable housing, according to the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Fischer will also likely mention the ongoing work to develop a plan to revitalize Russell, which has long-struggled with poverty and the lack of new economic development. Nearly 62 percent of Russell residents live in poverty and 40 percent live in subsidized housing, according to the federal Housing and Urban Development Department.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a $425,000 planning grant to the Louisville Housing Authority to plan for redeveloping the neighborhood, which spans the blocks between Ninth to 32nd streets and Broadway to Market Street.

Housing officials are working with community leaders to develop a plan to return the community into a vibrant area with retail and mixed-income living options. A central focus of the plan will be to redevelop the troubled Beecher Terrace housing complex.

Innovation

Louisville’s tech dreams got some big boosts in 2015.

President Obama visited the city and touted ongoing efforts to get more residents involved with computer coding education through the Code Louisville initiative. After the president’s visit, interest in Code Louisville spiked, prompting organizers to expand and offer more classes.

Jefferson County Public Schools have also initiated computer coding programs in the wake of Obama’s visit.

Fischer has expressed a desire for Louisville to become a “tech hub,” filling what’s estimated to be nearly 2,000 open jobs related to the tech industry. Some in the tech industry have said filling open jobs is tough due to a lack of talented workers.

Last year, Louisville also became one of just a handful of cities to get interest from Google Fiber.

Google Fiber announced last year it would explore the feasibility of bringing the ultra-fast internet connectivity to the city. Shortly after that announcement, AT&T said it would soon offer gigabit connectivity to residents in Louisville.

Jobs

Economic development is a frequent topic of discussion for Fischer, and today’s address should be no different.

Expect Fischer to talk more about how he’d like to see the employment sector grow in Louisville. The city’s unemployment rate is just above four percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This week at the Greater Louisville Inc. annual meeting, business leaders were encouraged to remain optimistic about what will become of the more than 12,000 Louisville-based Humana jobs in the wake of a planned $37 billion sale to Aetna, a Connecticut-based health care company.

General Electric’s Louisville-based appliances industry got what appeared to be good news earlier this year, when plans were announced that China-based Haier would purchase the business. Haier has indicated that it will keep about 6,000 GE jobs in Louisville. And last year, Ford announced it would hire an additional 2,000 workers at its Louisville truck plant.

Fischer continuously touts the city’s ability attract jobs. He also is expected to talk about his desire to expand the SummerWorks program, which aims to put young residents to work during summer months.

He may also touch on educational initiatives and the need to ensure local students are being prepared for college or for careers, and have the option to find work and stay in Louisville once they graduate.

Fischer gives the State of the City address to the Downtown Rotary Club at noon at the Galt House. The address is free and open to the public, but a lunch served during the event will cost $30.

Fischer will also join WFPL at 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1, for an hour-long news special.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.