There is no denying 2020 was a tumultuous and trying year in the Louisville area and worldwide.
In January, we reflect on where we’ve been, the shape of the city now, and how we might move forward together, looking to the light at the end of the tunnel. Bowed but unbroken, Louisvillians are stepping up and stepping out into a new year of fresh possibilities.
Greater Louisville Inc. – The Metro Chamber of Commerce
President/CEO Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, at the helm of The Metro Chamber of Commerce - Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI), describes the city’s current shape in terms of diversity and inclusion in business ownership and leadership. “Data from the Greater Louisville Project shows that Louisville is at the bottom of the list compared to our peer regions based on the percentage of black-owned businesses.” Only 2.4 percent are black-owned, despite making up 22 percent of the population. “The events of this summer broadened our understanding of racial disparities and reshaped our strategies on how to best address these complex issues,” says Davasher-Wisdom.
GLI advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion in all sectors, including criminal justice, education, healthcare, and workforce and economic development. Early this summer, GLI launched its Business Council to End Racism, which brings together community and business leaders to discuss challenges and execute solutions to address systemic racism. Projects currently under-way include a Minority Business Accelerator, Career Acceleration Network, and a Racial Equity framework, including a toolkit.
“As a chamber of commerce, our focus is on economic and workforce development, and we realize to create a strong economy, the business community must play a part in creating an equitable economy. That is why we were the first chamber of commerce in the state to support and champion expungement reform in 2015. We have continued to pursue policies to bridge gaps and eliminate disparities. Earlier this year, we released our Racial Equity Agenda, which summarizes our diversity and inclusion policy priorities at all levels of government.”
At the local level, Davasher-Wisdom sees Louisville Metro Council’s passage of the Civilian Review Board and Office of Inspector General as vital to increased citizen oversight of law enforcement and reform efforts in the community. “We appreciate Metro Council for listening to the needs of our city and taking swift and concrete action to improve transparency and accountability in law enforcement. We are also honored to be included as one of several groups with input on the composition of the Board, and we pledge to provide strategic insight and help create a qualified group of decision makers that will pursue the best interests of all of our citizens.”
Aside from public policy, GLI also seeks to empower business leaders to play an active role in shaping the community. The Greater Louisville Idea Development Expedition (GLIDE) is typically an opportunity for greater Louisville business leaders to travel to a new city to gain valuable insights and ideas to bring back and implement in our region. This year, Davasher-Wisdom says they chose to “address the deep pain caused by racism and racial disparities in our own backyard.” Key conclusions included the need for:
GLI has committed to creating an inclusive and diverse economy and is taking intentional steps to ensure people of all races have equitable opportunities to succeed in Greater Louisville. “We cannot have a successful and competitive economy without an inclusive community. The business community recognizes we have a role in making our community more equitable and are committed to putting in the work to make it a reality.”
Greater Louisville Inc. – The Metro Chamber of Commerce
Greater Louisville Inc. Vice President of Public Policy & External Affairs, Iris Wilbur Glick, shared the chamber’s bold legislative agenda to boost Kentucky’s economy in 2021. “We need to protect employers from increases to their unemployment insurance tax burdens, ensure employers have liability protections from potential COVID-related lawsuits, stimulate major economic activity through infrastructure investment, leverage our region’s strengths in the logistics sector, and take head-on the education and workforce challenges facing Greater Louisville.”
GLI has been supportive of some actions by the Governor and Louisville Metro Government to provide financial relief to Louisville bars and restaurants affected by COVID related shutdowns, especially during winter months when outdoor dining is a less feasible option. However, they reiterated that more support is needed.
“On the federal level, GLI continues to advocate aggressively for a fourth COVID relief package from Congress,” says Wilbur Glick. “Even though we have had some welcome news with vaccine developments, it will be a while until we return to a state of normalcy. Our businesses are still reeling, and the timeline remains uncertain. For these reasons, GLI has been aggressively advocating for another package that includes priorities such as reauthorizing the Paycheck Protection Program as well as additional support for child care businesses, federal level legal liability protections for businesses, funding for our health care sector, funding for workforce training and retraining programs, and support for state and local governments.”
Wilbur Glick tells us that “GLI has helped businesses understand government expectations for meeting public health and safety guidelines. Government policy has changed rapidly and unexpectedly throughout the past nine months, and we have shared clear and helpful communication from government officials to our regional business community. We have also actively connected our members to opportunities for financial relief at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure that they do not miss out on these valuable opportunities to keep their businesses going.”
