By Kent Oyler, President & CEO of GLI
There is a reason we chose
innovation as the theme for GLI’s 2017 Annual Meeting -- we believe the status
quo is unsustainable. It’s time for us
to create a bigger vision for ourselves.
It is true that there is a
lot to celebrate here in the Greater Louisville region. 2016 was a banner year. We opened new bridges, began rebuilding our
downtown and added thousands of new jobs.
It is also true that what got us here is not sufficient to win the
economic battles of our future.
Today too few our jobs are
the high paying jobs of the
future. Too few in our workforce have the skills of the future. And our public policy systems are not yet
aligned with the economy of the
future. We must chose to do even better
if we are to win as an economically vibrant region.
And I believe innovation is
the key to winning. Or as Steve Jobs
said, “innovation is the only way to win”.
Innovation is pursuit of
new ideas, inventions, and methods. Experimentation. Risk.
Reward. And yes sometimes failure.
Innovation is the lifeblood of business evolution. And evolve we
must to fly high enough to escape the gravity of the status quo.
I read the bestseller, The Hillbilly
Elegy. I know that many of you
have this on your nightstand. It is the
autobiography of a kid named JD from a coal mining town in eastern Kentucky who
overcame long odds and made it through Yale Law School. JD used his
personal story to explain the limiting mindset that has kept so many of his
Appalachian peers from participating in the American Dream.
Dying industries, drugs,
poor education and low expectations all challenged JD and his family. Nothing was easy as an entire region’s
opportunity faded away. It would have
been easy to accept defeat. But with the
encouragement of his colorful grandmother Mamaw JD chose in his mind to
become a winner. And that choice saw him
through to success, no matter the obstacles he faced.
That is what we must
do. As our region’s business and civic
leaders we must choose to take on a winning mindset. Maybe
even get a little swagger. And when we choose to win – and by ‘we’ I mean every
one of the 1.4 million people in our region. The choice is ours and the time is
what does winning through innovation look like? What does it feel
like? What does it mean?
Winning through innovation
means attracting and growing the industries of the future. Many of our larger companies are thriving,
especially in health care, distilling and advanced manufacturing. But we need
more businesses and jobs in big-data, finance, software, robotics, research,
and health tech.
To attract those companies and train that
workforce we must be innovative in our public policy. When we are truly winning we will look more
like the states around us that have already innovated their systems. Indiana and Tennessee have learned use their
public policy as a carrot, not a stick. They are reaping the rewards and so can
Earlier this month Kentucky made a historic leap forward
when Governor Bevin signed into law a package of pro-business legislation. We need to build on this early momentum with
comprehensive tax, education, pension, and tort reform. This is the innovation that GLI is leading.
Winning means attracting
and retaining the skilled people we need to fill the 30,000 open jobs in our
region. The strength of our workforce is our currency for sustainable economic
development and we need more skilled workers to win.
a talent pipeline will require innovation and experimentation. This is new
territory for us. We will have to try new approaches like digitally
crowdsourced talent recruitment, reinvented apprenticeship programs, free
technical college, SummerWorks, and career academies in our high schools. And we will need to attract more skilled
people born outside the United States. These are all areas where business
people can engage and this is the innovation GLI is leading.
Winning through innovation
means starting and growing more of our own. High potential tech startups
like El Toro, Switcher Studios, and Edj Analytics are putting us on the map. We
have great potential for entrepreneurship.
We are unique in that we
have placed 5 companies so far in the globally competitive Endeavor business
accelerator program. Our keynote, John Schnatter, is an investor and
mentor in Endeavor, and we can all follow his lead and mentor and support our
local entrepreneurs. Our large companies
can buy more locally and partner with our small companies to help them
grow. Our successful entrepreneurs can
reinvest more of the profits they’ve harvested into new companies, not just
park their money in the bank.
And winning in
entrepreneurship means celebrating those that tried and failed.
Encouraging them to get back up, dust off and do it all over again.
That’s how Austin, Nashville and the Silicon Valley are winning at
entrepreneurship. This is also the innovation GLI is leading.
the Greater Louisville business community is doing great. We are on a roll! We
have new infrastructure, an abundance of opportunity, and hungry entrepreneurs.
Business is good. And that makes this
the time to act. To make tough
choices. To invest. To grow. To innovate and improve like never before.
I sincerely appreciate you
joining us as we celebrate success and innovation. I appreciate your leadership in the business
community. I appreciate your investment in GLI’s mission of accelerating our
Know that you are making a
difference. GLI is making a
difference. Together we will not stagnate from a want of leadership,
vision or resolve. We have the wind at
our back, we will innovate and we will win.
This is our town. This is our time. And this is what GLI does.
Note: These remarks were delivered to
a crowd of 1000+ business, civic and community leaders at GLI’s Annual Meeting
on January 25th, 2017.