Lexington’s Economic Future

UPDATE:  You can read the Gray Transition Team Reports here (including the ones I worked on Quality of Life work team 2 and Environmental Quality)

Tom Eblen had an article today in the HL about the work of the economic development transition teams.  Not much exciting to move our economy forward – “professional marketing campaign and economic incentives,” “…streamlined bureaucracy…,”  “selling and marketing…”

That kind of talk has been common around here for 20 years.  While no one doubts the importance of good jobs to the health of our city government – and much of the quality of life funded through it – it’s such a shame that we can’t get any more creative.

We need bold thinking.  We need less reliance on our vaunted but often vacuous “quality of life” to sell ourselves.

Unless such a solid writer as Eblen missed the good parts, the pedestrian recommendations that he references really have no ability to inspire anyone – neither ourselves nor others.  Mayor Gray could be a great force for selling this city, but only if we have something real to sell. Simply saying “come here and bring jobs ‘cause we got a great quality of life” ain’t going to do it. It hasn’t yet, has it?  (And Lord forbid that anyone would ever say “bring jobs here cause we are really desperate” – that would just be a race to the bottom.)

There are clues for us. Other cities around the country are moving to where the future will be:  energy, climate, and localism.

Metropolis Magazine this month ran a story about five US mayors and their strategy for economic improvement.

The best quote in the story comes from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson about his vision for his city:  “My vision is to turn Sacramento into the Emerald Valley—the greenest region in the country and the hub for green technology.  This is the place where people will come to be at the forefront of the green movement.”

Read that again:  “This is the place where people will come to be at the forefront of the green movement.”

THAT is a vision. THAT can be explained.  THAT can be marketed and sold.

Here’s the Mayor of Houston’s vision:  “Houston calls itself the oil capital of the world; Parker wants to it to become the renewable-energy capital.”

THAT is a vision. THAT can be explained.  THAT can be marketed and sold.

The great thing about Lexington is that if we dared have a big vision, we could make it happen. Lexington has fantastic assets:   we are small, educated, safe, pleasant.

We could, if we dared, bring in people from around the world – drawn here by our commitment to clean energy, climate protection, and localization.  We would live this way, and we would work businesses this way.  UK and Transy, and all our other institutions could support each of these areas.

We could become a welcoming “mothership,” that nourishes and celebrates talent and passion in each of these areas.  Businesses would be started that would not only benefit the city and region, but that could be transported across the world.  Success would breed continual success here.

This is the way the world is headed anyway. Why ignore it, and then spend the middle years of this century fighting for the scraps left over by the cities that got there first?

“Lexington will be the home for the green and local movement.”

THAT is a vision. THAT can be explained.  THAT can be marketed and sold.   That’s the path to real “growth.”



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4 responses to “Lexington’s Economic Future

  1. None of that kind of vision came out during the mayors speech today. Some vague references to the need to re-brand ourselves but making Lexington into something more salable was entirely missing. This may be a “Fresh Start” but is there a refreshed vision?

  2. Tim

    Steve, I browsed the reports, especially the quality of life ones. Is there any indication that Gray will actually use those reports to guide his administration–especially those points about regionalism/localism, revamped planning, and environmental initiatives?

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