Louisville struggles to attract high-end white-collar jobs because it’s stuck in a high-density, “almost European” neighborhood of competing cities that includes Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Nashville, says Paul Coomes, a University of Louisville economist.
Indianapolis attracts engineers, scientists and other professionals because its downtown is vibrant and, unlike Louisville’s, isn’t dissected by freeways, Coomes said in an annual report for the university’s business school.
Indianapolis also appeals companies wanting to open branch offices because it has Eli Lilly and Co. and offers the recession resistance of being a state capitol.
Procter & Gamble makes Cincinnati the largest center of marketing between Chicago and Atlanta, Nashville is growing more than twice as fast as Louisville, and all three competing cities have professional sports.
Creating a desirable quality of life is critical as cities emphasize luring professional and managerial jobs over the old mainstays of manufacturing and distribution, Coomes said.
“Creating, enterprising people will come up with ideas and products, decide that they want to live in a certain part of the country, pool together, get an office space and start doing it there,” Coomes said. “That’s why we say that the new economic development prize is attracting talented, smart people. Because they bring the economic activity with them.”