Louisville, KY – In our first article at Louisville Politics concerning Mayor Fischer’s West Side Story lies, we brought you the tale of yet another example of lies and broken promises that would aid our West End residents and our community. What was once a no brainer in the efforts to aid our City and its poorest community quickly became yet another example of just why leadership in Louisville is a failure.Louisville is home to 3 of the largest global businesses in the United States today that include Ford, GE, and UPS. These employers account for over 20,000 workers in the Louisville Metro area and add millions to our local economy.
But they have one basic need in common.
The need for an advanced manufacturing and logistics academic facility in Louisville to produce and maintain a highly skilled and educated workforce.
As we pointed out in the first part of this series, this has become a serious concern for local employers and affects their ability to move forward with more jobs and opportunity. This problem has led to the sudden rise of the fly by night warehouses that rely solely on temporary workers and hurt the working middle class.
These low paying, temporary warehouse, no skill, jobs are permeating Louisville and destroying the potential we once had.
This mindset of going after the cheap, low paying, dead-end temporary jobs is aiding and abetting the downfall of the American worker right here at home. It is a systemic problem that further erodes our ability to compete in a global economy with middle class educated workers.
Most affected are the poorest amongst us.
Who can argue with the rationale to essentially ‘work for less’ when you are starving and can’t make ends meet. When these are the only options available you take them to survive.
It really is that simple, and yes even shameful, that our failed leadership continues ignoring the realities of what we need in a 21st century economy.
Mayor Greg Fischer, working in conjunction with Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, developed the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Program (BEAM) with a high-profile group of 21 business and civic executives to form the board of directors, in his effort to address these concerns.
As usual all we received was yet again more lip service with no intent to follow through. Great photo op as usual with no substance to back it up.
The stated goal was a simple one, the mission was to grow jobs in the State and increase the economic pie throughout the Commonwealth.
Fischer had this to say in November 2011 at the announcement:
“We are serious about growing jobs in our state and this board is evidence of that,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “The Bluegrass region already has the assets, including two Ford plants and Toyota plant, to become best-in-world at advanced manufacturing.”
The stated goal of BEAM was to develop a joint regional business plan supporting the growth of high-quality jobs in advanced manufacturing.
Fischer even announced that the project would use Brookings’ “Metropolitan Business Plan” framework to develop a comprehensive economic development effort designed to nurture and support manufacturers and their supply chains. The goals: quality job creation and increases in export activity.
Once again great photo op but no substance.
Why? Because when faced with a choice of moving forward to follow through with his stated intent he pulled the plug.
The Park Hill neighborhood was once a vital part of Louisville’s economy. Approximately 1,400 acres made up the Park Hill Industrial Corridor, and as has happened all too frequently to many cities across the Country, it has declined rapidly over the last 30 years or so. With unemployment raging, poverty at an all time high, and abandoned buildings running rampant throughout the area, Park Hill is an example of a lost part of our industrial community.
With all this in mind, in 2009 leadership finally stated what we knew all along. There was a critical need for investment in this declining neighborhood.
Louisville Metro decided to adopt the Park Hill Industrial Corridor Implementation Strategy.
It recommended focusing on the combined business attraction and development efforts of Metro Government and Greater Louisville Inc. on a number of key industry “clusters” identified as having the most potential for growth in the area.
It prioritized the need for near-term and long-term aesthetic improvements, transportation changes, land-use enhancements, and programs and policies needed to make the Park Hill corridor a magnet for businesses and new jobs.
In mid-2012 the opportunity finally arose to fulfill the promise, and the need, with a government-funded regional training center facility right in the heart of the corridor. It would be a great boost to the West End Park Hill neighborhood and finally drive economic growth and development in one of the poorest areas in Louisville.
It would also have finally fulfilled the long and endless stream of broken promises by Democratic leadership in Louisville to the West End citizens.
The new academic facility would have created new jobs, job-training opportunities, help clean up the local community, improve property values, and generally help the Park Hill and West End residents have something to believe in and become a source of pride.
There would be even more jobs created by a number of new businesses offering support to faculty and students attending education and training classes at the new facility.
Why Park Hill
Faced with so many perceptions within the Louisville community itself, and visitors to the City as outlined above, Park Hill not only needed improvements, but it would be highly visible as it follows along the 7th/9th street corridor, and the effects of new buildings, new jobs, and improved appearance would not only help change the perceptions of crime, but investment in the neighborhood would show how we can overcome our problems by being inclusive of each area for opportunity to grow within the community.
Since the 7th/9th street area is the most heavily traveled route through the Industrial corridor, with access to all major interstates, what better image could we portray that Louisville is on the move and send a message to visitors and local employers such as Ford, GE, and UPS that we are following through on our commitment to aid them in their needs?
What a better way to prove our commitment and thus complete our promises to both the depleted West End area residents and local employers?
