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New Louisville Forward position focuses on West Louisville

Louisville Metro Government is narrowing it’s focus on economic development in West Louisville with the creation of a new position. Keisha Allen is Louisville Forward’s first West Louisville senior economic development manager. “What’s happening on one end of town should be happening on the other end of town as well so I don’t enjoy the concept of the 9th street divide,” Allen said. “I’m not sure if it’ll ever go away in some people’s minds because some things are systemic and you can’t always just do away with everything but you can strive every day to try to flatten all of the curves that we see and the divides and remove them, remove the barriers.”The position — created just three months ago — already has Allen identifying challenges for business owners looking to expand in West Louisville. “We don’t have a lot of available retail space for people in the West Louisville area but that’s changing, every day there’s new projects and proposals being presented so we are gaining new places for people to open up their business,” Allen said. More than $1.1 billion dollars in investments have been pumped into West Louisville since 2014. Allen has been working in Metro Government since 2016 — an experience she said will be key to her success now. “When I was in the grants departments that’s where I came from I was responsible for getting the funds to people who needed them the most,” Allen said. “I understand the communities where the fund were going to. I’ve seen a lot of proposals from people who have great ideas before funds were rewarded so it does kind of help me get a better understanding of the communities that we are serving. Also being a part of the community myself.”On the border of the Russell and Shawnee neighborhoods, Aaron Williams turned his great idea into a reality with his to-go or delivery food business Chicago’s Jerk Tacos with help from the city. “They guided me through Metro,” Williams said. “They helped me get my very first loan and all of my requirements for that and part of that was developing a business plan, developing a bio, taking headshots, more so the professional aspects of being a business owner. There’s a lot more to be developed here. There’s a lot more to be developed west of Ninth Street.”Other West Louisville business owners like Garden Girl Foods owner Whitney Powers said the continued commitment from the city says a lot. “I can tell that the city really has a focus particularly Russell and the West End so anyone that wants to open a business here in the West End there are a lot of resources to do that,” Powers said. But with gentrification sometimes an unintended consequence of economic development, Allen said she is determined to make sure it doesn’t happen in West Louisville. “There is enough space and opportunity in West Louisville for there to be growth and development for people to stay in their homes,” Allen said. “We don’t want to displace anyone in the process while you’re trying to revitalize because that’s kind of like defeating the purpose.” Allen said input from the community is key in the process of bringing businesses and investment into West Louisville.

Louisville Metro Government is narrowing it’s focus on economic development in West Louisville with the creation of a new position.

Keisha Allen is Louisville Forward’s first West Louisville senior economic development manager.

“What’s happening on one end of town should be happening on the other end of town as well so I don’t enjoy the concept of the 9th street divide,” Allen said. “I’m not sure if it’ll ever go away in some people’s minds because some things are systemic and you can’t always just do away with everything but you can strive every day to try to flatten all of the curves that we see and the divides and remove them, remove the barriers.”

The position — created just three months ago — already has Allen identifying challenges for business owners looking to expand in West Louisville.

“We don’t have a lot of available retail space for people in the West Louisville area but that’s changing, every day there’s new projects and proposals being presented so we are gaining new places for people to open up their business,” Allen said.

More than $1.1 billion dollars in investments have been pumped into West Louisville since 2014. Allen has been working in Metro Government since 2016 — an experience she said will be key to her success now.

“When I was in the grants departments that’s where I came from I was responsible for getting the funds to people who needed them the most,” Allen said. “I understand the communities where the fund were going to. I’ve seen a lot of proposals from people who have great ideas before funds were rewarded so it does kind of help me get a better understanding of the communities that we are serving. Also being a part of the community myself.”

On the border of the Russell and Shawnee neighborhoods, Aaron Williams turned his great idea into a reality with his to-go or delivery food business Chicago’s Jerk Tacos with help from the city.

“They guided me through Metro,” Williams said. “They helped me get my very first loan and all of my requirements for that and part of that was developing a business plan, developing a bio, taking headshots, more so the professional aspects of being a business owner. There’s a lot more to be developed here. There’s a lot more to be developed west of Ninth Street.”

Other West Louisville business owners like Garden Girl Foods owner Whitney Powers said the continued commitment from the city says a lot.

“I can tell that the city really has a focus particularly Russell and the West End so anyone that wants to open a business here in the West End there are a lot of resources to do that,” Powers said.

But with gentrification sometimes an unintended consequence of economic development, Allen said she is determined to make sure it doesn’t happen in West Louisville.

“There is enough space and opportunity in West Louisville for there to be growth and development for people to stay in their homes,” Allen said. “We don’t want to displace anyone in the process while you’re trying to revitalize because that’s kind of like defeating the purpose.”

Allen said input from the community is key in the process of bringing businesses and investment into West Louisville.



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