Public Workshops Coming For Paristown Pointe Saturday, Aug 20 2016 

Paristown Pointe’s future will be the topic of discussion at a series of neighborhood meetings next week.

Three workshops will be held for the public to weigh in on the future of the neighborhood, which is facing a pair of major projects. The area is bounded by East Broadway, Barret Avenue, Breckinridge Street and Swan Street.

On the docket will be the future of the former Urban Government Center at 810 Barret Ave. That building was recently vacated by city workers after mold and other decay were found there. 

The public will be asked to consider issues such as transportation, health and energy efficiency. The meetings will also include presentations and tours of the former government center.

A new, $28 million arts and culture hub will also be up for discussion. The proposed district, which includes the Louisville Stoneware property, is expected to include a performance space, brewery, public art, housing and commercial space. The Kentucky Center and Goodwood Brewing Company are partners in the venture.

The project, established by a group called the Paristown Pointe Preservation Trust, was announced in October 2015. State officials have said it would draw as many as 250,000 visitors a year.


Here’s the public meeting schedule:

Monday, Aug. 22 6-8 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 23 6-8 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 27 10 a.m.-Noon

For Some Women Auctioneers, The Job Is A Calling Friday, Aug 19 2016 

Cars whiz by a small brick building on Ring Road in Elizabethtown. For anyone who wants to be an auctioneer in Kentucky, their fate lies inside that building. It’s a Thursday morning, and Lisa Decker, 55, anxiously awaits the results of her test.

Decker lives in Glasgow, Kentucky. She traveled to Elizabethtown, a little more than 50 miles away, to take the test to become an auctioneer. 

She doesn’t fit the auctioneer stereotype. She’s short, she doesn’t have a booming voice and she doesn’t speak particularly fast. And Decker wants to enter a field that is still overwhelmingly male-dominated. Right now, there are about 1,900 auctioneers licensed in Kentucky, and more than 90 percent are men.

Kennith Hill, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Auctioneers, walks in with a piece of paper in his hand. He congratulates Decker: She passed. 

“Hallelujah, I’ve been so worried about this test,” she says, clapping her hands.

Decker Roxanne Scott |

Decker, at the state Board of Auctioneers office in Elizabethtown, after passing her licensing exam.

Decker just became Kentucky’s 179th licensed female auctioneer. She’s now one step closer to her dream of opening an auction house in Glasgow. In a town where Decker says there’s not much going on except for one theater and a Walmart, she says she’s happy to offer an option for people in Glasgow to socialize — and offer herself a fun way to make money.

‘If It’s For Sale, I’ve Sold It’

Auctioneers Amy Whistle, Martha Kurtz Williams and Bill Kurtz at Kurtz Auction & Realty Company in OwensboroCourtesy Martha Kurtz Williams

Pictured left to right: auctioneers Amy Whistle, Martha Kurtz Williams and Bill Kurtz at Kurtz Auction & Realty Company in Owensboro.

Martha Kurtz Williams says she’s sold everything from live pigs to a county bridge. Williams lives in Sturgis, Kentucky. She and her family have three auction offices. While Lisa Decker is the commonwealth’s newest licensed female auctioneer, Williams was its first.

Kentucky began licensing auctioneers in 1962. The first person who got a license was her dad, George Kurtz.

There are many reasons why there are so few female auctioneers — not just in Kentucky, but nationwide. Hill says the history of auctioneering goes back thousands of years, and in America, several centuries.

“During the American Revolution, if our militia groups overtook a group of the natives, then they auctioned off whatever the natives left behind,” Hill says. “Pots, kettles, guns all of that was auctioned within the group.”

He says the close ties between auctioneering and the military continued into the 19th century. 

“During the American Civil War the same thing happened, but at that time, those items had to be sold by someone by the rank of colonel,” says Hill. “No one less than the rank of colonel could auction items during the Civil War.” 

From the auctioning of slaves to estates, the industry has long been completely male-dominated.

