Stimulate US: Louisville gets housing, other projects, gussied up for the Derby

You know the saying: For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost.

It comes from a rhyme, where someone doesn't have a nail and can't fit a horse with a shoe (yeah, this wasn't exactly written yesterday), and because there was no horse, no rider went into battle, and the kingdom crumbles into a heap.

Well, after talking to Chris Poynter, the deputy director of the mayor's office in Louisville, Kentucky, I started thinking of that children's rhyme -- but in reverse. If you have a nail, you can build a city. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was passed February 17, 2009, is putting $4 billion into money for public housing, and I had read that Louisville had just announced some housing construction projects, and we at WalletPop have been curious about where the money's going. So I contacted the Louisville Metro Housing Authority and wound up talking to Poynter.
He said that their first two housing projects will be repainting a high rise, Dosker Manor, which is nicely named, but a very tall apartment building, from the photo I found. Senior citizens live here, and so some elderly citizens will get to live in a nicer place -- and as Poynter said, they'll be able to put some painters to work for a couple months.

Then they have a pipe-fitting project that should last several months. "There are a bunch of lead pipes at Beecher Terrace that need replacing, and so we're going to be putting in safe, new pipes," says Poynter. "And that's about 80 people right there that we'll be able to employ. We'll be contracting with a private contractor, and we'll be buying the pipe from a piping company."

It's a start.

Poynter is also excited about funding that the city received for the transit authority. "We'll be buying 10 new hybrid buses for $5.3 million. We don't make them in Louisville, but they do in California, and so that's a nice spin-off effect."

He says that $5.5 million will go into the construction of a completely "green" building for the Transit Authority of River City (Louisville's next to the Ohio River). So that, too, will require hiring builders, interior designers and presumably people who work in alternative energy.

"It's really easy to get lost in these numbers," says Poynter, "but the important thing is that we're putting people in Louisville back to work, and of course, those people will pay taxes, which in turn helps the city government, and then people have more money to go to restaurants and to shop and get what they need at Target or Wal-mart, or our cool, locally-owned stores."

So when, I asked, will they be able to start contracting workers to begin building these projects?

Companies should be able to start bidding for work in a few weeks, Poynter said. "We should be working on these projects this summer, certainly by Derby time." Poynter is referring to the world-famous Kentucky Derby, where horses, as well as nails and horseshoes, stimulate the local economy. "We measure everything by Derby time."

Read more WalletPop coverage of how the economic stimulus package affects you, right here.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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