China’s Haier Co. may close on its $5.4 billion purchase of the iconic 65-year-old Appliance Park as soon as Monday. Built during the rapidly growing post-World War II economy, the 1,000-acre park churned out dishwashers and other home appliances for the burgeoning baby boom generation. Construction started in 1951.
With Ford and other big local manufacturers, GE launched a solid middle class that became the foundation of Louisville’s economy. At one time, the park employed 25,000 workers. It was a self-sufficient city providing many of its own needs, right down to mail handling. (In 1953, it got its own Zip Code: 40225.)
But that started to ebb in the 1970s, as manufacturers sought cheaper labor by moving production overseas. Appliance Park now employs only 6,000 workers. Service jobs have become the fastest-growing part of Louisville’s economy. But they’re often part-time and don’t pay as well as factory work once did.
Manufacturing employment last peaked in the Louisville metro area in 1999, when there were an average 95,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It then fell to a low of 60,900 in 2010, when the economy was still recovering from the Great Recession. The better news is that it’s crept up every year since, to 76,500 last year. But it’s extremely unlikely it will ever return to the glory days of 1951, when Appliance Park was king.
That’s one amazing measure of how big the retailer’s gotten since it was founded in Seattle 22 years ago.
And it’s still growing. Amazon just announced plans for two more giant distribution centers, both in Edwardsville, Ill. It already has two in the Louisville area employing a combined 6,000 workers, in Shepherdsville and Jeffersonville.
Worldwide, Amazon has 123 centers, including more than 50 in the U.S. alone. At the end of last year, it leased 118 million square feet of distribution and data centers, and owned another 6.8 million square feet. That’s equivalent to:
Led by the mammoth 612-room Omni, eight hotels are in the works for the Louisville area, The Courier-Journalsaid today, and if completed, they’ll add 1,500 more rooms at a total cost of $850 million. The Omni has started construction, and hopes to open by spring 2018.
But all those additional rooms may not be enough to satisfy demand once the Kentucky International Convention Center expansion is done; the center will close in mid-August for two years.
There are just under 15,000 hotel rooms in Jefferson County, and 18,670 in the metro area, including nearby Kentucky and Indiana counties. But compare that to other metros in the region that compete for convention and other big-meeting business:
The rich live longer everywhere, a report out today says. The poor? Not so much. In Louisville, average life expectancy is 77.9 years — below the U.S. average, according to The New York Times; check out the cool city-by-city map.