The battle for skilled immigrant workers is fierce, and while Louisville has made strides in recent years, its efforts have been spread out over multiple groups. To correct this, Mayor Greg Fischer announced on Friday Global Louisville, a public-private nonprofit aimed at increasing Louisville’s international presence and attracting more skilled immigrant workers.
Fischer broke the news at the tail end of an Americas Society/Council of the Americas event called “Globalization, New Americans, and Economic Growth in Louisville.”
The mayor said Global Louisville would be the city’s one-stop shop to both increase Louisville’s international business presence and attract (and retain) international talent.
“We have a lot of initiatives going on in the city where we lose our maximum power by diffusing the initiatives,” said Fischer. “Global Louisville will be a separate nonprofit that will pull all of this together … that will engage business, our international community, and all our citizens, in global, economic, and social outreach.”
Louisville has had only middling success when it comes to attracting — and keeping — talented foreign-born workers. Per Global Louisville:
Between 2000 and 2012, Louisville’s foreign-born population grew by 107.3 percent, while the native-born population grew by 8.4 percent. Yet Louisville’s international community makes up just 5 percent of the city’s total population versus 18.1 percent for the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S.
This is a problem because Louisville’s foreign-born workers are an economically potent force. They work more than native-born Americans, with close to three-quarters of all foreign-born workers age 16 or older in the workforce, versus two-thirds of native-born Americans.
Louisville’s foreign-born workers are also overrepresented in several key fields. A total of 18.2 percent of all manufacturing sector jobs are held by foreign-born workers, and 18.5 percent of all education and health jobs.
Self-employed foreign-born residents also over-represent in coveted, high-tech jobs; 10 percent work in a STEM field, versus three percent of native-born residents.
One problem is this: Louisville retains relatively few of its foreign students on temporary visas. From 2008 through 2012, 2,078 students on temporary visas came to Louisville, but just 36 percent found a job and stayed here after graduation. This placed Louisville behind 48 other metro areas.
Fischer said Global Louisville will help address some of these issues by being a concierge-style service to help city newcomers get established. The founding partners of Global Louisville are Metro government and Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce.
The mayor, not known for rhetorical flourishes, ended his announcement with a rare bit of poetry, quoting the writer Paulo Coehlo: “Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their souls, it’s easier to overcome the economic and political barriers.”
Shortly after the Global Louisville announcement, Suhas Kulkarni, director of the city’s office of globalization, announced he would retire next month. Fischer said Kulkarni would stay on in an emeritus fashion with Metro government and help launch Global Louisville. Kulkani was the city’s first director for globalization.