Even though it sided with the union in the Civil War, Kentucky was a slave state. Slaves were usually sold here by either a sheriff or private slave dealers.

“Slaves were sold in a number of ways.” says Patrick Lewis, a historian at the Kentucky Historical Society. 

Lewis says even if women had been auctioneers during that time, it would have been socially unacceptable for a woman to be a slave dealer.

“There would be no woman involved in that because women obviously in the 19th century had to be very protective of reputation,” Lewis says. “And slave trading, being something that didn’t have a great reputation to begin with, no woman is going to be involved in this.”

Sheriffs handled estate auctions. When someone died, the debt of that estate would need to be settled, so the property would be auctioned off. Lewis says the sheriff overseeing the estate auction was always a man. He says women didn’t start showing up as sheriffs until the 1880s and 90s.

“We start to see some women step into that role as women in public life becomes more acceptable,” he says.

A Family Tradition

Today, auctioneering is often a family business. People usually get into it because their dads or granddads were auctioneers, and they’re keeping the family tradition. 

Caitlin Wardlow Herrell lives in Louisville and grew up seeing her dad run auctions.  

“Being an auctioneer is a very special career path,” says Wardlow Herrell. “It’s one of those jobs that you can’t look at it as your job, it’s a lifestyle.”

Bid calling is the part of the job that gets the most attention. But Wardlow Herrell says it’s just a tiny fraction of what’s involved in the job.

“You go in and someone has an estate,” she says. “Their husband or their uncle and their grandma passed away. And you go in there and you’re trying to sell their stuff for them to help them pay off things or settle the estate, but you’re going in there to solve a problem.”

Wardlow Herrell is now working on a specialization that will allow her to work with families and their estates.

“You’re going through pictures of loved ones with these people, and you’re discovering things about their family members that they may not even have known,” she says. “I don’t know, it’s just a really special, humbling, intimate job that you have to put your heart and soul into.”

Wardlow Herrell and other female auctioneers say they’ve been, well, called to the profession. And they’re happy to continue the tradition across gender lines.

Ford Looks To A Fleet Of Driverless Cars Thursday, Aug 18 2016 

The race for who will come to the market with an auto-piloted car is heating up again. Ford has announced that it will have a fleet of autonomous cars on the road by 2021. The driverless vehicles will be available for ride sharing.

It’s an ambitious goal. The company said it will more than double its team devoted to developing autonomous driving, and invest even more money in its Silicon Valley campus. Ford’s CEO Mark Fields has said that the company will triple its investment in the technology which includes currently available help with parking and avoiding traffic jams.

The program that Ford announced is not quite a self-driving car in every garage. The announcement is for vehicles that have Society of Automotive Engineers Level-Four driving automation. SAE Level Four is when the car is self-controlled in all but a few environments such as severe weather. These Level-Four cars would likely be in closed systems or fixed routes. Karl Brauer with Kelly Blue Book says, “The time frame for privately owned, fully autonomous vehicles, capable of operating anywhere and anytime, remains at least seven to 10 years away.”

Fields says he’s not closing the door on potential partnerships. Ford and Baidu Inc., the Chinese Internet behemoth, announced that both companies jointly invested $150 million in Velodyne, a Silicon Valley company that specializes in sensors. Already Silicon Valley and the auto industry have been in a dating frenzy looking for long-term partners to help develop the technology behind a self-driving car. Volkswagen spent $300 million to get a piece of ride-hailing company Uber’s European rival Gett. General Motors spent $1 billion to purchase Cruise Automation, as well as investing in ride-hire service Lyft. Meanwhile, Toyota invested in Uber.

Randy Visintainer, the head of Ford’s autonomous vehicle program, says the company is ready to meet the challenge of putting a driverless car on the road. “Our mission is to make transportation affordable, efficient and safe,” Visintainer said in an interview with NPR. “The Model T delivered in its time and autonomous vehicles have the potential to do that in the 21st Century.” Visintainer shrugged at the idea that Ford is in a space race of sorts to put an autonomous vehicle on the road. He says that the team had “enough confidence in our development of the technology, the understanding of how to make the vehicles in volume that we would make this claim.”

