By Marie Bradby

Why We Chose Louisville
They have seen the world. They have successful careers. They could live anywhere. They chose Louisville. Here are three transplants — tops in their fields — who are making Louisville their forever home and stitching themselves into the quilt of life that is the Bluegrass. This is Lisa Zangari’s Story.

From New York to the Heart of this City
For 12 years, Lisa Zangari traveled the world (Europe, Asia, and North, South, and Latin America) for her job as an innovation consultant based in New York City. She loved living there. Then she found love.

She worked with large corporations such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, and Hasbro and for ?What If!, a consulting firm, helping companies grow by coming up with strategies for new product development, new experiences, new business models, and training leaders to be more innovative.

“A lot of startups like Facebook and Google have innovation in their blood,” Lisa says. “However, the corporations that have been around for a long time are built to be highly efficient, not innovative. Because the world changes globally and is more competitive, innovation has to be a core part. They need someone from the outside with fresh eyes. It’s hard to see how to make things better if it’s your everyday work.”

Lisa Zangari quickly felt a sense of belonging after she moved to Louisville. Photos: Trina Whalin

Why Louisville
Along came Nick Zangari. He also had been living in and loving New York City.
“The big thing that was a catalyst was love. We’ve only been married for 18 months. He was born and raised in Louisville, but hadn’t lived there for 16 years. We decided we would get married and start a family.”

Nick kept bringing her down to Louisville and talking about raising a family here. After about four or five trips, the River City began to grow on Lisa, who is a native of St. Louis.

“He was the one who initiated that thought. The more I saw and met his family, I tended to agree. We had no family close on either side in New York, and the thought of raising kids in that city can seem exciting and cool. But it would be tough. “The hardest part was walking away from two careers that we both loved. We were making a life choice.”

She adapted right away. “I have felt a sense of belonging much more quickly in Louisville,” Lisa says. “This city still feels innovative, and that is what made it attractive to me. And I work fewer hours. There is more work/life balance, more free time, more connection to the community. The pace is dramatically different, and it is really lovely.”

“The biggest draw is all his family is here, and they are champions of Louisville.” Nick is vice president of Treasury, Investor Relations, and Risk Management for Churchill Downs Inc. “The prospect of living downtown was a pretty big deal to me. We live on Main Street in the Fleur de Lis building. What’s so amazing about downtown is we feel like we are in the heart of the city. I know other people don’t feel that way. I work in west Louisville, up and down Main Street; we walk across the bridge to Jeffersonville, walk to NuLu.

“We love the waterfront. We ride our bikes. There is energy downtown. It’s fascinating and still a little bit raw and an important part of the city. It feels like we are part of something.”

What she’s doing now
As director of learning for the Leadership Louisville Center, she leads the strategy and development of the Leadership Green Room for mid-level or emerging leaders and the newly launched Executive Green Room for senior leaders. “I do strategy consulting, like board retreats and growth strategy,” Lisa says.

“What competences do corporations need? What thinkers can develop content? We study leadership on a global scale. Then we talk to local businesses and try to marry the two and create the next big thing.

“In the Leadership Green Room we’re defining leadership broadly. We have individuals who may not have the positional authority or the title, but they are a leader in the community. It’s for all levels of leaders. We do everything from develop your personal brand and communications skills, to how to be an inclusive leader. We cover tons of different competences.

“In the Executive Green Room, we have the corporate athlete. We work on energy management — physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. How are you feeding all of those energies? How do you manage your energy as the corporate leader and in your personal life? The spiritual is what you can tap into in your hardest time. It’s a world class program that we brought to Louisville.
“Our leadership center has more programs than any other leadership center in the country.”

Read about what brought Kathy Stearman to Louisville in part one of this series.