Louisville Forward moves ahead with new co-leaders

December 18, 2020

Mayor Greg Fischer today announced new leadership for Louisville Forward, the city’s community and economic development agency, as former chief Mary Ellen Wiederwohl departs Louisville Metro Government after eight years of service.

Rebecca Fleischaker, a long tenured city leader and decorated economic developer will share leadership of the nationally recognized organization with experienced city planner and real estate development expert Jeff O’Brien. While serving as co-chiefs, Fleischaker will continue to lead the city’s Department of Economic Development and O’Brien will continue his leadership role at Develop Louisville. External agencies KentuckianaWorks, PARC, the city’s Air Pollution Control District and Department of Codes and Regulations will remain attached to Louisville Forward.

“Rebecca and Jeff are no strangers to Louisville or their roles,” said the Mayor. “Together, they will continue the innovative and award-winning tradition of combining economic development, talent attraction and community development under the Louisville Forward umbrella, offering a one stop shop for entities seeking to locate or grow in Louisville and presenting a unified solution for quality of place.”

Mayor Fischer created Louisville Forward in 2014 and named Wiederwohl its first chief. The forward-thinking economic development strategy combines into one entity all the city agencies dedicated to business development and the built environment. It has been named a Top Ten Economic Development Organization six times by Site Selection Magazine, the leading trade publication for economic development. In total, Louisville has experienced more than $17 billion in projects announced, constructed or underway since 2014.

“We created Louisville Forward to address the economy of the future and the evolving dynamic of job creation, and it’s become a national model,” said Wiederwohl. “I’m thrilled that the organization will now be led by two of its key leaders who helped build the team to where it is today and will take it to the next level.”

Fleischaker was named Director of Economic Development in 2019 after serving as Deputy Director since 2014. Under her direction, the Economic Development team has landed more than 6,400 new jobs and $2 billion in investment and managed business COVID response through the Small Business Development COVID-19 Relief Grant and Loan programs, helping nearly 900 small businesses. Fleischaker joined the city in 2000 and has served in various roles under the Armstrong, Abramson and Fischer administrations. She holds a Master of Public Administration from the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Kentucky and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Miami University.

“I am honored for the opportunity to lead this effective organization with Jeff and to continue leading Louisville’s economic development efforts with a topnotch team,” said Fleischaker. “Jeff and I recognize and are excited to continue the exponential value of a combined community and economic development agency and the service we can bring to our customers.”

O'Brien joined Louisville Metro Government in 2014 as an Urban Planner. He was appointed Director of Develop Louisville in 2018 and has led several major strategic and long-range initiatives for Louisville including Vision Louisville, Move Louisville and Plan 2040. O’Brien holds a Master's Degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography, both from the University of Iowa. He is a member of the American Planning Association, the American Institute of Certified Planners and the Urban Land Institute. 

“I am excited for this opportunity to work with Rebecca and continue Louisville Forward’s mission to support and enhance an equitable and vibrant community. We have many challenges that I am looking forward to addressing with our dedicated team,” said O’Brien.

The first day for co-chiefs Fleischaker and O’Brien will be Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.

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