Ford’s engineers may be confident, but are riders? The announced plan would have cars without not only drivers but obvious vehicle controls. Visintainer says he understands the public’s uneasiness about autonomy. He says the company is looking for ways to convince the public that self-driving cars can be safe. “It’s going to be an education and a journey, being transparent and open about the progress we’re making, and how we’re doing is a key part of that.”

Analysts say discussing the technology is a move to placate the concerns of Wall Street. General Motors, Google and some of Ford’s other competitors have spent the year making announcements and investments in advanced technology. Michelle Krebs with says GM has been grabbing all the headlines recently “and Ford can’t be happy about that, especially as some Wall Street analysts have wondered if Ford is falling behind in future mobility.” Ford’s Mark Fields has said Ford has been setting the pace.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Kentucky Should Enact State-Sponsored Retirement, New Report Says Monday, Aug 15 2016 

We’ve all heard it before: The best time to start saving for retirement was yesterday.

But many workers, particularly young, low-income and part-time workers, are more likely to not have a retirement plan through their jobs.

Nearly half of private sector employees ages 25 to 64 in Kentucky work for a company that does not offer a retirement plan. That’s approximately 566,780 people, according to a new report from the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.  

“States are needing to step in,” says Ashley Spalding, research and policy associate at the center. 

Spaulding authored the study, which recommends a state-sponsored plan that would automatically deduct savings out of a worker’s check. 

Kentucky is one of the fastest-aging states in the country. And with pressing costs like housing, car repairs and school fees for kids, it can be difficult to put aside money to be used decades later.

“But once you set it up to be a payroll deduction, that really encourages saving,” Spalding says. She supports a plan that would enroll workers by default but offer a chance to opt out.

Some small businesses have trouble attracting or retaining employees because workers want benefits like an employer-sponsored retirement plan, Spalding says.

And she says poor seniors have an affect on the state budget.

“It’s expensive to provide the needed services for seniors living in poverty, and it really does fall on the state to do that,” she says.

More financially secure seniors means more people are able to spend and put more money into the economy. Being financially secure in retirement includes a mix of savings, Social Security and a retirement plan. Retirees in Kentucky receive an average of $1,243 in Social Security per month. For 35 percent of Kentuckians, it’s the only money they get in retirement.

California, Illinois, Oregon and Connecticut are among the states that have enacted state-sponsored retirement plans.

A bill proposed in Kentucky’s 2015 General Assembly would have offered payroll deduction plans to employees of private companies with at least five workers. The money would be invested in a Roth IRA.

The measure was not called up for a vote.

Trading Places: Neighboring Companies On Opposing Sides Of Free Trade Debate Monday, Aug 15 2016 

Trade has emerged as a potent issue this election season, with the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a flash point in the political debate. The stakes are high for the Ohio Valley region, where thousands of workers and billions of dollars in goods could be affected by the outcome of this trade agreement.

To learn more, I visited two manufacturing companies in the Bowling Green, Kentucky, area: conveyer-belt maker Span-Tech and auto parts maker Trace Die Cast.

These businesses are just 30 miles from each other, but when it comes to their views on trade, they’re worlds apart. Their differences can tell us a lot about why trade is such a contentious issue and what it means for our region.

Span-Tech, in Glasgow, Kentucky, makes conveyor belts used in companies around the world. Free trade, TPP. Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Span-Tech, in Glasgow, Kentucky, makes conveyor belts used in companies around the world.

Part 1. Span-Tech: Trade ‘A Huge Growth Area’

Technicians at Span-Tech run conveyor belts to the breaking point as they test products at the Glasgow, Kentucky, facility. Span-Tech’s belts will go to customers in Canada, Mexico, China, and Japan. Trade accounts for about 20 percent of the company’s business, and founder and CEO Bud Layne hopes it could soon be even more with the TPP.

