by Ted Smith, Leadership Louisville Class of 2013 –
It is fitting that I’m taking a turn at the blog pen as our 2013 Leadership Louisville class graduates. All of the warnings that the program year would fly by and that those who get the most from it are the ones who participate fully were right. I look back on the thoughtful conversations about the many challenges and opportunities in our community and I’m comforted to know that there are so many leaders tuned in and ready to act. Now when I see my classmates, I know that we are working from a base of common understanding. Shared understanding about increasing the diversity of not only our places of employment, but our personal friendships and the parts of our community where we socialize. We remember sitting in the Healing Place and realizing that when Mayor asks us to be compassionate it is because we share the insight that we each play a role in the healing of others. Shared experience and shared understanding are necessary ingredients for community growth and this class is ready to grow our city!
Leadership Louisville is a relay race in which a baton is passed from class to class. Though I’m sure each lap around Louisville differs each year I hope I speak for our class when I say that we are more certain, confident and optimistic about our community roles as we hand it to the 2014 class than we were receiving it last year. An afternoon at the Parklands followed by a graduation retreat in the rugged Indiana wilderness gave us ample opportunity to set our horizons on things we can do for years to come. There are three class interest areas that I think are worth special attention:
A Real and Lasting Commitment to West Louisville – In what was supposed to an interest group topic discussion, brought the entire class to a crowded porch to compare strategies. The pledges of personal commitment included more support for the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage (KCAAH) as a venue for corporate meetings and events. One of our classmates offered to share his favorite places for lunch west of 9th street which I can tell you is one of the simplest, most effective tactics to rebuilding a small business ecosystem – so bon appetit! Then there were the big things like how we can organize to support the full development of Waterfront Park though West Louisville and how VisionLouisville can deliver other catalytic projects to remove the troubling “9th Street Divide.” There was genuine concern about how our community lenders have drifted from their original missions in West Louisville and Smoketown where even small loans can make a big difference.
Building a Technology Entrepreneurship Ecosystem – A smaller but geekier group joined together to devise a 5th economic cluster (to add to Food & Beverage, Lifelong Wellness and Aging Care, Value-added Logistics, and Manufacturing) which will focus on “place-based” strategies to attract and encourage bright, accomplished tech entrepreneurs to consider Louisville home base for telecommuting and also a place where start-ups can easily congregate to share ideas and have unprecedented access to our largest companies.
LIFT: Local Investment For Transformation – There is tremendous interest in the facts about the role of a local option sales tax in building our community. We discussed the facts – that cars are not subject to sales tax and that compared with neighboring cities, our sales tax has room to increase without creating competitive disadvantage. We discussed the benefits of having a tax mechanism that visitors to our city contribute to, providing a way for Louisville to reinvest tourism dollars. We discussed the notion that if every citizen could vote on a portfolio of projects designed to transform our community, increase tourism and likely increase business relocation, we could create a growth agenda for our community. Many left the discussion wanting to learn more about many other cities in the U.S. that have this option.
All left the closing retreat recognizing that for our democracy to function, we each have a responsibility to discuss these important issues with friends and colleagues. In closing, thank you to the Leadership Louisville Center and to my class for all that you do and will do.