Lexington mayor speaks to UK trustees about ‘important partnership’

UK President Eli Capilouto, right, looked on as Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton spoke to a committee of the UK Board of Trustees. (Photo by Jenny Wells.)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton on Friday told members of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees that UK and the community “are walking hand-in-hand into the future” to confront common opportunities and challenges.

“What’s good for UK is good for Lexington,” Gorton told members of the board’s Human Resources/University Relations Committee Friday morning. “And what’s good for Lexington is generally good for UK. It’s a tremendously important partnership.”

Gorton’s interaction with the board as Lexington mayor is likely a historic first, at least in recent memory, UK and city officials said.

Gorton said the importance of the city’s partnership with the university was symbolized from her first day as mayor when she chose to hold her inauguration in the Gatton Student Center in the heart of the UK campus. That relationship has continued in more tangible ways, Gorton said, citing key economic indicators and areas of partnership, such as:

• As the city’s largest employer, UK employs about 8 percent of the community’s workers, contributing $32.4 million in payroll taxes in 2018.
• In the past five years, UK has paid more than $2.1 billion to Lexington vendors.
• In 2018, UK brought in $333 million in external grants and contracts.
• The land swap between UK and the city announced in 2017 is moving forward. As part of the historic swap, Lexington is taking over 250 acres of land in and near UK’s Coldstream Research Park for economic development, and the university is moving toward control over several streets and roads around campus.

“Taken together, that adds up to a huge economic impact for our city and our economy,” Gorton said.

Going forward, Gorton said she believes the partnership between the city and UK will focus on being a national leader in high-tech agriculture, working collaboratively with UK Agriculture Dean Nancy Cox and faculty in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

“We learned that Lexington is attractive to startups, entrepreneurs and high-tech ag companies,” Gorton said, “because of our proximity to UK and its world-class research portfolio, and the high caliber of talent it produces.”

Finally, Gorton cited the collaboration the city has with UK and UK HealthCare to work “on the most urgent issue facing our city — the opioid epidemic.”

Gorton said that in 2017, Fayette County ranked second in the state for the number of deaths related to overdoses. Gorton has a full-time staff member, Andrea James, who is devoted solely to the challenges associated with opioids. And Gorton indicated that UK’s recent announcement of its largest grant ever — $87 million to reduce opioid deaths by 40 percent in 16 counties, including Fayette — is part of an “all hands on deck” effort.

“This grant offers hope to many people who have no hope,” Gorton said. “It is an opportunity to save lives that Kentuckians wouldn’t have without UK brainpower.”

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