Opinion | , ,


Insiders: Recruit local talent to replace Joe Reagan, but not from inside GLI


Two potential econ-dev czars – Jim Host, left, with Ken Berryman.

Wow, that was fast!

A few weeks ago, Insider Louisville reported GLI might be looking at a major shakeup, with Joe Reagan possibly leaving as president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., the Metro Chamber of Commerce! (Which did not make us any friends at GLI.)

Then, Dec. 2, we reported Reagan was one of two candidates to replace the St. Louis chamber of commerce’s retiring CEO.

Last Thursday, former GLI CEOs Doug Cobb and Steve Higdon went on the record saying GLI needs new leadership.

This morning, Reagan resigned!

Reagan is headed out the door to take the same job at the larger St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, a job that pays more than $600,000 annually and is reputed to be the second-highest paying economic development job in the United States behind Atlanta.

(You’ve earned it, Joe, single-handedly getting Ford executives to invest more than $1 billion at its two Louisville plants the way you did! Well done!)

As Reagan tries to avoid the screen door hitting him on his you-know-what on the way out, our relieved insiders already are bombarding us with names of people who should replace him as Louisville’s economic-development czar.

And boy, are insiders talking about this.

The overall consensus among our insiders, whose identities we protect scrupulously, is “Get someone local. But not from inside GLI.”

Here’s from one insider, who’s plugged into the business, arts and education communities:

I think the question everyone has to ask is, “Is there a (heir apparent) candidate inside GLI?” And to me that’s (senior vice president of Community and Economic Development) Eileen Pickett. But my perspective as a business owner is, put someone in there who’s actually run a business and made a payroll. Who’s personally guaranteed a bank loan. I don’t dislike Joe and his people. But I fail to see what benefits they bring to small-to-medium sized businesses.”

Said another insiderL

I noticed in the Business First story that they’re doing an international search. That’s crazy. Get someone who can hit the ground running. Who knows the area. With the economy and the bridges … all these problems, we need someone who’s experienced, who knows the players and who can get stuff done now!

 The most frequent name our insiders are mentioning:

  • Jim Host. Fantasy time. Host just retired as chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority Inc. He has the drive and smarts to get anything done. Now, Host is working with Alltech founder Dr. Pearse Lyons on sports projects. Host is 74, but he has the energy of a 20-year-0ld and contacts around the state and the nation. Can you imagine? Would he do it? Not only wouldn’t he do it, our guess is, he wouldn’t even return GLI’s calls.
  • Doug Cobb, an entrepreneur for decades since his days working in a computer store and figuring out there was money to be made from the first tech newsletters. Cobb was founding president and CEO of GLI from 1997 to 2000, back when Louisville’s biggest problem was a chronic labor shortage. Can you imagine, Pt. 2? Would he come back? No way, José. Too rich, too conservative and too low a tolerance for political gamesmanship. But don’t you most want the person who least needs this job?
  • Steve Higdon. A young guy who got a lot done through vision and personality when he had Reagan’s job. Higdon succeeded Cobb as GLI president and recruited Reagan. Now an executive with Faulkner Hinton & Associates, a Louisville developer, Higdon was UPS loaned executive to the Greater Louisville Economic Development Partnership. In the mid-1990s, he was involved in the area’s most ambitious projects including UPS’ expansion. If he has a weakness, it’s embracing perhaps overly ambitious efforts such as bringing an NBA team to Louisville. Would he do it? We’re guessing, “Maybe.”
  • Ken Berryman, local partner at Charlotte, N.C.-based mezz fund CapitalSouth Partners. Berryman has – for a young guy – extensive deal making and corporate experience and connections. He’s  is a former Humana executive who helped found the local chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth not too long after he became the point man for CapSouth. Berryman knows which companies are growing and who’s thinking about coming to town. We hear he would see past the parochial ass kissing  to the regional capital dynamic. Would he do it? You never know about Ken ….
  • Dale Boden. Another young guy like Berryman, liked and respected by insiders who count. Boden is a founder and chairman of Advanced Cancer Therapeutics. He also runs B F Capital, Inc., a Louisville-based private investment firm. Would he do it? Probably too many commitments to fit in a term of public service. A good “get” if he would.
  • David Tandy. Currently the Fourth District’s Metro Councilman, Tandy is an attorney and a guy with a vision about what the city needs. He’s pushed retail downtown. But he’s also from a small town, with small-town sensiblity. Perhaps most importantly, Tandy has the brains and charisma to go pitch to big corporations and small. Would he do it? If someone would have the sense to ask him. His biggest handicap is his willingness to walk the plank for The Cordish Companies and former Mayor Jerry Abramson.
  • Gill Holland. Anyone who can transform an area of the city overnight for a few million bucks can talk companies into coming to a city which is ready and positioned to grow. Will he do it? Not a chance in hell unless they’d let him make a documentary of his econ-dev efforts to show at Sundance. But what would it hurt to ask?
  • Jonathan Blue. Don’t laugh. A young guy whose Blue Equity fund does deals with Mexican/Lebanese billionare Carlos Slim, the richest guy in the world, is the kind of person you need doing deals for Louisville. Would Blue do it? Not even for the money GLI is paying Joe Reagan.
  • John Hindman, formerly at UPS, was the head of Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development under Gov. Ernie Fletcher, succeeded by Larry Hayes under Gov. Steve Beshear. We know … “Who?” Insiders reminded us Hindman was  vice-president of public affairs and communications for UPS Airlines. He knows UPS and how Louisville can parlay the air freight hub into jobs beyond the Zappo’s of the world. Would he do it? Who knows … we don’t even know where he is. But his name came up, so we put him down.
  • Tim Mulloy, who’s built Peritus Public Relations into a regional force. Mulloy has pro-business credentials and contacts in Washington DC and beyond. Yet, he is from an old-line Democratic family. An interesting mention by our insiders. Would he do it? Not unless he needs a free ulcer.
  • Bob Taylor. This one surprised us, but we like it. Here’s from his bio:  Bob Taylor is Professor of Management and Dean Emeritus having served 20 years in the United States Air Force (with nine years as a professor at the USAF Academy), three years at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, and from 1984-2002 as dean of the College of Business at the University of Louisville. Would he do it? Probably not. But if Taylor did, we think he might energize GLI like he reshaped U of L’s business school, which is better all the time. We also talked to supporters of Charlie Moyer, the current dean. Both intriguing names.




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