Louisville, Ky., hires first-ever 'director of innovation'

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The City of Louisville, Kentucky, has hired its first-ever director of innovation to expand its civic technology-focused efforts alongside its current chief of innovation and technology, Grace Simrall.

Eric Burnette (LinkedIn)

Eric Burnette, who has worked as both an environmental adviser for the City of Louisville and most recently as a senior policy adviser for the city’s economic development agency, Louisville Forward, announced his new role on LinkedIn last week with the stated goal of building a “better, more equitable” Louisville in 2022. As a policy adviser at Louisville Forward from 2018 to 2022, Burnette led efforts on a “Future of Work” initiative in which the city partnered with Microsoft to offer residents digital skills training, such as data analysis and software engineering.

That initiative, which is designed to offer workforce training in traditionally underrepresented communities, will still be led by Burnette in his new role as innovation director, he wrote. Burnette also wrote that he plans to oversee the city’s digital inclusion efforts, as well as foundation and grant initiatives for the mayor’s office. Burnette was not immediately available to comment further on his new role.

Burnette is also expected to work closely with Simrall on how to spend the city’s federal stimulus and infrastructure funding awarded in 2021. Simrall told StateScoop in September the city plans to prioritize broadband expansion efforts, noting that certain parts of the 617,000-person city still didn’t have reliable at-home internet access.

Louisville is currently vying for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, which would provide the city $50 million in innovation funding. Burnette told The Business Journals this week that he and Simrall plan to announce new innovation partnerships in the coming months and that he wants to take advantage of all the grants he possibly can in the new role.

“I really want to win all the money we can for the city,” Burnette told KY Inno. “I want to broker as many partnerships as we can. I want to get as much federal money and win as many of these competitive grants as we can.”

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Chief Innovation Officer, Director of Innovation, Grace Simrall, Innovation, Louisville
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