“I’ve traded in Asia for over 20 years and I think it’s something that we need to be part of,” Layne said. “It’s a huge growth area.”

Layne said trade deals lower the expense and challenges associated with exporting American made goods, helping companies like Span-Tech that provide equipment that other exporting and importing companies use. Data show that has a big effect on the region and the stakes are high for the TPP.

According to the pro-trade group Business Roundtable, more than 195,000 Kentucky jobs are supported by trade with the 11 other countries that would be in the TPP. In Ohio it’s more than 500,00 jobs, and in West Virginia more than 70,000. The deal would remove thousands of taxes and tariffs associated with trading with these countries.

trade-pro-ita-exports-v2Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

Trading Political Places

The Obama Administration spent five years negotiating the TPP with 11 other countries on four continents. It would be one of the biggest trade deals in recent memory, affecting agriculture, manufacturing, and even medicine. But shifting political fault lines have undermined the TPP’s chances of final approval.

As Obama’s presidency nears an end, support for the TPP in Congress is weak and both major party candidates oppose it. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supported the deal in 2010 but has since changed her view, as she told a Michigan crowd last week.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has also spoken out against the TPP and other trade deals, a sharp departure from the traditional Republican party position. Meanwhile, both candidates’ running mates have been strong proponents of free trade.

That leaves free trade fans such as Bud Layne without a clear champion in the election. Layne said most voters don’t appreciate trade’s far-reaching effects.

“I think the average voter sees to the end of his car hood,” Layne said. “He sees what his immediate life is like. And in the past 15 years, that’s been tough for him.”

Span-Tech founder and CEO Bud Layne says trade deals create "a huge growth area" for his products. Free trade, TPP.Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Span-Tech founder and CEO Bud Layne says trade deals create “a huge growth area” for his products.

A recent poll shows that while the majority of registered voters say they don’t feel well-informed on the TPP, the more they learn about the agreement the more they support it. Overall, Americans tend to view trade positively. But lately more Trump supporters have told pollsters that they oppose trade agreements and blame free trade for lost jobs.

Layne said job losses in the region have less to do with trade than with changes in the workplace, such as new technology and automation. A section of Layne’s facility is dedicated to training and retraining workers. He said it’s the responsibility of the individual to adjust to changing times.

“What’s happened in America is that the common laborer is vanishing,” Layne said. “There are plenty of jobs if you’re willing to move upscale and re-educate yourself. What people hire people to do is changing.”

An Economist For TPP

Proponents like Layne say trade is a net job creator. Lowering trade barriers encourages industries and countries to specialize in what they do best. That filters down to the consumer in the form of cheaper goods. Western Kentucky University economist Brian Strow agrees, and said that while there are losers in any trade deal, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

“We do need to keep our eye on the larger picture here, which is lowering trade barriers around the world since World War II has been the single largest source of worldwide economic growth,” Strow said. “We don’t want to go back to Great Depression times where everyone was jacking up trade barriers.”

trade-pro-ita-categories-v2Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts that the TPP would create 700,000 new jobs in the U.S., and that more than 33,000 of those jobs would be in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Strow warned that if the U.S. doesn’t move forward with trade deals, other countries are likely to put large taxes on imports and exports. He says it’s especially important for the region’s automotive industry to have as many free trade agreements as possible.

“If a car company is going to decide to set up a new production plant somewhere they’re only going to choose to do that in a country that has free trade agreements so they can export their cars as cheaply as possible to other countries,” Strow said.

Strow said if the U.S. misses out on the opportunity to influence the rules for trade with the TPP nations the U.S. economy will feel the backlash.

