New economic development strategy for Lexington in the works

Council briefed on study's second phase

bfortune@herald-leader.comNovember 17, 2010 

Urban County Council members were briefed Tuesday on the progress of a $150,000 economic development strategy being developed for Lexington.

The second phase of the study, being conducted by Angelou Economic of Austin and jointly funded by Commerce Lexington and the city, focuses on industries the city should target, including tourism, animal science, life sciences, software, Internet technology and clean energy.

Vice Mayor Jim Gray said it has been a decade since a similar analysis of the city's assets and challenges was performed.

"This helps us understand where we are today and the challenges ahead," said Gray, who won election in the mayor's race earlier this month over incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry.

Gina Greathouse, senior vice president with Commerce Lexington, declined to detail the latest piece of the strategy, saying 25 steering committee members must review the information and correct any factual errors before the report is made public.

A draft of the second portion of the study is expected to be posted at www.angeloueconomics.com/lexington/surveys.html by the end of the month. The entire report, which was commissioned in May, is expected to be rolled out in mid-February.

In August, a market assessment was completed that looked at Lexington's strengths and weaknesses, how the area had been affected by the downturn in the economy, population trends and other business climate issues.

To gauge where Lexington stands, its performance on a variety of measures is being compared to benchmark cities, including Knoxville; Tucson, Ariz.; Boulder, Colo.; and Columbia, S.C.

Councilman Doug Martin objected to the list of comparable cities.

"These are not cities we aspire to be," Martin said. "We're not in the desert."

Greathouse said they were selected because of their similarities to Lexington, including population and the fact that all are university towns.

Councilman Kevin Stinnett, a member of the steering committee, said just the process of gathering economic information has engaged the community.

"Already it's done a lot of good," Stinnett said. "It has got a lot of people talking about economic development like never before."

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