Gray, Newberry describe strategies to attract and keep young professionals

Questions to mayoral candidates Jim Newberry and Jim Gray on Monday night dealt in large part with strategies for creating jobs to attract young professionals and ways to make Lexington more appealing to keep those young professional in the city.

Gray and Newberry were the only candidates to attend a mayoral forum sponsored by the Lexington Young Professionals Association held at the Crowne Plaza Campbell House.

Teresa Isaac declined because she teaches a class at Midway College on Monday night.

Candidate Skip Horine did not return telephone calls, said Brooke Montgomery, chairwoman of the committee that invited all four candidates.

Newberry said he would continue to focus on health, horses and high-tech opportunities. "That's what Lexington is based on." he said. "That's where our potential lies."

Secondly, he said the city "must train our work force effectively" by working with Bluegrass Community and Technical College, the University of Kentucky and Fayette County public schools to make sure people "have the skill set necessary to compete in today's economy."

Gray said as an entrepreneur, he had seen that "you must take imagination and creativity to new levels all the time. The city is not any different than a business."

It is not as much about creating incentives, Gray said, as it is "about encouraging and leveraging what we have, what's unique about us." He said it was about accessibility and authenticity.

Newberry said he was "pleased with progress" the city has made to retain young professionals over the past three years, including making downtown and South Limestone physically more appealing, and planning to establish a higher-education triangle connecting UK, Transylvania University and the BCTC campus slated for Newtown Pike and West Fourth Street.

Gray said a task force he appointed to identify root causes of why Lexmark and Toyota had difficulty retaining young minority professionals found it was not bigotry, but a lack of things to do.

Consultants told the task force, "Build it first for your own people, then others will come," Gray said.