“In this particular case, Asia is such a growing economy that it would be a real shame for the U.S. to miss out on this opportunity to expand our ability to export our goods to such a big area,” Strow said.

trade-both-tpp-countries-keyAlexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

Strow acknowledges that trade deals aren’t perfect, and labor and environmental regulations are challenging. But he argues that being in the talks is better than opting out. As the saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you might end up on the menu.

trade-both-company-mapAlexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

Part 2. Trace Die Cast: Trade ‘Always a Threat’

Just a 45-minute drive away from Span-Tech’s building, I found another business with a very different view on trade. At Trace Die Cast in Bowling Green I saw workers operate robotic arms that spray aluminum casts for auto parts.

The parts made here will go into the transmissions and engines of vehicles assembled at Ford and GM factories. Trace employs five hundred-fifty people but these robots do the work three people used to do. Trace President Chris Guthrie says past trade agreements are part of the reason his company has had to find ways to do more with less labor.

“Trade is very important to us because it’s always a threat to us,” Guthrie said. “What we find is when there’s a trade pact passed it becomes much more difficult for us to operate and we have to learn to compete against low cost, low wage countries.”

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Trace Die Cast workers make auto parts used in Ford and GM vehicles.

Guthrie said manufacturing in Kentucky is cheaper than in many other parts of the country because energy costs are low. But each trade agreement seems to squeeze his company a bit more. He says most trade deals look after the big global interests and not the small and mid-sized companies like his.

We’re not waiting around for the government to either promote us or protect us,” Guthrie said. “Trade agreements are really for bigger companies.”

Trace Die Cast CEO Chris Guthrie says trade deals are "always a threat."Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Trace Die Cast CEO Chris Guthrie says trade deals are “always a threat.”

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement passed, more than 66,000 Kentucky workers qualified for a government assistance program for people displaced by trade. In Ohio more than 145,000 qualified, and in West Virginia more than 16,000.

Guthrie thinks voters are a lot smarter than politicians and industry leaders give them credit for. He says they understand that after NAFTA was passed prices went down for some products but their friends and family members lost jobs.

trade-con-jobs-lostAlexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

“They understand that after NAFTA a washing machine might be cheaper or clothes might be cheaper for them to purchase. But they also see what’s happened to communities throughout the Midwest that have lost companies that have moved to Mexico,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie worries that the next trade agreement could force him to compete with companies that don’t have to comply with the same environmental regulations his does. He said that if smaller operations such as his aren’t protected he’ll have no choice but to consider moving.

People who work in factories that have now been located to low cost countries have been affected,” Guthrie said. “You have to have policies to help people like that go in a new direction in their lives.”

Fair Trade or Free Trade

According to the United Steelworkers, some 60,000 manufacturing facilities have been shut down in the United States in the past 15 years. USW representative Donnie Blatt said the trade policies that have been negotiated since NAFTA have devastated the manufacturing base of the Ohio Valley.

“I’d love to take anybody through southeast Ohio, Steubenville, and the Youngstown area and let them see those communities and the effect that trade’s had on them,” Blatt said.

Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

Blatt said there should be more enforcement of fair trade policies so that American workers aren’t pitted against countries that don’t allow their workers to organize and collectively bargain for a living wage.

U.S. workers aren’t afraid of trade. We know if it’s fair that we can compete with anybody in the world,” Blatt said. “We just need to have an avenue that allows us to be able to have that level playing field.”

An Economist Against TPP

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy economist Jason Bailey agrees. He said the negative effects of trade have fallen disproportionately on workers and their communities.

From an American worker’s perspective there’s no question that these trade deals have been a bad deal for their standard of living, for their family’s well being and that affects their entire communities when they have less money to spend,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the debate is not as simple as being for or against trade; it’s the specifics of the trade agreements that count. He argued that deals like the TPP put more emphasis on protecting copyright and patent law than they do on protecting average workers.

There are specific people who lose when you have these sort of agreements and it’s most commonly everyday workers who lose out.”  Bailey said. “Who benefits is often powerful interests.”

A worker operates machinery at Trace Die Cast.Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

A worker operates machinery at Trace Die Cast.

Displaced workers find it’s difficult to qualify for assistance programs and even when they do qualify studies show worker retraining programs are largely ineffective.

