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June 21, 2017 9:00am

Becoming Familiar with Greater Louisville

Last week, 10 site consultants spent two days visiting our region for a look and lesson on Greater Louisville. The biggest take away from their trip was that we have a lot to offer and Greater Louisville is unique in our assets for companies and people. They also encouraged us to focus on regionalism and work to attract talent, expand diversity, and deepen the skill level of trades and professions.

This was GLI’s first-time hosting a Familiarization (Fam) Tour, presented by Stoll Keenon Ogden. It is a common practice in the industry of tourism, but not as common in economic development. A Fam Tour is an effort to showcase your community in the best and fastest way you can with the goal that your guests can appreciate all it has to offer.

Our regional partners and a number of private sector leaders collaborated to showcase Greater Louisville and offer a glimpse of what it’s like to live, work, and play in our community. Considering there is so much to see and learn about our 15-county, bi-state region, it was a challenge to offer just a snapshot of the best and most interesting assets in such a short period of time. But we managed to get quite a few things in.

We started our visit with a bourbon and water tasting reception at Genscape, in which we talked about the history of bourbon (thank you Kevin Smith & Beam Suntory), the importance of quality water (thank you Louisville Water), and its impact on the food and beverage industry. Then we sent our guests out to experience the food-scene on both sides of the river and stayed up late to see the non-stop operations at UPS after midnight.

The next day, each community had a chance to pitch their local assets in a “speed-dating” format giving consultants a chance to ask questions and engage with county representatives in more detail. The group went on to tour River Ridge, and various businesses and neighborhoods in the Greater Louisville area. They also visited the Speed Museum, talked with folks at First Build, and learned from an international company why they moved their business to Louisville. Twilight Racing that evening was a great way to showcase the horses that Kentucky is known for, do a little networking with business leaders, and watch the sunset over Churchill Downs (thanks for the hospitality LG&E/KU).

In the final hours of our visit, we dove deep into the Greater Louisville economy, and the talent attraction and development programs we are implementing.

The 42-hour visit was filled with fun, food, and information. Though many regions have the same challenges, we were encouraged by the consultants’ comments about Greater Louisville’s growth and our efforts to retain, attract, and develop talent.

Consultants complemented our urban and rural lifestyles and were impressed with the busy-ness of our downtown and the new developments throughout the region.

They encouraged us to find ways to communicate the professional development opportunities for skilled trades – programs like the ones at the Advance Manufacturing Center and Code Louisville. We were inspired to learn that our bridges project has become an asset outside of the region and will help to make us more attractive for businesses looking to relocate and expand.

Finally, the consultants strongly encouraged us to keep at our regional efforts, reminding us that their clients don’t care about rivers and county boundaries. They want to be in communities that collaborate and coordinate solutions so they can grow their business and find good people.

This inaugural Fam Tour will hopefully become an annual tradition, and we’ll see it result in new business for our communities, and advancement of our regional brand. Thank you to all of our sponsors, speakers and partners. They helped us pack years of history and passionate hearts into 42 hours of information.