What are Louisville’s greatest assets from an economic development standpoint? How do we attract young, educated workers? What does state government need to fund its sapped coffers? These questions and more were answered at a symposium PRG Investments hosted on December 11. Co-sponsors for the event were Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and BridgeTrust Title.
The event was the fourth in a series of symposiums discussing economic and business growth in Louisville. Past events have featured Joe Pusateri, Bill Weyland, Kevin Cogan and John Lenihan. This event featured two businessmen who are sure to be two of Louisville’s most important members of the business community for decades to come – Jonathan Blue and Craig Greenberg. Blue is the founder and Chairman of Blue Equity and Greenberg is the president of 21C Museum Hotels. They also happen to be two active members of our city’s Jewish Community.
Blue and Greenberg are two lifelong Louisvillians who could have likely moved anywhere after college. They also do business all over the country, but they have decided to maintain Louisville as their home and stay focused on helping their hometown grow.
Some of the business-related issues discussed involved how Louisville compares itself to other strong secondary markets like Nashville. Greenberg made the point that Louisville shouldn’t try to imitate Nashville because we have our own assets that are unique and valuable. However, Blue did explain that there are very proactive measures we can take to appropriately help our city grow. Some points he touched on were the importance of attracting established corporations with educated workers. Educational attainment of our workforce is one of our city’s biggest challenges. We also need to fund our city and state coffers with appropriate monies to build our infrastructure and improve K-12 education. Both men agreed that expanded gambling is fertile ground for funding these needs.
One item on which both agreed is that the single biggest asset we have today to grow our economy is bourbon. It’s not just the production of bourbon, but also the use of it as a tourist attraction to draw investment to our city and state. Blue is an investor in Angel’s Envy Bourbon, and Greenberg is actively working on the Whiskey Row project in Downtown Louisville which will include an Old Forrester distillery. Blue said bourbon “is our Music City,” in reference to Nashville’s music and entertainment market. As is well known, Heaven Hill Bourbon is privately owned by the Shapira family of Louisville’s Jewish Community.
The more poignant points of the forum were their personal reflections on their own success. Both referred to their parents as big influences in their careers. Greenberg talked about how both of his parents taught him to work on things that he truly enjoys. Blue said that he has learned that success in business is majorly driven by surrounding himself with great people.
In all, this event was not only an opportunity to feature two progressive people that have great ideas for growing our city, but it also showed the difference and influence that members of the Jewish Community continue to maintain in Louisville and beyond.
Reed Weinberg is the president of PRG Investments and moderated this discussion.