Trade’s Political Traction

These two companies in the same community tell us a lot about the country’s polarized politics of trade.

Yes, trade deals are good for the overall economy, as Span-Tech’s Bud Layne points out. But Chris Guthrie at Trace Die Cast is also correct when he says those agreements harm some people and places.

And the evidence shows that the country does a poor job helping those who get hurt. As trade creates winners and losers, public resentment and division have become part of the deal and a big part of what’s driving our politics.

Shanty Boats On The Ohio: Louisville’s Lost Neighborhood Tuesday, Aug 9 2016 

George Bush was a multitasker.

He owned a shanty boat on the east end of Louisville’s Towhead Island in the early 1900’s. For part of the year, Bush worked at a factory and for the remainder of the year, he’d shell mussels. Nearby factories would buy the shells and turn them into pearl buttons.

Bush was atypical for two reasons: he was an African-American living in Louisville’s mostly White shanty boat community, and because of the length of time he lived in the area — 18-20 years. In that stretch of time, most boat dwellers eventually drifted to other cities for work.

Shanty boats were a popular form of housing in the region from the 1850’s to the 1950’s. During that time, Bush was one of 50,000 people who lived on a shanty boat and called the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers home.

“The actual peak time — they were beginning to trail off in the Post World War II period — was the Great Depression,” said Mark Wetherington, senior research fellow at the Filson Historical Society. Wetherington recently led a talk at the Filson about shanty boats and what he calls “Louisville’s lost neighborhood.”

For $30-40, you could buy yourself a shanty boat. These boats were similar in design to shotgun houses. If you wanted a fancy one, it could cost you about $200. And it wasn’t just fishermen who lived on shanty boats. Other workers — servants, stone masons, and basket makers — wanted in on them, too.

“Most of them had two rooms, some had three,” Wetherington said. 

shanty boatCourtesy Filson Historical Society

Click image to enlarge

It was a better deal than living in one room with several other families in Louisville’s notorious tenement houses. The city’s population doubled between the years 1870 and 1910 and housing couldn’t keep up. For $5 a month you could get a room in a tenement house. Shanty boats, however, offered more space.

Shanty boat communities were stereotyped as being full of shiftless men who enjoyed a drink too often. But about half of Louisville’s shanty boat community were women and children, said Wetherington. Women had jobs as fishers, too. They, along with men, also made fishing nets and baskets for a living. Children were merchants and sold those products in the streets.

Wetherington said the shanty boat community had an underground economy where many bartered for what they needed — including a new boat. This was helpful for growing families that had outsized their one-bedroom homes.

By the 1950’s and 60’s, the shanty boat community disappeared. Several circumstances led to the demise including multiple floods — starting with the 1937 flood — and pollution of the Ohio River.

“The flood of ‘37 and another flood in the 40’s convinced people in Louisville that they really needed to shut this area down because it was uninhabitable,” said Wetherington.

The 85 acres of Louisville’s Waterfront Park today consists of fountains, greenery, and art for residents looking for respite from the city. But Wetherington wants Louisvillians to remember this significant part of the city’s history.

“The waterfront is where Louisville started,” he said. “We’ve gone back to it. We’ve re-embraced it with the waterfront redevelopment.”

Furthermore, Wetherigton said issues present during the time of shanty boat communities still persist today.

“Some of that deals with public health, some of that deals with the quality of housing, some of it deals with our air quality,” he said.

Brookings: Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Paying Off In Kentucky Friday, Aug 5 2016 

Mark Muro is having a conversation with someone in a bar. The person’s in their late twenties and is having trouble finding work. Maybe they have a high school diploma. Mark’s advice? Enroll in the closest community college you can.


Auto manufacturing and digital services are some of the industries contributing to Kentucky’s economic growth. And you don’t need a Master’s or PhD to get a job in these areas.

