Saturday that Aetna has made a takeover proposal to Humana. 

Last month, Louisville economic development officials were on edge after the Wall Street Journal reported Humana – the city's most valuable corporate headquarters – is exploring a sale.

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, the top economic development official for Mayor Greg Fischer, said Humana is the “lifeblood” of the city's cluster of companies focusing on lifelong wellness and aging care, and many of the talented employees the company recruits to Louisville end up starting their own firms.

In a statement after news first broke that Humana was exploring a sale, Mayor Greg Fischer said: "Humana is a home-grown company with deep roots in our city -- economically, culturally and philanthropically. "My team is in regular contact with Humana executives and I have personally called Bruce Broussard, Humana's CEO, to make sure our city is doing everything possible for Humana to succeed and thrive in Louisville for a long time." 

Kent Oyler, chief executive of Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, said in a prepared statement that Humana is "one of the most important business and civic pillars in the community, and of course we will be following (the situation) closely.”

With more than 12,000 employees, Humana is the second biggest private employer – and the third biggest overall -- in the 12-county Louisville-Southern Indiana metro area, according to Louisville Metro budget, citing 2014 research by Louisville Business First. 
In his statement Friday, Oyler said Humana's local employment is now over 14,000.

Moreover, the company provides the high-paying, white-collar jobs that cities covet.

"They are by far the No. 1 headquarters in Kentucky and by far the biggest employer downtown," said Paul Coomes, a retired University of Louisville economist.

In a 2009 report, Coomes estimated that between Humana's direct employment (a little over 10,000 at the time) and the economic multiplier effects of its presence, the company was "responsible" for 28,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in wages and salaries in the Louisville region.

Coomes said there is no reason to assume that all of Humana's Louisville employment would disappear if the company is sold. In fact, the impact could be negligible, he said.

But the worst-case scenario -- a complete loss of the headquarters -- "would shake Louisville to the bones," Coomes said.

"Our economy would contract. You would see declines in local government revenue, you would see population flatten,  you would see housing prices flatten," he said.

Coomes added that, since nearly all of Humana's jobs are in the Central Business District, efforts to revitalize and build up downtown would take a huge hit.

"It would take them many years to recover from that," he said.

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