Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI) is the regional chamber of commerce that represents 15 counties, including the Louisville Metropolitan area. While GLI assumes many traditional chamber roles, it has expanded its reach to become the voice of businesses in the Greater Louisville region. Tackling everything from economic and workforce development to advancing pro-business policy and even leading specific initiatives to pursue economic equity, GLI’s core mission is to make the region a great place to live and work.
GLI is an investor-led organization governed by a board of directors made up of community and business leaders and guided by over 1,700 investors. As an organization, GLI represents a wide spectrum of industries, professions and businesses of all sizes and works to foster connections and collaboration to create a strong regional economy.
A forward-thinking plan
Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, GLI’s president and CEO, took over as the organization’s leader in January 2020, at which time she announced GLI’s bold plans to take Greater Louisville to the next level. That led to the development of the six-pillar plan that places an emphasis on innovation, startups, clusters, talent, inclusion, connectivity and mobility.
While a global pandemic and calls for racial equity were not in the original plan, that did not keep GLI from making significant headway in executing the Now Louisville five-year strategic plan.
During a period in which much of the world came to a halt, the Now Louisville plan allowed GLI to keep the future top of mind and take proactive steps to ensure the region was well-positioned not only for a successful recovery, but a prosperous future. The first year focused on increasing economic opportunities across the region and putting innovation at the forefront of all economic activity.
Last summer, the city of Louisville faced tremendous turmoil as calls for racial justice played out in the heart of the city. For years, GLI has championed inclusive workplaces and intentional corporate efforts to advance diversity. However, the chamber recognized it now had an important role in mobilizing businesses to encourage economic equity throughout the community. The realization that inequities start well before the hiring process led to a widened lens and expanded scope of work. While inclusion had already been identified as one pillar of the Now Louisville plan, it took on a new meaning and urgency.
GLI worked to lead and align the business community to coordinated action. That led to the creation of the Business Council to End Racism, chaired by three esteemed Louisville leaders: Ralph de Chabert, senior vice president, chief diversity, inclusion and global community relations officer of Brown-Forman Corp.; Cynthia Knapek, president of the Leadership Louisville center; and Jerilan Green, global chief communications and public affairs officer of Yum! Brands. The council formed five workstreams to focus on the specific areas where racism was most prevalent: access to health care, workforce development and barriers, education, inclusion, and criminal justice reform and law enforcement.
The early work of these workstreams involved developing a deep and comprehensive understanding of the barriers that have long perpetuated racial inequality in the region. The workstream leaders used those insights to develop strategic actions to start chipping away at these pervasive inequities.
This has included advocating for criminal justice reforms at the state level, supporting local efforts to promote equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, the launch of GLI’s Power to Prosper Minority Business Accelerator and Greater Louisville’s Racial Equity Pledge.
GLI’s goal with all its inclusion work is centered around providing equitable economic opportunities and giving all Louisvillians the ability to reach their full potential. There is a strong belief within the Greater Louisville business community that a strong economy is an inclusive economy where people of all races, beliefs, sexual orientations and backgrounds can succeed.
Focus on career mobility
GLI is also preparing to launch its Career Acceleration Network. The goal is to increase access to career mobility for those in low-paying, low-skilled jobs.
Too often, inability to afford higher education and technical training leaves many people stuck in low-paying jobs and without the ability to obtain new skills and advance in their careers. The Career Acceleration Network is a two-year pilot program that will create a pipeline supported by 15 regional employers as well as local workforce and educational partners to help participants develop expertise and increase their earnings. The idea is that a participant moves through different tiers of employers as they obtain new skills, with the ultimate goal of landing in a high-skilled profession with a family-supporting wage. Employers benefit through reduced turnover and employee satisfaction.
The Career Acceleration Network will help to further level the playing field by targeting previously marginalized populations and ensuring a person’s background or educational level does not preclude them from a rewarding career.
Despite a challenging year on many fronts, GLI has taken intentional actions to align the regional business community and ensure the region is primed for success years into the future.
Greater Louisville Inc. is an underwriter of Greater Louisville Market Review.