“STEM workers are crucial to regional prosperity and advanced industry success but they don’t all need to have to have college degrees,” says Muro, senior fellow and policy director at the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

Muro did a study tracking the growth of advanced industries. Blue-collar STEM jobs fall under these industries, which employ more than 170,000 people in Kentucky. The average salary in an advanced industry is just over $65,000 in the commonwealth. That compares with almost $42,000 for all other industries.

Muro says experiential learning in middle and high school, field trips to factories and energy plants, as well as courses in community college can help future workers prepare for those jobs.

“If we do some of those things,” he says, “there’s a real pathway for people from diverse backgrounds or underserved communities to plug into industries that actually pay very well, including at the sub-baccalaureate level.”

He’s impressed by the digital boom — and that the sector is not just in the usual places, such as San Francisco, Boston and Seattle.

“More and more places are getting into that game,” he says. “Louisville has 6,000 jobs in computer systems design and has been seeing solid growth in that area.”

He says being strong in high-tech digital services, as well as auto manufacturing, will continue to grow Louisville’s economy — a line that couples well with Mayor Greg Fischer’s near-constant refrain that growing tech jobs is a key part of the city’s future.

U.S. Adds More Than 250,000 New Jobs In July; Unemployment Steady Friday, Aug 5 2016 

The U.S. added 255,000 jobs in July, according to the monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; economists had been expecting about 180,000 new jobs. It’s the second month in a row showing job growth significantly stronger than anticipated.

The unemployment rate is holding steady at 4.9 percent, and the labor force participation rate ticked up slightly, from 62.7 to 62.8 percent.

Average hourly earnings are up 0.3 percent.

You may remember that job growth was remarkably weak in May: the BLS has revised that number, for the second time, to 24,000. (It was initially reported as 38,000 and changed to 11,000.)

But June was strong, with nearly 300,000 new jobs added: that number has been revised upward, from 287,000 to 292,000.

Between the boost in new jobs and the revisions to the last two months, the report is significantly stronger than had been anticipated.

Professional and business services saw the greatest job growth; the industry as a whole has added more than half a million jobs over the last year, the BLS says.

Health care, financial activities, leisure and hospitality also saw growth, as did government employment. The mining industry continues to lose jobs, but other industries are holding more or less steady, the BLS says.

On Morning Edition, NPR’s Yuki Noguchi reported that the numbers on each month’s jobs report ought to be taken with a grain of salt.

Alan Blinder, a former vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve, tells Yuki that every month, about 5 million jobs get destroyed and about 5 million get created.

That churn helps the economy grow, as successful companies expand and unproductive ones shrink, Alan Chamberlain, the chief economist for, says.

But it means the monthly jobs numbers don’t have much impact on people’s lives, he says.

“When job numbers go fluctuate by a hundred thousand — in the scheme of things, that’s not much,” Yuki says. The long-term numbers, looking at a year instead of a month at a time, are more significant.

But the jobs report is the best available snapshot of the labor market at a given time, and they might have psychological value — especially significant in an election year.

“If the report affects how people feel about the economy,” Yuki says, “it might affect how they vote.”

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Study: Immigrants Make Big Contributions To U.S., Kentucky Economies Thursday, Aug 4 2016 

George Griffiths remembers a different Louisville. Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Griffiths moved to the city from New York after his job transferred him 28 years ago. He’s lived in the United States since 1970.

Moving from New York to Kentucky in the late 1980s was a change. In 1990, Kentucky’s foreign born population was less than 1 percent.

“Moving to Louisville was a lot different, but now it’s more culturally diverse,” he says.

Griffiths is one of the about 160,000 immigrants who live in Kentucky. That’s about 4 percent of the state’s population. That may not seem like a lot, but immigrants contribute a huge chunk to the economy here.

Immigrants in Kentucky are almost 77 percent more likely than native Kentuckians to hold a graduate degree. Software designers and computer programmers have high representation of immigrants in the state.

That’s according to a new study by The Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group that advocates the economic benefits of immigration reform. The study also says immigrants have been important in filling jobs in Kentucky’s largest sector: manufacturing.