The Training Facility Plan
The plan was a simple one and we already had some federal grant money available as outlined in Part One.
The government funded regional training facility would consist of approximately 150,000 square feet of classroom and learning space on almost nine acres of land.
It would include a 300 seat auditorium, a library, an online manufacturing simulation and class production studio, a materials handling center, a vehicle production dynamic prove out area, a vehicle body shop and a vehicle repair shop.
It would also have dynamic classrooms and state-of-the art learning cells — an integrated robot lab, an electrical lab, a hydraulics lab, a mechanical lab, a machine tool lab, a welding lab, a vehicle body lab, a vehicle repair lab, a computer lab, a programmable logic controller lab, manufacturing systems and processes lab, sensor technology lab, and an integrated system troubleshooting lab.
State of the art and in a neighborhood long forgotten through many lies and broken promises by so called leaders over a 30 year period, what could be a better fit?
As we pointed out previously it won’t happen because of two men.
After months and months of hard work Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer pulled the plug, with Simmons College own Kevin Cosby’s blessing, because Fischer wanted the project moved to the East End. It would benefit his sister, JCTC Board Chairman Lynn Fischer, who is also the CEO of Catalyst Learning, a worker training firm, and as always it all comes down to money and political power.
Why share the wealth if you can have it all?
Ask Kevin Cosby why he agreed to drop the plan. Rumor has it it was for his own financial well-being.
Simmons College History
In order to understand fully why this was so important to the West End community, and Louisville overall, one has to understand the historical significance of Simmons College and its roots in the West End.
In August of 1865, 12 Black Baptist Churches met at Fifth Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and organized the state Convention of Colored Baptist Churches in Kentucky.
Because there was no place in the state where Blacks could obtain a college education, members of the Convention soon began discussing the need to create a school for the training of Negroes – many of whom were one generation removed from slavery.
Having first given consideration to Frankfort, Kentucky as the home to the school, members of the Convention instead decided in 1869 to locate what would be known as the Kentucky Normal Theological Institute in Louisville, KY.
It was not until 1879 that anything was essentially done to open the school, when the trustees of the Convention of Colored Baptist Churches in Kentucky purchased 4 acres of land on the corner of 8th & Kentucky Street in Louisville that immediately served as the campus for the school.
That same year, the school opened its doors under the direction of its first President Rev. Elijah P. Marrs. After a brief one-year tenure, Rev. Marrs was succeeded by Dr. W.J. Simmons.
Under the leadership of Dr. Simmons the school began to flourish in such a way that it would eventually be renamed Simmons University in appreciation for his contributions.
Under Dr. Simmons tutelage and leadership from 1880 to 1890, Simmons College became a full university that included programs such as liberal arts, college preparatory courses and medical, law, business, music, and theological departments.
The school also became active in collegiate sports that included football, basketball, and baseball teams. Simmons University was on their way.
That is until the Great Depression.
In 1930, the campus was forced to sell its property due to a foreclosure on the mortgage. As a result, the school had to drastically scale back operations. By 1935 Simmons had a new location and a new curriculum.
The new location at 1811 Dumesnil Street in West Louisville afforded the school the opportunity to continue but with a much narrower mission. They would focus on educating young men and women for Christian service. In 1982 the school was renamed Simmons Bible College to more adequately reflect its mission.
Finally, after 77 years of exile, Simmons College of Kentucky returned to its original 8th and Kentucky campus in 2007.
Simmons College was a natural fit for this facility and Cosby was one of the most eager to see it come to fruition….in the beginning. But when faced with a decision to make by Mayor Fischer, who could not just drop the project for fear of backlash from the West End residents who elected him Mayor especially with an upcoming reelection, Fischer opted, as his Democratic predecessors did, once again to deny the West End its rightful place in economic progress.
The only way to sell this atrocity was to enlist the aid of a prominent black community leader such as Cosby who was instrumental to the project itself.
After all Cosby, as President of Simmons College, is absolutely vital to the project.
Cosby certainly could not sell the failure of this project to the community that he relies on financially to support himself without facing backlash of his own, so why did he back off and support Fischer by selling out?
Why would President Kevin Cosby sell out the community and the history of Simmons College?
Sources tell us money was involved and it wasn’t cheap. The price was high folks and those involved in paying it are now known.
How much does it take to sell out your community in dollars? We will tell you in future articles.
What was the value to the West End community itself?
Over $27 million lost, not including the intrinsic value of creating a vibrant atmosphere for the West End community itself, and all for personal financial gain at the expense of the community in which he serves.
That’s $27,000,000 folks.
Are you surprised?
Trust us. You haven’t seen anything yet……
Listen Monday and Thursday from 7-8pm at The Ed Springston Show. Also visit Louisville Politics for more details and in depth coverage of local political and news issues.
Reprinted with permission of www.ilocalnews.com/louisville jpcaldwell August 19, 2018 - 3:04pm ...
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