By Kathie Stamps
It is difficult to tell where business ends and community begins in Jeffersontown, because the two are intertwined. The independent city is located between the inner I-264 and outer I-265 belts of the Louisville Metro area along I-64.
“Connectivity to the community is very much something you look for as a business,” said Mayor Bill Dieruf, who also serves as president of Kentucky League of Cities. “We distinctly pick where we want to live because of the character. We want to be part of a community because of what the community restricts and respects.”
Technology plays an important role in Jeffersontown for residents and businessowners, through fiber-optic infrastructure and with Bluegrass Commerce Park, the largest commerce park in the state. (About 38% of the city’s incorporated boundaries are zoned for business.)
The health of business in Jeffersontown is strong, according to Mike Kmetz, director of the Jeffersontown Economic Development Authority, or JEDA (pronounced “jedda”). “We anticipate being off slightly, but based on this mayor’s and city clerk’s leadership we have reserves that will accommodate us throughout the pandemic,” he said. Detailed implications won’t be known until the end of the fiscal year when occupational tax receipts come in, but Kmetz said, “We’re not going to be devastated.”
Corporate headquarters abound in Jeffersontown and include Appriss, Delta Dental, Kentuckiana Curb Company (KCC), Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, Lantech, Papa John’s, Signature HealthCARE and Statewide Mortgage.
“I’m happy to work with corporate headquarters; that’s our bread and butter,” Kmetz said.
With almost 1,800 registered businesses employing 36,000 employees in Jeffersontown, the employee base averages 20 people per company.
“That’s small business,” Kmetz said. “We also have employers with 400 people or more. We get the best of both.”
In 2014, Jeffersontown officials created the Jeffersontown Occupation Business Savings (JOBS) program, providing an inducement equal to 50% of new occupational taxes generated over a period of five years. Six businesses qualified for the program in 2019 that will ultimately create 1,074 jobs with an expected $78 million in payroll: Baptist Healthcare System, Chewy Inc., KCC, Mortenson Family Dental Holdings, Wilson Controls and YPG.
KCC is clearing land on a 20-acre site for significant expansion in 2020-21. “It is a huge priority for them and for the city of Jeffersontown,” Kmetz said.
The newest commercial property available is from Noltemeyer Capital. The company razed two buildings to build a new one in its place for manufacturing and distribution, a 79,000-s.f. spec building on Research Drive.
Gaslight Square District is the only CTC-2 community town center in Jefferson County. JEDA created this new Commercial Town Center zoning classification to encourage mixed-use development.
Jeffersontown established a Board of Zoning Adjustment in late 2012.
“We work with the businesses when they need us and we get out of the way and let them do what they do best when they don’t,” Mayor Dieruf said.
In March 2020, when things began rapidly changing because of COVID-19, the mayor began defining short-term planning as 48 hours and long-term as two weeks. “Right now is a most interesting time for all of us in a leadership position.”
Lessons learned as a small business owner have served Dieruf as a mayor.
“If you come in and need a 5-cent nut or a $30,000 Bobcat, that is the most important problem to solve,” he said. “What everybody knows around here is we are here to help you.”
The mayor comes by his business acumen honestly: His dad opened a hardware store after World War II, Dieruf Hardware, because he was looking to start a business that wouldn’t go out of style and wouldn’t perish. Mayor Bill Dieruf purchased the business from his father and ran it, selling it to his daughter after being elected as mayor in 2010. His son-in-law now runs the hardware store.
2019 Population: 27,715
Average median age: 39
Median household income: $69,285
Percentage of homeowners: 70%
Labor force: 16,513
Mayor: Bill Dieruf
Jeffersontown Economic Development Authority:
Mike Kmetz, director
Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce:
Deana Epperly Karem, president and CEO