Kent Oyler named CEO of Greater Louisville Inc. - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kent Oyler named CEO of Greater Louisville Inc.

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Kent Oyler Kent Oyler
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville entrepreneur Kent Oyler has been named the next president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce.

Oyler, 56, has helped start nearly 20 businesses in his career and most recently served as managing partner of OPM Services, a Louisville company that invests in start-up ventures and performs back-office services like accounting for early-stage companies.

“We wanted someone who understood business -- who had been in business. Kent fit that bill perfectly,” said GLI board chairman Kerry Stemler, president of K.M. Stemler Co. in southern Indiana.

Oyler replaces Craig Richard, who resigned in February after only about a year leading GLI. Richard had come to Louisville from the No. 2 post at the chamber in Houston.

Oyler, who for many years has been his own boss by running companies, now finds himself working for a $250,000 annual salary.

“It’s been a little while since I have had to set the alarm and show up for a regular day, but I am up for that,” he said in an interview at his new offices on Wednesday.

Oyler said his experience helping entrepreneurial companies in Louisville makes the GLI job a natural fit.

“This is very much entrepreneurial. I think it is fitting exactly with what I like to do, which is being very creative -- being out with the business community,” Oyler said.

GLI leaders hope Oyler will bring stability and growth to an organization that has gone through an upheaval in the last year.

Last fall, budget problems led Richard to cut several high-ranking jobs, such as GLI’s vice president of public affairs, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer.

Eileen Pickett, GLI’s former vice president of economic development, has led the chamber on an interim basis since Richard’s early departure in February.

Last month, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer decided to stop paying GLI about $1 million a year to attract companies to relocate or expand in Louisville Metro. Fischer is moving those functions to the city’s own economic development department.

Stemler said GLI was not “the right place at the right time” for Richard. The organization set out to find a new leader with a “connection and commitment to the community we all live in.”

One of Oyler’s goals will be to shore up and grow GLI’s roster of dues-paying businesses, which is down significantly from its pre-recession peak.

“I think we can be more transparent, more accountable, more valuable to the membership,” he said.

Rich Gimmel, owner of Louisville manufacturer Atlas Machine & Supply, said his company dropped its GLI membership about three years ago because “there was no value” in it.

But Gimmel said Wednesday that the appointment of Oyler – who has a “proven track record” and “knows how to create jobs” – gives him newfound optimism for GLI.

“I think this is great; you’ve got a guy who has a passion for Louisville; he is not a professional chamber-hopper,” Gimmel said.

Oyler's bachelors and master of business administration degree each came from the University of Louisville.

According to OPM’s website, he “scored a nice hit” with the 1999 initial public offering of High Speed Access Corp., which he co-founded.

A pioneer in helping cable companies deliver broadband Internet to their TV subscribers in the late 1990s, High Speed Access raised almost $200 million in its initial stock sale, according to 2002 article in Business First.

But the company’s fortunes quickly faded as cable providers decided to invest in beefing up their own Internet services instead of outsourcing.

Oyler stepped down as the company’s CEO in 2000. Charter Communications bought some of the company’s assets in 2001, and the rest of the business was dissolved shortly after that.

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