Mayor names Handmaker to lead Louisville Accelerator Team

May 07, 2021

Mayor Greg Fischer announced today that civic and business leader Margaret Handmaker will serve as Executive Director of the new Louisville Accelerator Team, which will work with city agencies, Metro Council and other partners on priorities for the $430 million that the city is expecting from the federal American Rescue Plan.

Handmaker will work under contract to coordinate the drafting of equitable spending priorities and convene leaders among business, non-profit, foundation, faith and other partners to ensure that public and private sector priorities and plans are aligned, so the federal dollars are leveraged for maximum benefit.

“This one-time influx of federal funding provides us with both opportunity and responsibility,” Mayor Fischer said. “I appreciate Margaret’s willingness to step up again for her city. She has the experience in both the public and private sectors that we need as we plan, implement, and invest every dollar from the American Rescue Plan and other federal allocations with equity, efficiency, accountability, and transparency.”

Handmaker is President of Ellico, providing consultant services to large corporations and cities. Previously, she was a Worldwide Partner at Mercer Inc., where she had global responsibilities in various roles in New York, Chicago and Louisville. During her nearly 30-year career at Mercer, she took a leave of absence to serve as Secretary of Revenue for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. After leaving Mercer, she was Chief of International and Economic Development for Louisville Metro Government and later led the city’s Innovation Delivery Team, which was funded by a 3-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. She also served as the Interim Executive Director of Louisville’s Downtown Development Corporation, as well as What Works Cities, also funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Most recently, she was Interim Co-Executive Director of TARC. She’s also held numerous roles with the University of Louisville, including serving on the Board of Trustees and the founding Board of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute. She is a graduate of UofL’s Brandeis School of Law. 

As the Mayor said in his April 22 budget address, the city will lean on the work of its Build Back Better, Together (B3T) initiative, created in 2020 as the city’s framework for creating an equitable recovery from the pandemic, as well as the Mayor’s plan for Advancing Racial Equity, as guides for investing the federal funds coming from the American Rescue Plan.

In addition, he noted that Louisville is one of only six cities in America chosen as part of a cohort working with the Accelerator for America on best practices for managing this funding and implementing local programs.

Handmaker said all of that guidance will be critical as the city works to ensure that the federal funds are spent responsibly. The US Treasury Department is expected to provide guidelines early next week.

“The work of the Louisville Accelerator can have a tremendous, transformative impact on our city for years to come,” Handmaker said. “I’m honored to be a part.”

Both she and Mayor Fischer cautioned that while the $430 million expected in ARP funding is a great deal of money, it is not nearly enough to solve all the city’s challenges. For example, Metro has over $2 billion in deferred maintenance costs alone.

“So, it’s imperative that we are thoughtful in determining the best way to leverage this highly unique opportunity” to address critical priorities with a racial equity lens in areas like education, workforce development, public safety, broadband, and climate, as well as key infrastructure projects, the Mayor said – “to take ideas we once reserved for some day and turn them into reality now.”

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