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Officials discuss plans for economic development in Louisville and Kentucky

Three people seated at small tables with long white tablecloths
Jacob Munoz
In a discussion moderated by Louisville Forum president Iris Wilbur Glick (right), Louisville official Pat Mulloy (center) and Kentucky official Jeff Noel (left) discussed the future of economic development.

Kentucky’s Jeff Noel and Louisville’s Pat Mulloy are the secretary and deputy mayor, respectively, for economic development in their administrations. The two discussed their ideas for growing the state and city at an event Wednesday.

The Louisville Forum, a nonprofit group, hosted the discussion at Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Louisville.

Mulloy said the city’s central business district could be a key factor for expanding housing options, one of the ways local leaders can promote population growth.

He said other North American cities like Calgary have converted office buildings into residential units. Mulloy wants to replicate that in downtown Louisville.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of buildings… [that] are not going to be full of offices in my lifetime,” Mulloy said.

Louisville Metro Council approved $3 million in this fiscal year’s budget for initiatives to revitalize downtown activity, but officials’ plans to use the money to promote workforce housing were put on hold in favor of attracting new office tenants.

Mulloy also said at the event that he supports efforts to overhaul Louisville’s land development code in favor of middle housing options, like duplexes and triplexes, that could produce affordable units.

Noel said he thinks mixed-use development, which blends functions like residential and commercial, are valuable when done right. But he added that the designs of such projects should be aesthetically pleasing.

“Mixed development, planned development, smart development, really works,” Noel said.

A small, bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers is currently sponsoring House Bill 102, which would require cities to allow duplexes and triplexes in areas that permit single-family houses, among other changes.

The General Assembly in 2022 passed a bill allowing Kentucky’s income tax to be gradually reduced, under certain conditions. The tax rate dropped to 4% at the start of this year, and though it won’t decrease in 2025, some Republicans want to see it eliminated entirely.

Noel said that while a lower income tax rate could help attract talent to Kentucky, company leaders have told him it isn’t their top priority when deciding where to locate.

“We don’t hear from companies that we’re working with that, somehow or another, they aren’t coming here because of the tax rate,” Noel said.

Noel also called for the state to continue investing in the automotive industry as it adopts electric vehicles. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has championed economic developments centered on vehicles and batteries during his tenure.

In October, Ford announced it would delay production at one of two upcoming battery plants in Kentucky due to lower-than-expected consumer demand.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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