To assess the city’s economic status and outlook, we turned to John Launius, GLI Acting Vice President of Regional Economic Development. “The Greater Louisville region is poised for continued long term growth; however, like many communities, our retail and hospitality industries are still particularly hurting from restrictions and changes in consumer spending habits. The dramatic decrease in both local and out-of-market travel has disproportionately impacted small businesses in our region.” GLI programs like the displaced worker initiative are helping support companies by directly connecting them with candidates ready and willing to get back to work.
In addition, “the Greater Louisville Regional Partnership currently has over 45 active projects in their pipeline representing more than 3,600 potential new jobs for our region across a variety of industry sectors. These projects make GLI very optimistic about the region’s future going into 2021.”
Launius shared what he sees as Louisville’s potential for economic growth in this new year. “Our region continues to capitalize on our natural logistics advantages with continued investments in our environment. As the home of UPS Worldport, the world’s largest automated sorting facility industry partners in the region can receive and ship later than out of market competitors, connecting to 80 percent of the world in under 48 hours. The convergence of Interstates 64, 65, and 71, coupled with our overnight shipping and distribution capacity, puts companies and their products within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the US population. Access to 48 private terminals, three public inland ports along the Ohio River, and two class one railroads, afford new and existing companies operational advantages, as well as options to mitigate future risk.”
Louisville Regional Airport Authority/ Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport
The Louisville Regional Airport Authority (LRAA) typically spends $10-$15 million per year to improve airfields and infrastructure efficiencies and functionality. This impacts UPS and other airlines and agencies that help drive the local economy. Under the continued leadership of LRAA Executive Director Dan Mann, airport and airport area development will top over $40 million this year and next year, taking full advantage of the COVID-19 related decline in air travel to invest, improve, and continue to provide jobs.
Dan Mann is originally from northwest Ohio and was a first-generation college student. After studying business, he joined the Ohio Air National Guard and served active duty in the Air Force as a B-52 Navigator. After Desert Storm, Dan left the Air Force, got an airport job, and eventually became Airport Director in Columbia, South Carolina. Because his mother’s family hailed from Kentucky, he was delighted when the Louisville opportunity came knocking. This past September, Louisville Business First’s Business Impact Awards recognized Dan as “Most Admired CEO” for contributions to his company and the overall community.
While the pandemic has dealt a blow to commercial air travel, Dan and his team have seized on this chance to step up airport safety precautions with extra cleaning, plexiglass, touchless service wherever possible, and other “significant customer service upgrades.” On the bright side, the change in shopping habits means e-commerce is continuing to grow rapidly - good news for delivery service companies like UPS. Included in the larger investments are the Louisville Renaissance Zone and Renaissance South Business Park. A 300,000 square foot warehouse and cargo area for UPS WorldPort is on track for Spring 2021. “UPS is poised to have its busiest year ever in 2021,” says Dan.
In the main airport buildings, air travelers will return to much more than the necessary safety improvements. All elevators, escalators, and moving walkways are being replaced. There will be new lighting and flooring installed, along with numerous technology upgrades in nearly every area. Fifteen new jet bridges will be replaced over the next two years. 2019 was a very stable, profitable year for the US airline industry. Despite the challenges of 2020, Dan remains upbeat. “The future of Louisville is very bright. UPS and e-commerce continue to grow and support jobs. I am really optimistic about Louisville’s growth potential. Air service will come back. I’m excited about 2021.”
Visit flylouisville.com, @louisvilleinternationalairport on Facebook, and @FlyLouisville on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to follow these developments.
Baptist Health/ Milestone Wellness Center
As Fitness Director of Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center, Lisa Groft has witnessed firsthand the impact of coronavirus on Louisville fitness. “People are afraid to come to gyms. There has been a significant decrease in membership and check-ins. Small studios have taken a big hit.” She hopes to see this turn around “as people feel more comfortable and vaccines come out.” In addition to her duties as Fitness Director and personal trainer, Lisa also runs the Corporate Wellness Division. Lisa graduated from the University of Louisville with a degree in Health & Human Performance concentrating in Exercise Science & Sports Medicine and has been with Milestone for 17 years. She is a certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine and an RRCA Certified Running Coach.
All Milestone fitness instructors and trainers are certified, and most are also degreed. Since 1984, Baptist Health/Milestone has depended on customer loyalty and community longevity to sustain operations. They recently celebrated their 20th anniversary in the current St. Matthews building and are widely considered the city’s premier fitness club. With top-notch amenities such as towel service, a spa, and a café, Milestone has a lot to offer new and existing clientele.
