LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) - With just three days left in the year, it gives us the chance to reflect on 2017 and look ahead to 2018. It's been a whirlwind for the Derby City with plenty of highs and lows.
We sat down with Mayor Greg Fischer Thursday to talk about the defining moments and everything in between. There's definitely an overwhelming sense of optimism when you talk to Louisville's leader about the state of his city. That's to be expected, but Mayor Fischer is also quick to admit that every year brings its own unique struggles. Accepting that fact while staying focused on the future remains his top priority.
"The main thing people see in Louisville right now is the city going through this tremendous growth spurt. It's a renaissance like we really haven't seen,” Fischer said.
There's the 12 billion dollars’ worth of construction announced or already happening across the metro, with $800 million dollars going into the West End.
"18th and Broadway Corridor will be reemerging as one of the great corridors in Louisville with the Passport headquarters on the west side, the new YMCA on the east side, a bus rapid transit system going up 18th Street. So, all of that is beginning in 2018,” Fischer said. "2018 is going to be a big year for the city. Lots of our capital construction will be opening in 2018. The economy is still strong. Our city is really on a ramp up right now, and I expect that that's going to continue to take place."
"There's a level of activity and investment in our city that we've never had before,” Fischer said.
Kentucky's key beverage is also bringing in big bucks.
"You're seeing a tourism boom that we've never had before. It's our first 24/7 tourism activity with bourbonism. 25 hotels either planned or under construction, and the opening of the downtown convention center this August is going to lead to a lot more tourism, as well,” Fischer said. "I talk about bourbonism because that tourism experience is so important to our city. We had 24 million tourist visits last year. So, when people ask me as the Mayor of Louisville what my favorite bourbon is, I say yes."
To top off that tap, Mayor Fischer said unemployment is down four percent and average wages are up.
“Strong financial condition, strong bond ratings, lots of roads and sidewalks being paved and put in place this year. So, I hope people see we're taking care of the business of the city while we're growing the city,” Fischer said.
The momentum is there, but getting everybody onboard isn't always easy.
"Big thing is I just want to make sure that everybody feels like they are along for this ride in a positive way, and they're connected to a hopeful future,” Fischer said. "The middle income folks are getting squeezed way too much. We're trying to address that with work force training here, whether it's becoming a technology coder or being part of the construction boom taking place in Louisville, but that's the issue I worry the most about."
There is a lot to celebrate, but Mayor Fischer knows not everything deserves a round of applause, pointing to violence. He said most of the city's crime can be traced back to guns, drugs, and gangs.
"Every neighborhood deserves to be peaceful, safe, and healthy. So, we're trying to remove that small percentage of bad guys that commit most of the crime and then also put resources into other young men so that they can have a peaceful and productive life,” Fischer said.
Still, he said he takes every loss of life hard.
It happened yesterday with one of our Public Works employees. It was a super sad day for the city. We lost a police officer in the line of duty this year, Nick Rodman. We see victims of homicides. Fortunately, homicides are down, but any of those things, you can't take it back. You just always mourn for folks. This job has got a lot of moving parts in it, but those are the ones that kind of hit you in the heart, and it's like man, but you've got to keep moving forward. You've got to say how can we learn and how can we do better,” Fischer said.
That’s the motivation that keeps Mayor Fischer going even on the toughest days.
"I've got good energy every day at work because the job is too important. How you can help people and lift people up, that's important to me and change the direction of the city to be a great Louisville city as well, all of that brings a lot of energy,” Fischer said.