Economy of Louisville, Kentucky
The early economy of Louisville, Kentucky first developed through the shipping and cargo industries. Its strategic location at the Falls of the Ohio, as well as its unique position in the central United States (within one day's road travel to 60% of the cities in the continental U.S.) make it an ideal location for the transfer of cargo along its route to other destinations. In the early days, the Louisville and Portland Canal (the McAlpine Locks and Dam is built in this canal) was a crucial link in water traffic on its route from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (and other origins) to the mouth of the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico, and beyond. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad was also an important link between the industrialized northern cities and the South. Louisville's importance to the shipping industry continues today with the presence of the Worldport air hub for UPS. Louisville's location at the crossroads of three major Interstate highways (I-64, I-65 and I-71) also contributes to its modern-day strategic importance to the shipping and cargo industry.
Recently, Louisville has emerged as a major center for the health care and medical sciences industries. Louisville has been central to advancements in heart and hand surgery as well as cancer treatment. Some of the first artificial heart transplants were conducted in Louisville. The James Graham Brown Cancer Center is well-renowned. Louisville is also home to Humana, one of the nation's largest health insurance companies.
Louisville is home to several major corporations and organizations:
- Brown-Forman Corporation (Fortune 1000)
- Hillerich & Bradsby (manufacturer of Louisville Slugger baseball bats)
- Hilliard Lyons (investment firm)
- Humana (Fortune 100)
- Kindred Healthcare Incorporated (Fortune 500)
- Norton Healthcare
- Papa John's Pizza
- PharMerica (Fortune 1000)
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
- Republic Bank & Trust Company
- Signature HealthCARE
- SHPS (healthcare and human resources services company)
- S.Y. Bancorp (holding company for Stock Yards Bank & Trust)
- Texas Roadhouse
- Thorntons Inc.
- Tumbleweed Southwest Grill
- Yum! Brands (owners of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell which were formerly Tricon Global Restaurants (a spin-off of PepsiCo)) (Fortune 500)
- Long John Silver's, Inc
- ZirMed (health care technology company)
- CafePress, Inc
Louisville for a long time was also home to Brown & Williamson, the third largest company in the tobacco industry before merging with R. J. Reynolds in 2004 to form the Reynolds American Company. Brands such as KOOL, Viceroy, Capri, Misty and Raleigh were introduced in Louisville. Brown & Williamson, one of the subjects of the tobacco industry scandals of the 1990s, was the focus of The Insider, a 1999 film shot around the Louisville area. Also located in Louisville are two major Ford plants, and a major General Electric appliance factory.
Additionally, one third of all of the bourbon whiskey comes from Louisville. The Brown-Forman Corporation is one of the major makers of bourbon, which is headquartered in Louisville. Other major distilleries of bourbon can be found both in the city of Louisville, or in neighboring cities in Kentucky, such as Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky), Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky), Woodford Reserve (Woodford County), or Maker's Mark (Loretto, Kentucky, with a restaurant/lounge in Louisville).
Louisville also prides itself in its large assortment of small, independent businesses and restaurants, some of which have become known for their ingenuity and creativity. In 1926 the Brown Hotel became the home of the Hot Brown "sandwich". A few blocks away, the Seelbach Hotel, which F. Scott Fitzgerald references in The Great Gatsby, is also famous for a secret back room where Al Capone would regularly meet with associates during the Prohibition era. The room features a secret back door escape and was used as a starting point for rumrunners who would transport illegal moonshine from the hills of eastern Kentucky to Chicago. Also, in 1880, John Colgan invented a way to make chewing gum taste better for a longer period of time.
The Highlands area of Louisville on Bardstown Road also contains many independent businesses, including but not limited to the Preston Arts Center, Baxter Avenue Theater, Carmichael's book store, the Wild and Woolly video rental store, Heine Brothers' Coffee, John Conti Coffee, Wick's Pizza, Guitar Emporium and O'Shea's Irish Pub, among others. Several local brewpubs such as Rich O's Public House of New Albany, Indiana, Browning's Restaurant and Brewery, Cumberland Brews, and the Bluegrass Brewing Company offer an assortment of local brewing talent in the area.
Louisville also has connections to the entertainment industry. Several major motion pictures have also been filmed in or near Louisville, including Goldfinger, Stripes, The Insider, Lawn Dogs, Nice Guys Sleep Alone, Keep Your Distance and Elizabethtown.
- Major employers in the Louisville area
- Keep Louisville Weird - Buy Local First (Louisville Independent Business Alliance)