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Louisville Forward: Creating a vibrant, clean, safe and inclusive city

After pandemic and protests, Louisville officials working to build a better Louisville

By Rebecca Fleischaker, co-chief of Louisville Forward

Following 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of protests for racial justice, Louisville is well on its way to building our city back better with participation from our city leaders, corporate citizens and residents from across Louisville. The goal is not to bring Louisville back to what it was; it is to make our city even better by ensuring that Louisville is vibrant, clean, safe, equitable and inclusive for all.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, center, joined executives from Vision Hospitality Group in late May for the opening of The Grady Hotel.

In April 2020, Mayor Greg Fischer launched the Build Back Better Together initiative, which helped to inform planned investments in 2021 and furthered the city’s intentionality around supporting and increasing the number of minority businesses. In 2020, Louisville Forward allocated nearly $7.6 million in grants to minority-owned businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, 28% of the total grant program. In the mayor’s recommended fiscal year 2022 budget, he requested more than $13 million to fund initiatives aimed at supporting Black and other minority-owned businesses, including the funding for a minority business incubator, the creation of a new small-business assistance fund, and the hiring of a new economic development manager specifically focused on historically Black neighborhoods.

Louisville Metro also has allocated $10 million in seed funding for a new tax increment financing district administered by the West End Opportunity Partnership, a public corporation that will execute contracts, make and receive loans, and invest in neighborhood-driven initiatives in those same historically Black neighborhoods.

At the same time, Louisville is reinvesting in its downtown. Mayor Fischer formed the Downtown Revitalization Team in January to identify ways to reinvigorate downtown Louisville and ensure it is a welcoming place for all residents, workers and visitors in advance of state pandemic restrictions being lifted. The Downtown Revitalization Team efforts continue around clean and green activities, investments in public infrastructure improvements, increased homeless services, and public events to bring people back downtown following more than a year of remote working and social distancing.

The pandemic also further highlighted the need to position our workforce for the technology-dominated economy of the future. For years, we have laid that groundwork through successful tech training programs like Code Louisville, which has placed nearly 550 graduates into new careers in the technology sector; bit502, an apprenticeship program; and Tech Louisville, an IT support professional training program. Together, these programs have resulted in thousands of Louisvillians receiving the skills training they need to find jobs in the tech sector.

And we are taking those efforts to new heights with the addition of computer and data science degrees at our higher education institutions and a 12-week data science training program created through a partnership between Humana, Microsoft, General Assembly and Interapt. In December 2020, Louisville Metro also funded two new free upskilling programs targeted toward Black and brown residents. All of these efforts are in addition to the work of our Future of Work Initiative, a partnership with Microsoft that not only aims to make Louisville a hub for artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and data science but also focuses on increasing diversity in the tech sector.

A Tech Louisville participant consults with her instructor during a pre-pandemic class.

Earlier this year, the Future of Work Initiative launched JCPS ID+ Academy and the Butterfly Project to help create a more socially conscious and data-literal workforce. The Butterfly Project is a paid internship where students at Bellarmine University and Central High School gain real-world experience using data analytics and data science while addressing issues related to jobs, justice, education, health and housing. JCPS ID+ Academy is a first-of-its-kind equity-focused IT pathway that combines the state-approved Informatics pathway with identity empowerment and industry-recognized credentials.

We do not want to simply restore the Louisville that existed before the pandemic because that Louisville was not working for enough people. But there are some things that remain true. Louisville is a welcoming, compassionate city. We have a world-class food, drink and festival scene. We take great pride in our unique neighborhoods and parks. We have an affordable cost – and ease – of living. We have strong business services, manufacturing, and health and aging and innovation sectors. And most of all, Louisville’s assets assure that it is robust and growing.
We are more optimistic than ever about the future of Louisville.

Louisville Forward is an underwriter of Greater Louisville Market Review.

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