TAMPA — Talk about slugging a town when it's down. Louisville — the town that gave the name to the famous slugger — is trying to poach Tampa's young talent by plying them with jobs and booze.
Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson has armed himself with Kentucky Derby tickets and top-shelf bourbon, and plans to throw a party Thursday night in Tampa inviting the city's young malcontents to "Move to Possibility City." The effort to recruit former Kentuckians to move back home comes in the wake of Forbes naming Tampa the worst major metro area in America for young professionals for the second straight year.
"Bring it on, Louisville," said Larry Richey, senior managing director of Cushman Wakefield in Tampa and chairman of the Committee of One Hundred, the Tampa chamber's economic development arm. "These young professionals will get free beer any chance they get, but I doubt many of them will move to Louisville."
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio was likewise confident. "I'm not worried," she said. "We've got a great city, a great quality of life. … We've got a wonderful atmosphere — so good that I don't need to throw parties in other cities to get people to move here."
"Beaches?" scoffed Louisville's Abramson. "We've got fall and winter. Seasons are important to some people."
The party, dubbed the "Louisville Reunion," is in its sixth year and has visited San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta. This is its first Florida visit. The invitations go to people with ties to Kentucky, like graduates of some of the state's colleges and universities. Abramson said the Tampa-St. Petersburg area is home to one of the largest alumni groups of the University of Louisville.
The party offers a tasting of Kentucky's signature liquor — bourbon. Maker's Mark, Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve will be on offer, as will door prizes to the 2009 Kentucky Derby and the 2008 Ryder Cup. Abramson bragged about his city's vibrant downtown, its "great public schools" and its many large employers, like Humana, Kindred Health Care and UPS Worldport's shipping hub. The city was just named among the "Best Towns of 2008" by Outdoor magazine and named "Most Livable City" by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Speaking of mayors, Abramson was asked if he'd given Tampa's mayor a heads-up. "Is your mayor still Greco?" he asked. (No, the mayor isn't still Dick Greco and, no, Abramson did not call ahead.)
"You think the used car business is tough, you should try being mayor," said Abramson, who has been mayor for 19 years. "It's very competitive."
Asjylyn Loder can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3117.