Op-Ed

Chamber embraces unified economic efforts

Darby Turner is vice chair of economic development for Commerce Lexington Inc.
Darby Turner is vice chair of economic development for Commerce Lexington Inc.

At issue | April 17 column by Herald-Leader Publisher Tim Kelly, "Revisiting Lexington's economic policies; Development efforts need public-private unity"

We acknowledge publisher Tim Kelly's insightful reflections on economic development for Lexington and Central Kentucky.

We absolutely agree that it is important for Mayor Jim Gray to take a leadership role in promoting the city and the region. It's a model that has served Louisville well under the leadership of Jerry Abramson and Greater Louisville Inc. We welcome the opportunity to work with the mayor's office and to engage him to help create jobs, foster entrepreneurial investment and expand existing businesses and industries.

A functional public-private effort is a must for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the private sector can be more nimble in making adjustments to strategies and tactics. As Kelly pointed out, the models that were right 30 years ago, 20 years ago or even 10 years ago may not be completely right for today. We wholeheartedly agree, which is one reason the model was changed seven years ago to reflect a changing environment.

Kelly is also correct in his observation that, optimally, economic development efforts would be regional in nature.

A tall order to accomplish, indeed. But Commerce Lexington and other chambers in the region have already started discussing regionalism on a proactive basis—first with public policy initiatives that have resulted in successes for our neighboring counties as well as Fayette.

The next logical discussion is regionalism for economic development, which is one of the highest priorities in the AngelouEconomics' report.

Finally, we agree that it is important to have transparency as to how public money is spent.

We communicate our activities and results with detailed quarterly reports, press releases and other news announcements as they occur to Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government officials.

We are always open to other avenues for communication. Even though we are not subject to open-records laws, we are receptive to discuss with local officials how best to provide them with financial information while maintaining the confidentiality that is required for many economic development activities.

But to eliminate any concern that Commerce Lexington mirrors in any way some of the quasi-governmental agencies Kelly pointed to, over a year ago, our board engaged a well-respected accounting firm and law firm to analyze our finances and policies and procedures against the recommendations offered by State Auditor Crit Luallen.

We received a clean review and added policies and procedures to strengthen our internal operations.

Economic success will only be possible with a unified front. We saw evidence of that when One Community, One Voice joined Fayette County Public Schools to effect change.

As a result, new and renovated schools offer a more comfortable learning environment for our students. There is absolutely no reason we can't have the same expectation for job growth and creation.

We must forge a public-private compact that challenges each other to be better, embraces innovation and makes strategic visioning a standing agenda item for both sectors.

This is a challenging time for Lexington and all of Central Kentucky. It is also a time of tremendous opportunity. It is essential that talent, vision and energy are combined from both the public and private sectors.

Together, with a revised blueprint coupled with our common goals, we will move forward and grow this area's economy, and create new jobs.

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