Make us your home page

At Kentuckian reunion, talk of home, winter

TAMPA — The Pied Piper of Kentucky came to town Thursday night, looking for white-collar workers.

The piper brought whiskey from his home state: Maker's Mark, among other brands, served in short glasses drizzled with red wax. It was free to guests of legal age. You could also have pita points, and marinated olives, and Five Onion Dip.

The piper was Jerry Abramson, mayor of Louisville, a city named for a French king. This was his seventh such cross-country venture in search of the Louisville Diaspora. He stood in the foyer at the Renaissance Hotel, in the glow of electric chandeliers, surrounded by hundreds of former Kentucky residents he had come to bring home.

"It's called being aggressive," he said with an air of good cheer.

Louisville is traditionally known as the home of Colonel Sanders, Hunter Thompson and the guy who invented chewing gum. It was once the world's largest producer of synthetic rubber. It is responsible for 90 percent of the nation's disco balls. It has a baseball bat made from 34 tons of steel. Over the years, some people have fled.

Some of them trickled down here. Census figures say that from 1995 to 2000, for example, 467 people who had lived in Jefferson County (which contains Louisville) wound up in Hills­borough County (which contains Tampa). That may not sound like a lot, but Abramson said the Tampa Bay area has one of the University of Louisville's largest alumni groups.

Now the city is trying to get its home-grown professionals back.

It has shorter commute times than Tampa and a lower cost of living. It has a revitalized downtown and a rejuvenated waterfront. It has, according to Abramson, more locally owned restaurants per capita than any American city besides New York.

At first glance, Louisville may not look like a threat. According to the Internal Revenue Service, only 52 tax filers left the Tampa area for the Louisville area from 2006 to 2007, bringing with them only $2.1-million in income. When people leave here, they tend to prefer Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Houston. Louisville is nowhere near the top.

Then again, the metro area is having trouble keeping its residents. From 2006 to 2007, St. Petersburg and Clearwater were among the highest in the nation in population loss.

Blair Jesse, a 44-year-old commercial loan administrator who lives in St. Petersburg, stood by the bar, near a sign that said Louisville Takes Bourbon Urban, and complained about sagging home values and rising insurance costs.

"My wife and I are considering moving to Louisville," he said.

Then he remembered the cold, the windshield ice, the snow shovels, and he said those things alone might be enough to keep him away.

Ice clinked in the glasses, and Abramson worked the room. But outside, a few miles to the west, the sapphire-green tide rolled across the sand.

Thomas Lake can be reached at or (813) 226-3416.

At Kentuckian reunion, talk of home, winter 07/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2008 9:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New stores coming to Tyrone Square Mall, like Bath & Body Works


    Tyrone Square Mall will welcome a half dozen new stores, like Bath & Body Works and MidiCi's The Neapolitan Pizza Company, this summer.

  2. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach


    Target Corp. has agreed to pay Florida $928,963 out of a newly-announced $18.5 million settlement over a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  3. Gov. Rick Scott's family history of alcohol abuse could decide 'liquor wall' bill


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott must decide Wednesday whether to let Walmart and other big-box stores sell liquor, and he says a factor in his decision is the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering a veto of a bill that would allow Walmart, Target and other big box retail stores to sell liquor. [Andres Leiva | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. As St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit broadens its business, it shrinks its name to Jabil


    St. Petersburg's Fortune 500 company, Jabil Circuit, informally tossed aside the "Circuit" in its name some time ago. That's because circuit board manufacturing, the company's core business for decades, has been squeezed out by a broader business agenda ranging from consumer packaging to supply chain management.

    Jabil Circuit informally dropped "Circuit" from its marketing material and signage, like at its St. Petersburg headquarters, years ago. Now it's official.
[Times file photo]
  5. Kahwa Coffee to open second drive-thru store in St. Petersburg


    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.

    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.
[Times file photo]