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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Forward, Metro government’s economic development arm, will lay off five employees whose jobs are focused on helping small businesses, as the agency absorbs its share of city-wide budget cuts for the fiscal year that started July 1.

The five cuts will reduce Louisville Forward’s Small Business Development team from seven employees to two, according to Caitlin Bowling, a spokeswoman for Louisville Forward.

The department’s Farm to Table program manager was laid off along with the elimination of that program effective June 30, while four other Small Business Development employees were told last week that their jobs will end in August.

“We will continue to work hard to support people who want to start or grow a small business in Louisville, though our work will be hamstrung by these cuts,” Rebecca Fleischaker, director of the Department of Economic Development within Louisville Forward, said in a written statement. “The department will have to significantly reduce its level of activity in business planning, financial assistance, referrals to other small business resources partners, assistance with permitting and licensing, and general business counseling.”

Fleischaker said the Small Business Development team works with more than 300 “existing or emerging” small businesses per year.

“Small businesses comprise the majority of firms operating in the Louisville (metro area), and we believe that investment in economic development work at all levels is an investment in the future prosperity of the city as a whole,” she said.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed budget cut the Economic Development Department within Louisville Forward by about 9 percent, from $27.5 million to $25 million. Bowling said the Metro Council cut about $300,000 more in the final version of the budget approved late last month.

UPDATE, July 17: Bowling said the "operating budget" for economic development is actually much smaller than $25 million when agencies like Air Pollution Control District and KentuckianaWorks are stripped out. The budget that includes the small business workers is $2.4 million in the current fiscal year, down from $3.4 million in the year ended June 30, she said.  

Fischer earlier this year pushed for tripling Metro government’s tax homeowner’s and other insurance policies to offset rising required contributions to state-run pension plans for government employees, but the Metro Council refused to go along with the tax hike.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.