Lisa and the entire Milestone staff labor diligently to help people feel safe working out there. Machines are spaced appropriately, or they use “Out of Order” signs on every other apparatus. Besides providing cleaning supplies for guests before and after using each machine, Lisa says, “The staff is cleaning constantly. We’ve been voted cleanest before, but now we’ve really stepped up our game, especially on high-touch surfaces.” To provide some sense of community to those who prefer to stay home, they have developed more online classes and Facebook Live sessions.
With no in-person classes allowed at the time of our conversation with Lisa, many clients were concerned about training on their own, that it wouldn’t be as fun or exciting. When going to the gym feels risky or not safe, Lisa’s job becomes doubly challenging. “Most people don’t like to work out to begin with. Trying to convince them now is an even more difficult emotional appeal that affects morale. When it’s all business: ‘get in, get out,’ we are missing gathering together and feeding off each other’s positive energy.”
For those who plan to wait a while longer to come back to the gym, Lisa also recommends taking advantage of their virtual personal training sessions, the MINDBODY® app, and YouTube or other online workouts. Being held accountable is crucial. “Unfortunately, a lot of people have let themselves go since March.” Start by meeting with a professional to prevent getting injured, set goals, and be guided in the right direction. “You don’t have to wait until a Monday or a new month. Start today. If you have a bad day, start over the next day.”
For more information, visit baptistmilestone.com and follow @Baptist-Milestone on Facebook and Instagram.
Baptist Health® Louisville
Taking the measure of Louisville area health and wellness in 2020 is significantly more complicated than in preceding years. We enlisted the expertise and leadership of Baptist Health® Louisville Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kenneth Anderson to guide us through. Dr. Anderson has served in his current position for the last ten years and practiced as a pulmonary physician with Louisville Pulmonary Care on the Baptist Health® Louisville campus since 1991. In conjunction with his leadership role, he continues a practice in sleep medicine and is Medical Director of the Palliative Care Unit.
Baptist Health® will celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2024. “For the last several years, Baptist Health® has been building on the inner strength of the system, including Southern Indiana and Hardin County. We are in a position to take better care of our community and impact the health of the Commonwealth. In Louisville, we are growing into a regional referral center for our system and beyond.”
Before 2020, Dr. Anderson saw the city’s health steadily improving, primarily through increased physical activity, attributed in part to the park systems and bike paths. In 2020, the COVID pandemic took its toll on the entire community mentally and physically, with specific ethnic and socioeconomic populations disproportionately affected. With stay-at-home orders and even the most essential errands becoming a question of personal safety, many Louisvillians put off regular doctor’s appointments and elective procedures. “As the vaccines become more available, we can look forward to having a sense of security about seeing others and pursuing routine, preventive, and emergent healthcare. In the meantime, all hospitals and offices continue to take tremendous precautions.”
Coinciding with the pandemic were the stressors of racial and civil unrest, a contentious Presidential election, and general isolation. “We are attempting to incorporate more mental health services into primary care physicians’ offices. Telehealth visits will be made available for this and no doubt will continue for a variety of other specialties.”
For many years, Baptist Health® developed and implemented community action plans related to the health and well being of our communities; similar to other local healthcare systems. “How do the three systems work together?” For example: cooperating with interfacility transfers of patients when a facility has reached capacity. “How do we take care of the community? According to Dr. Anderson, our health systems support “on the ground” groups working on violence and food insecurity issues. Our focus is on education and prevention of disease processes. We are also working with the individual patient to meet their needs so that they get their care (medications) and services (transportation) for their wellbeing. We are person centered, helping one person at a time, building solutions from the inside out.”
“The vaccines are a game-changer,” says Dr. Anderson, “and we are looking forward to getting our lives back to normal. But for the next 4 to 6 months, we need to keep doing what we’re doing. After Thanksgiving, Kentucky saw some stabilization in COVID cases, even a slight downtick. But we must continue with masks, social distancing, and smaller gatherings. Don’t drop your guard, be protective, and don’t give in to ‘COVID fatigue.’ Baptist Health® rose to the events (of 2020) very well. The healthcare community came together and brought out the best in us. Louisville helps lead the way in healthcare innovation with all of our strong working relationships. Baptist Health is a working participant on the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council. As we all build better working relationships, we are all stronger together and we provide better care for everyone in the community.”