Have you ever given much thought to what connects us in the Bluegrass?
Historically, the Kentucky River connected the region through commerce and transportation. Then the railroads and major roads linked us.
Our love of University of Kentucky sports, horses, racing, bourbon and our beautiful farms connects us. Respect for our precious Bluegrass soils has always connected us as has pride in our natural resources, scenic beauty, cultural and historical sites.
Bluegrass Tomorrow has recently unveiled its new vision statement: We Connect the Region. From its inception in 1989, Bluegrass Tomorrow has been developing partnerships among public, private and corporate citizens of Central Kentucky.
The organization created the Bluegrass Conservancy and was the original think tank for the Purchase of Development Rights program. It also helped develop the partnerships needed for a successful Paris Pike project, among many other milestones.
Bluegrass Tomorrow laid the foundation for partnership and connectivity in the region through two recent studies: the 2006-07 Bluegrass Regional Economic Analysis, which studied the regional economy and revenue system; and, in 2008-09, the Bluegrass Innovision 2018 Report, which studied trends, data points and innovations in 22 similar metro regions with flagship universities.
This led to the "Top 10 Innovations to Advance The Bluegrass," developed by more than 1,500 central Kentuckians.
Bluegrass Tomorrow, with its quality of life mission, is well suited to advance five of those innovations. They already have widespread support and are gaining great momentum in the region by developing the following connections and partnerships:
■ Regional Higher Education Collaboration uniting 14 colleges and universities.
In partnership with the Bluegrass Area Development District and co-chaired by President Doug Whitlock of Eastern Kentucky University and President Augusta A. Julian of Bluegrass Community and Technical College, this group is meeting with the Council on Postsecondary Education to explore opportunities to move the region forward educationally and economically.
One of the focal points in these early discussions is the exciting concept of a collaborative "Oxford University Center" model in the Bluegrass where resources, degree programs, faculty and facilities are shared among the universities; more dual-credit programs in high schools are developed, leading to more middle college and early college opportunities.
■ Conservation Corridors Initiative is promoting the connectivity of trails and preserves, the protection of scenic view-sheds and a new "Best Views in the Bluegrass" list, to be released in the late summer.
This committee is also pursuing a Kentucky River trail system connecting preserves along the river, as well as development of equine trail systems. Partners include the Bluegrass ADD, Fayette Alliance, the Bluegrass Conservancy, Kentucky Riverkeepers, regional county and city governments and many more.
■ Regional Equine/Agricultural Initiative is working to protect and promote our precious Bluegrass soils and signature industry, and develop our next great land conservation program.
This is being supported by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Farm Bureau, regional agriculture extension agents, the UK Equine Initiative and many other equine and agriculture groups.
An agritourism summit is being planned to develop a Napa Valley tourism scenario in the Bluegrass focusing on horses, bourbon, wines and more, in cooperation with the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau and state tourism and agriculture officials.
■ Bluegrass Greenvision, an energy efficiency, environment and sustainability initiative. There are "green" strategic planners in 18 counties in partnership with Bluegrass PRIDE, the UK Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment, the Bluegrass ADD, Kentucky Utilities, Columbia Gas and other utility companies.
5. Regional Young Professionals/Diversity Council, focuses on developing creative talent; its work includes an annual Create Bluegrass Conference, Bluegrass 101 tours, regional expansion of broadband and WiFi and developing a minority leadership program.
It works in partnership with United Way Young Leaders, Rotaract, In2Lex, LeXenomics, Urban League Young Professionals and regional chambers of commerce.
Bluegrass Tomorrow is proud to take a leadership role in making the connections to make the Bluegrass a better place to live and work.
So the next time you're asked, "What connects the Bluegrass?" answer "Bluegrass Tomorrow."