Mayors repeat regional sales pitch in Lexington

Large crowd at luncheon event

teblen@herald-leader.comAugust 18, 2011 

Mayors Greg Fischer of Louisville and Jim Gray of Lexington appeared Wednesday at a Commerce Lexington luncheon, which saw what organizers called a record crowd, to give an encore pitch for the regional economic development initiative they announced last week in Louisville.

The Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement is a project they are putting together with business groups in both cities and help from Brookings, the Washington, D.C., think tank. Brookings chose Central Kentucky as one of seven regions around the country it will work with to develop a comprehensive business plan for economic development.

The effort will include 27 counties in, around and between Louisville and Lexington and focus on creating new jobs in advanced manufacturing, especially for export markets. That already is a strength in the region, with more than 100,000 workers in automotive manufacturing alone.

Lexington sports entrepreneur Jim Host, who has served in state government and most recently led construction of the KFC Yum Center in downtown Louisville, will head a group of 15 to 20 Kentuckians who will oversee the effort.

BEAM was unveiled last week to 1,200 people at a luncheon organized by Leadership Louisville.

The two new mayors, both Democrats with successful business backgrounds, said they see this business plan approach as the best way to further economic cooperation between Kentucky's two largest cities. Gray and Fischer said the cities too long have focused on the college sports rivalries and differences that separate them rather than resources they share.

"This ain't really about Lexington and Louisville," Gray told the enthusiastic crowd. "It is about the strength of these regions working together."

"Teamwork is how we're going to get ahead, not by competing with each other," Fischer added. "It's all about jobs for Kentucky."

The effort will be funded with $250,000 in private contributions, most of which has been raised from Kentucky businesses. Brookings will donate about $750,000 worth of research and strategic services. The Bloomberg Foundation of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $4.8 million to help with this effort and improving city government in Louisville, Fischer said.

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