LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The five biggest donors to Greater Louisville Inc. in 2012 – KentuckyOne Health, LG&E, Chase, PNC and Brown-Forman – gave at least $100,000 each, according to new information from the chamber.

Meanwhile, Louisville's biggest private employer, UPS, gave $50,000. And Ford Motor Co., which got GLI's help in securing a $240 million economic development award in 2010, gave a relatively paltry $25,000.

While GLI's top supporters are no secret – the chamber names them in tiers on its website – it's only now that the organization has released an itemized list showing specific contribution levels.


Though a year dated, the list provides a new window into the finances of the chamber, which have come under increased scrutiny after CEO Craig Richard laid off several senior staff members in September to slash expenses. As WDRB reported Friday, the chamber ran an $890,364 deficit in 2012, the year before Richard took over.

GLI not only represents businesses, but receives a significant amount of taxpayer support from local government entities like Louisville Metro in connection with its lead role in regional economic development.

The chamber sent the list of its 2012 contributors to WDRB.com by accident on Friday as part of its annual tax return. WDRB.com had asked GLI for the tax return for several weeks before Friday's filing deadline with the IRS.

Tax-exempt organizations such as GLI are required to give their annual returns to any member of the public, but not to disclose the names and addresses of contributors. That information, while filed with the IRS as part of the return, can be redacted from public disclosure.

The list received by WDRB includes 83 companies, colleges and government entities that gave more $5,000 each in 2012 for a combined $2.3 million, mostly in cash but some in-kind donations, such as advertising space. Access the full list here.

These contributions represent about 30 percent of GLI's $7.6 million in revenue in 2012. The chamber's other sources of funds include smaller donations not listed in the tax return, about $1 million annually from Metro government for economic development and event sponsorships and registration fees.

GLI spokeswoman Susan Overton said the donor information does not give a complete picture of contributions from member companies.

Company employees donate their time to serve on committees and give speeches, and members sometimes buy advertising in GLI publications, a source of revenue not booked as a donation, she said.

"Every member contributes in different ways," Overton said. "We are very proud and appreciative of all the area businesses who contribute."

Biggest donors

GLI's single biggest contributor in 2012 was KentuckyOne Health, which gave $166,000, according to the list. The next biggest contributors were LG&E, the local electric and gas utility owned by Pennsylvania-based PPL Corp. ($131,250); Brown-Forman Corp. ($105,000); Chase ($100,000) and PNC ($100,000).

The donor list shows some disparities in contributions among similar companies.

KentuckyOne, for example, gave far more than its competitors, Norton Healthcare ($55,125) and Baptist Health ($6,500), according to the list.

KentuckyOne is the local affiliate of Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives. It was formed in 2012 by the merger of Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's Healthcare in Louisville with CHI's Saint Joseph Health System in Lexington. KentuckyOne also has operational control of most of University Hospital and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center through a partnership with the University of Louisville. A KentuckyOne spokeswoman offered no comment Wednesday.

Ford's $25,000 contribution is dwarfed by other big companies with thousands of local employees.

In 2010, GLI helped Ford get one of the biggest economic development incentives ever awarded in Jefferson County – a promise of up to $240 million in taxpayer dollars over 10 years in exchange for an $800 million investment in Ford's two Louisville plants.

Overton said GLI focuses its economic development resources on attracting good-paying jobs, regardless of how much the company being assisted might contribute to the chamber. GLI's contract with Metro government is to help attract company relocations and expansions in Louisville.

In a statement, Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said Ford was a charter member of GLI in 1950 and "remains committed to the Commonwealth and the GLI." The statement didn't directly address the company's contribution level.

It's unclear how much Ford, or any other company, gave to GLI in prior years, as only the 2012 list has been made available.

UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot declined to discuss the company's contribution to GLI, which is listed as $50,000 in 2012. "UPS continues to work closely with GLI to attract business to Kentuckiana. We are proud of our role as an economic engine for the region," Mangeot said.

GLI's website lists UPS as a member of its "CEO Council," with donations of $100,000 or more, indicating UPS may have upped its contribution this year.

Despite GLI's regional focus, the list shows only two contributions from Southern Indiana companies, both in New Albany: $7,568 from Your Community Bank and $5,000 from Rodefer Moss & Co., an accounting firm.

GLI is working on an updated economic development strategy for the metro area, including Southern Indiana, and GLI's current board chairman, Kerry Stemler, owns a general construction contracting company in New Albany. Southern Indiana businesses are also represented by a separate chamber, One Southern Indiana.

The list also shows donations to GLI by several taxpayer-funded entities: the Kentucky State Fair Board ($75,000); the Louisville Water Co. ($50,000); the city of Jeffersontown ($50,000); the University of Louisville ($22,750); Jefferson Community & Technical College ($6,000) and the Transit Authority of the River City ($5,215).

GLI lost money in 2012

As WDRB reported Friday, the disclosure of GLI's 2012 tax return sheds new light on financial challenges that preceded Richard's decision in September to slash expenses.

The return shows GLI spent $890,364 more than it took in during 2012 as the chamber's revenue declined to $7.6 million, from $8.4 million in 2011. The chamber ended 2012 with $676,573 in net assets, down from $1.6 million at the start of the year.

The return covers a year in which the organization was under interim leadership. In 2011 -- the last year under former CEO Joe Reagan -- GLI was barely in the red with a $68,570 deficit. GLI's 2013 financial disclosure won't become public until Nov. 15, 2014, unless the chamber files it sooner.

Overton said the finances of GLI's charitable foundation, the Greater Louisville Foundation, must be considered to get a full picture of the organization's financial health. The foundation receives grant monies that are tied to specific purposes, like education, and thus are more restricted in use than donations to the chamber itself.

In 2010, for example, the foundation received $800,000 from the Lumina Foundation to help adults in the region complete college degrees.

The Greater Louisville Foundation took in about $1 million in 2012 and had a $533,000 surplus, according to its disclosure, also filed Friday. It ended the year with $1.6 million in net assets, up from $1.2 million the year before.

As given to WDRB, the foundation's return includes a list of its top donors over the 2008 to 2012 period. Those donors were: The Lumina Foundation ($800,000); the UPS Foundation ($600,000); the Community Foundation ($508,963); the Brown-Forman Foundation ($267,000); the Humana Foundation ($220,000); the JP Morgan Chase Foundation ($205,000); Chase ($150,000); the CE&S Foundation ($120,000); and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky ($85,000).

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