Play to win, Lexington. That means develop the attitude that you deserve to win, believe you can win and demand excellence.
That was advice Thursday from Rebecca Ryan, a consultant from Madison, Wis. "God has dealt you a very strong hand," she said, pointing to Lexington's natural beauty, educated work force and more diversity than many people realize. She described the city as "on the verge" of a revitalized, energized identity.
"You don't need a mountain, or more sunshine or two lakes like Madison" to be a world-class city, Ryan said.
Being world-class, the consultant said, is not as much about place as the attitudes of people who live there.
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Ryan was hired by Commerce Lexington to come here as an extension of Commerce Lexington's visit to Madison in May.
While here, she has walked, cycled and driven through the city and met individually and in groups with young professionals, business and education leaders and entrepreneurs.
One thing the city needs more of, Ryan said, are "stroll districts" like pedestrian-friendly Chevy Chase: areas that create a sense of place, where people can walk, shop in small retail stores, stop in coffee houses like Third Street Stuff and see people they know.
That doesn't mean building high rises, but constructing buildings on "a human scale," she said. Converting one-way streets to two-way is another move Ryan recommends.
Ryan said Lexington is quick to criticize and find fault with itself. The city wrestles with remnants of an inferiority complex, worried that "everyone is trash talking about it," she told an audience at Buster's Billiards & Backroom in the Old Tarr Distillery on Manchester Street.
Ryan urged, "Leave the naysayers behind."
She sees the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games as presenting the city an opportunity to tackle projects it otherwise might have put off, like the overhaul of South Limestone, Newtown Pike extension and a new arena at the Kentucky Horse Park.
"The future value of the WEG games will be for the people who live here 24/7, and 365 days a year," she said.
Lexington is one of the few cities Ryan has visited in the last 14 months with "so many cranes, so much street work going on," she said. The construction is all the more noticeable because of the difficult economic times.
City leaders need to turn their attention to preparing a younger generation for leadership, Ryan said.
And the next generation "has the responsibility to listen and transform the city," she said.