Louisville Forward: The Kentucky City’s Rich Manufacturing History

Powered by the Ohio River, Louisville’s early economy grew up around manufacturing, and today, manufacturing is no less important, being a major employment sector and significant percentage of the city’s GDP.

Roughly 1,400 manufacturing companies are operating in Louisville, developing products ranging from solid rocket fuel binder for NASA’s Space missions to the cars you see driving on the road. The manufacturing sector employs more than 82,000 workers regionally, accounting for 12.8 percent of the region’s total employment. The industry also accounts for 14.7 percent of the region’s annual GDP, compared to 11 percent of national GDP.


Louisville forward

Mayor Greg Fischer presented GE Appliances president and CEO Kevin Nolan with a proclamation in 2019 recognizing the company for its commitment to Louisville.

Thanks to our road, river and global air logistics reach, our motto is “make it here, ship it anywhere.” As the home of UPS Worldport, manufacturers such as Ford, GE Appliances, Clariant, Raytheon, Dynacraft, and Michelin recognize the value of locating in Louisville where they can deliver products to 80% of the world’s population in less than 48 hours.

Louisville is also unique because of critical partnerships it has built. As the industry has continued to evolve, Louisville has invested in partnerships between local manufacturers, schools and training programs to expand our skilled workforce pipeline and drive innovation.

The Academies of Louisville initiative at Jefferson County Public Schools exposes students to career options in the manufacturing industry and early training opportunities, and the Kentucky Manufacturing Career Center, run by KentuckianaWorks, helps people identify career pathways that local manufacturing companies are currently offering and provides them with an opportunity to attain the skills necessary to compete for those positions, for free.

Louisville forward

Dynacraft, a PACCAR company, manufactures automotive hoses, battery cables, emissions exhaust assemblies and truck doors at its Louisville facility.

Louisville is also home to GE Appliance’s FirstBuild, a platform for manufacturing entrepreneurship on the University of Louisville’s campus; Jefferson Community and Technical College’s new Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology Center (AMIT), a state-of-the-art training facility that provides learning space for technical programs; and multiple research facilities at the University of Louisville that support manufacturing and materials innovation.

The strong partnerships were on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic when UofL and other universities joined forces with local manufacturers and individuals to make and distribute Personal Protective Equipment. Deemed the LOU Covid Rapid Response Group, the collective made and distributed more than 140,000 units of PPE, including face shields, 3D-printed test swabs, ventilator parts, N95 masks and other PPE innovations. In addition to more than 40 regional manufacturers and suppliers like GE Appliances, Clayton & Crume and Fast Radius, the group includes more than 160 individuals who have 3D printers in their homes, offices and classrooms.

Just as it did centuries ago, manufacturing continues to help power Louisville’s growth, and our city is taking steps to ensure that our manufacturers remain on the cutting edge of the industry.

For more information, visit LouisvilleKY.com.

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