Ky. economic outlook conference: State economy creeping back after recession

Kentucky’s economy is edging back to prosperity from the 2008 recession, but cautiously.

“I’m kind of preaching guarded optimism,” said Christopher Bollinger, director of the Center of Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky Tuesday.

Bollinger’s viewpoint was the overall conclusion shared at the 27th annual Economic Outlook Conference in downtown Lexington.

This year’s conference added a new Lexington-focused event: a presentation by Fayette County Property Valuation Administrator David O’Neill that included information about areas with the greatest shift in sale prices — positive and negative — as well as areas that are prime targets for gentrification and neighborhoods to watch.

The areas where property prices increased include the 100 and 200 blocks of Kenwick, Shadeland, Brookhaven and Glendover. The neighborhoods where prices declined include Cardinal Valley, the Georgetown corridor and Radcliffe/Green Acres.

The Loudon Avenue area, near north end and Georgetown corridor are all considered areas for current and future gentrification, O’Neill said.

O’Neill’s neighborhoods to watch — either because of their quality housing stock or prime location — are Melrose (between Manchester, Sourth Forbes and Main Street), Indian Hills/Stonewall estates and Eastland Parkway. The Eastland Parkway neighborhood has lots of mid-century modern homes with big lots, he noted.

Lexington’s residential sales volume bottomed out in 2011, but has risen back to a level that is somewhat below that of 2007, he said. The city’s high-water sales mark was 8,000 in 2005.

Now, he said, the median house price is $160,000, with a lot size of about a fifth of an acre.

About 300 area business leaders attended the half-day presentation at the Lexington Convention Center. Bollinger noted that Kentucky’s employment numbers “tanked” during the recession that began in 2008 and have seen steady increases since.

Still, he said, “We didn’t have the abnormal period of fast growth coming out of this recession.”

Kentucky’s gross domestic product continues to rise and the state’s employment continues to grow, but Bollinger is concerned that employment will grow slowly.

However, Lexington is the bright spot among Kentucky cities, Bollinger said, particularly in the “Golden Triangle” that includes Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati. That’s because Lexington, home of the University of Kentucky, Transylvania University and the Bluegrass Community and Technical College, has more residents with bachelors degrees than other areas of the state.

Jenny Minier, an economics professor at the University of Kentucky, discussed the international effects on Kentucky’s economy saying top Kentucky exports include aircraft and parts, autos and parts, silicones, glass and whiskies. The top destination for Kentucky imports? Canada.

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman