Report

Beyond Merger: A Competitive Vision for the Regional City of Louisville

Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy

Preface

The City of Louisville and Jefferson County will consolidate to form the 16th largest city in America in less than six months. Starting now, a new leadership cadre will emerge from the ranks of the forthcoming Regional City of Louisville, and this cadre will guide a large new city into its inaugural era.

These leaders will require information, and they will need vision. Many of them will hail from the private and non-profit sectors and the neighborhoods—and may possess little formal government experience. All of them, including the professionals, will face a complicated array of challenges, some old and some very new, as they steer their freshly invented municipality forward. Louisville’s new leaders, in short, will need to think anew based on the best information available.

For this reason,The Community Foundation of Louisville organized a consortium of philanthropic foundations to create The Greater Louisville Project and underwrite an ambitious “research and development” project for the new consolidated government. Intended to make the most of the first major municipal consolidation in a generation,The Greater Louisville Project seeks to leverage this historic juncture by fostering a major new definition of the community’s needs and vision. Ultimately, the project is committed to ensuring that Louisville’s entry into the top tier of American cities truly does improve the quality of life and opportunities available to all residents of the new Regional City of Louisville.

“Beyond Merger” is the first component of the effort. Prepared by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, Beyond Merger uses text, charts and graphics to give the new Regional City of Louisville its first complete look at itself as it begins its journey into the 21st century.

The report begins with a comprehensive review of ongoing population, land-use, housing, workforce, social, and economic trends in the region. Frequently, the discussion gauges the health of the new city in the context of its larger metropolitan area. At other times the analysis adopts local researchers’ tradition of comparing the region’s progress to that of a number of similar competitor regions. Throughout these analyses, the assessment draws on a variety of federal data sources, including the invaluable 2000 Census. In addition, the discussion draws heavily on the guidance of dozens of business and community leaders who were interviewed for this project, as well as on the analyses of such outstanding local researchers as Paul Coomes, Ron Crouch, Michael Price, and the LOJIC staff at the Metropolitan Sewer District.

Ultimately, the report builds on this substantial synthesis of research to present a comprehensive policy vision for Louisville’s emergence among the nation’s most truly “competitive” cities. This vision presumes that the achievement of key economic growth and quality-of-life gains is inextricably related to the support of families and neighborhoods. A second phase of the project, organized by the National Academy of Public Administration, will present a more detailed survey of the best policy practices that the new Regional City can adopt to put this vision in place.

The pages that follow, in short, suggest an agenda of transformation to a changing community—one with a resilient economy and high quality of life that are increasingly imperiled by economic change, persistent racial divides, decentralization, and the relatively low education levels of its people. This agenda charts how a renewed Louisville can build on its assets, strengthen families, fix the basics, influence metropolitan growth, and sustain its neighborhoods in order to make itself a top-rank “competitive city.” In doing so, it takes a deliberately broad view of “competitiveness”—one that does not separate strategies to promote economic growth from those that enhance the overall health of the community in all its aspects. In the end, “Beyond Merger” offers nothing less than an integrated framework for thinking through what kind of city Louisvillians really want to live in as their hometown graduates from the 64th to the 16th largest municipality in America.