Two Louisville companies were included in Fortune Magazine’s Inner City 100 list.
Distance learning company, The Learning House, and beverage development company, Eighth Street Ventures, better known as Flavorman and the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, were ranked 32 and 67, respectively.
The list ranks the fastest-growing inner city companies as determined by The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, founded by Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter in 1994.
The initiative has also inducted Flavorman into the Inner City 100 “Hall of Fame,” marking the achievement of making the list for the fifth time this year.
The ICIC defines inner cities as core urban areas with higher unemployment and poverty rates and lower median incomes than their surrounding metropolitan statistical areas. For this year’s list, companies were ranked by revenue growth over the five-year period from 2011 to 2015.
The two companies’ inclusion is even more remarkable because regional peer cities Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis and St. Louis have zero companies on the list. Even cities that people often cite as aspirational cities for Louisville didn’t outperform: Nashville also had two and Columbus only had one company. One in Memphis and Birmingham.
If one city dominated the list, it was Philadelphia, with a whopping 15 companies, the only city to have numbers in the double digits.
According to Fortune, The Learning House has had a five-year growth rate of 371 percent and revenue in 2015 topped $36.5 million. The article states, “Today the company has grown to 400 employees, and although Learning House offers a remote work option, the company’s vibrant Louisville location is enough to convince most of its employees to work from the office.”
The Learning House is downtown on 4th Street between Muhammad Ali and Liberty.
Eighth Street Ventures is the parent company of Flavorman, which develops and commercializes beverages for other companies, and of Moonshine University, a spirits education center. According to Fortune, the company’s five-year growth rate is 171 percent, and its revenue was $10.85 million.
“Our location is definitely part of our success,” said Colin Blake, creative director at Flavorman, in an email to IL. “It would have been difficult to find this much space in 2006 at the price we got this building for. The crazy thing is we thought we bought too big and would never use all the space, and now we’re busting at the seams.”
Blake said that when they moved into the 8th Street location near York, they were surrounded by vacant and abandoned buildings, “but now almost every building has a business in it or is under development.” One benefit to moving to an underserved inner city neighborhood is the city gives a business a lot of “support and attention,” to help revitalize the corridor.
Blake was surprised that many of peer cities had fewer businesses on the list than Louisville did. But he wasn’t surprised that Louisville had two. “We have so much going on right now, and so many people have a great focus on revitalizing, or moving into areas that other companies normally wouldn’t,” he said.