These high-skilled jobs are not only important to Kentucky but also to the United States. Between 2014 and 2024, STEM fields are expected to add more than three-quarters of a million new jobs in America, according to the study.

Bryan Warren was a part of a roundtable event that launched the study earlier this week. He’s director of the Office of Globalization for Louisville Metro government. Warren believes the conversation around immigration should move toward economics.

“There is an extremely positive impact that immigrants make to our community,” he says. “They are the largest percentage of our population growth in the last 20 years. They provide and start businesses at double the rate that native-borns do in our community.”

Adel Elmaghraby was also at the event. He’s a professor and chair of the School of Computer Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Louisville. He says most of the students at the PhD level at the school are foreign-born. And he’d like to keep some of those students in Louisville after they graduate.

“So many of them end up in California, other states and companies like Facebook, Workflow, Google, Microsoft, Apple,” says Elmaghraby. “And I wish we had competition here to keep some of these talented people in Louisville.”

Let’s Talk TIFs With A Public Finance Expert Wednesday, Aug 3 2016 

Tax increment financing agreements have helped spur the development of more than a dozen projects across Louisville.

The incentive program, commonly called a TIF agreement, rebates a portion of increased taxes back to the developer upon completion of the project to help subsidize the project’s cost.

Such incentives are considered instrumental in fueling development, said Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, head of the city’s economic development department.

“We believe it is the best tool available to us today,” she said.

A Louisville Metro Council committee approved two more proposed TIF agreements earlier this week to help fund planned developments at the former sites of the Phoenix Hill Tavern and Mercy Academy, near the intersection of Baxter Avenue and East Broadway.

To get an idea of why these incentives are so popular, what they mean to taxpayers and why critics sometimes oppose such incentives, we talked to Janet Kelly, executive director of the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute.

Kelly’s research is focused in public finance policy and economic development. You can listen to the interview in the above audio player.

Janet KellyJacob Ryan |

Janet Kelly

Say somebody opens up their newspaper and sees the city is approving tax incentives called tax increment financing, what can they make of that?

Tax increment financing has been around for a long time and it’s the favorite tool of a lot of urban economic developers. So, if I had a piece of property that I thought needed to be developed, one way to do that without making an immediate investment of city money would be to get a group of investors, or, perhaps, a group of people who were willing to loan you money and tell them that they would receive a return on that investment and that investment would be paid for by how much that property appreciates over the time of the investment. The way it would be paid off is that the property value would appreciate and as the property value appreciates, the property taxes increase and the property taxes — the increment between the original property taxes and the property tax realized after the improvement — becomes the source of the financing.

We’ve seen these pop up in several developments over the past couple of years — the KFC Yum! Center and University of Louisville Shelbyhurst Campus. Why do we see them becoming so popular for smaller developments now?

They’ve always been very popular for developments that had a large retail component or tourism component. Now we are seeing them used more often in residential areas that have a lot of potential to become a part of the city’s overall urban plan. An area that is likely to be developed, or attractive to developers in the future, if it had the benefit of some immediate investment then that would be a situation where a TIF might work. A TIF is only as good as the likelihood that that particular property is going to increase in value as a result of the investment.

What are some of the fears or apprehensions that experts in the field may have?

Again, the problem with the TIF is that it’s only as good as the appreciation in that property after the investment. If the value of the property grows it was a great investment, if the value of the property doesn’t, maybe not so much. That’s always, with every TIF, that’s always the consideration.

Do critics of TIFs have a case to make when they’re pushing back against these tax incentives for their potential taking of city tax revenue from government coffers?

Perhaps. If the property was not going to appreciate without the investment, then it’s a wash, there would be advantage to using the TIF or not using the TIF. If the property does have the ability to appreciate, some people’s concerns about whether or not that property tax revenue should be used for public purposes or should be returned to investors have a legitimate concern. However, if the property doesn’t appreciate without the investment, they wouldn’t have been better off if the TIF had not been applied.

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