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December 12, 2018 10:03am

Familiarization Tour: Economic Development from the Outside In

Deana Epperly KaremThe weather outside is frightful but the hospitality inside the Greater Louisville region is delightful.  This play on a holiday song is a fun way to overview the second annual Familiarization Tour (Fam Tour, for short) hosted by GLI.

In November, GLI brought together seven site consultants from across the country to showcase the region for the purpose of attracting jobs and expanding companies.  The Fam Tour is a whirlwind, informative experience offering consultants a snapshot of the life, talent, and opportunities awaiting their clients.

This year’s focus was on advanced manufacturing. Consultants toured industrial sites, met with tech leaders, and collaborated with talent pipeline program representatives like the Academies of Louisville and the Kentucky Manufacturing Career Center.   

They also drank a little bourbon, toured the Speed Art Museum, ate at locally-owned restaurants, and enjoyed the cold weather as we walked through the streets of downtown Louisville.  We talked about the transformation that has occurred over the last 15 years.  More important, consultants spent quality time with our regional partners – leaders who are facilitating change in their individual communities.

The 36-hour trip ended with consultants participating in a panel discussion with the GLI Board of Directors.   For nearly an hour, we discussed best practices in attracting companies to our community.  Here is a little of what was observed:

  • Regionalism is important. Companies don’t care about county lines and rivers.  Representatives want to talk with one agent and get as many of their questions answered and their issues resolved as quickly possible.
  • Incentives still play a role. A competitive incentive package can be critical to landing high tech, innovative companies that transform the business landscape.
  • Greater Louisville is very impressive. Manufacturing here is alive and a strength.  One of our many focused areas should target the innovation of this industry cluster.
  • We must make a significant effort to train and build a talent pool of high tech, contemporary workers. Our location in the US and our partnership with distribution company leaders can support this initiative.
  • The proximity of a rural lifestyle to urban amenities is something consultants were pleasantly surprised about and encouraged our partners to use this when pitching the region to companies and talent.
  • Our bi-state, 15-county, one community brand is unique and we should remind company representatives of this benefit.
  • Finally, the consultants encouraged employers to be creative about how to attract and train talent. Workforce is the most important issue for companies today, and consultants were clear that employers set the stage for the spirit of talent and their interest in moving here.

It’s a little scary to host an event offering a 360 degree perspective of one’s home. You never know what they’ll see that you are missing, and of course you want it to be a great experience.  But it’s worth it to make us better. The consultants affirmed our efforts around regionalism.  They reminded us that our regional brand is still in its infancy, and they encouraged us to keep at it. We must climb the big hills and hike through the swamps to get to a clear message and work as one community.

This spring, we will host, yet, another Fam Tour – probably with a focus on high tech and health innovation.  This is another important business cluster to our region and these events offer the networking experience we need to refine our regional brand and get the attention of new generations of companies.

Thank you to all of our regional partners for being with us.  And a big thank you to our investors and sponsors who made this event possible. It might be the season for cold temperatures, but our Greater Louisville region remains warm at heart and always ready to show off.