Profile: Louisville, Kentucky

Learn about Louisville, Kentucky's economy, history and more.
By: Robin Garr
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Population: 557,000 (city); 1.4 million (metro)

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6b

Major Airport: Louisville International-Standiford Airport

Companies With a Major Presence: United Parcel Service, Ford Motor Co., General Electric, Humana, Yum! Brands, Papa John's Pizza and Brown-Forman.

Located at the Falls of the Ohio, Louisville was founded in 1778, during the Revolutionary War, when Col. George Rogers Clark established an encampment here.

Louisville quickly grew into one of the young nation's major cities, the natural barrier of the Falls of the Ohio making it a shipping port for riverboat traffic and giving the young city a curious combination of cultural roots that reached from the urban Northeast to New Orleans. Although the Kentucky city was once identified as "Gateway to the South," Louisville remains an intriguing mix of Southern and Midwestern, with a touch of the Northeastern Rust Belt.

For much of the 20th century, Louisville’s economy was based on heavy industry such as appliance and automotive manufacturing and petrochemicals. But in recent years, medical, research and service industries have replaced the city’s smokestack industry as the driver of the local economy. The city's leading employer is now UPS, which has a major hub here.

Louisville's once-thriving tobacco industry is gone, and its famous bourbon distilleries have moved to rural areas. But a diverse economy has kept the city fairly recessionproof, and its vibrant historic neighborhoods, history of racial tolerance (Louisville schools were integrated in 1955, a year after Brown v. Board of Education) and relatively low-cost housing make the city a popular place to live.

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