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Central Kentucky perfectly blends high quality of life, low business costs

By Kathie Stamps

The new Brighton Rail Trail bridge provides a safe way for bicyclists and pedestrians in eastern Lexington to cross over Man O’ War Boulevard. LFUCG photo

(CENTRAL KY. MARKET REVIEW) — Central Kentuckians are not people who rest on their laurels. As soon as one wreath of accomplishment is bestowed upon an individual or municipality, the next goal is already in the works.

An educated workforce and 10 institutions of higher learning contribute to the overall quality of life, as do low unemployment rates and strong public and private sectors, locally owned restaurants and distilleries, a thriving arts scene and tourism board, and horse farms and stunning greenspace. From global headquarters to high tech to entrepreneurship, the business is wide and varied.

When the new convention center and Town Branch Commons are completed in Lexington, these milestones will have yet another positive impact on the community and economic prospects. The Central Bank Center expansion is scheduled to completed in March 2022. The exhibition space has been increased by over 50% and ballroom space by over 40% to make for 200,000 s.f. of flexible meeting and event space. These buildings, along with a pedestrian connection through the site that links it to downtown Lexington, will create a dense, lively experience for residents and visitors alike.

In the 2021 Metro Rankings Report by Business Facilities, Lexington ranked No. 5 on the list of mid-sized health care hubs and No. 8 in the Best Business Climate category. WalletHub placed Lexington at No. 5 on its list of Best Run Cities in America.

The Lexington-Fayette metro area ranks in the Top 15 of recent Best Places for Career Opportunities by SmartAsset and comes in at No. 11 as SmartAsset’s Best City for First-Time Homebuyers.

Aspiring businessowners, startups and established leaders have access to several organizations for business help, including SCORE and the Small Business Development Center. Two SBDC centers are located in Lexington, one for the 16-county Central Kentucky region and one for the Kentucky SBDC state office. Commerce Lexington Inc., the lead business and economic development organization for the Bluegrass, was formed in 2004 from the merger of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, Lexington United (a local economic development agency) and the Lexington Partnership for Workforce Development. Commerce Lexington offers year-round programs and services for businesses.

Rainbow crosswalks, located in the heart of the city, serve as a symbol of freedom and equality, love and acceptance. The brightly colored crosswalks were updated in 2021. LFUCG photo

More 2021 accolades for Lexington include being named on WalletHub’s Cities Whose Unemployment Rates Are Bouncing Back Most list, earning the Mac Conway Award for Excellence in Economic Development by Site Selection magazine, and coming in at No. 22 on the 50 Best Places to Travel in 2021 by Travel + Leisure.

Visitors and residents alike attend concerts and Thoroughbred racing meets at Keeneland, events and harness racing at The Red Mile, and many national events and outdoor excursions at the Kentucky Horse Park, just three examples of how a staple in the community—horses—can cross from business into tourism into community pride and result in an ever-deepening quality of life.

College alumni become residents. Visitors come to stay a while and never leave. Native Lexingtonians occasionally move away for a few years, but almost always return. There’s something in the water, in the limestone-rich soil, that keeps Lexington and Central Kentucky flourishing. Population growth rates bear it out. The 2021 population of the metro area is 521,292, an 8.8% increase from 10 years ago.

The University of Kentucky, the state’s flagship university, reported an all-time enrollment high for the fall of 2021 of nearly 31,800 students. UK has experienced several years’ worth of growth rates in categories such as retention, graduation, diversity and the number of graduate and professional students.

UK is Lexington’s largest employer, and in 2021, it was named to the honor roll for the fourth consecutive year of the Great Colleges to Work For program by ModernThink.

In September, Gov. Andy Beshear presented $10 million to Fayette County Public Schools to fund a single vocational education center for two existing career and technical education campuses. The CTE programs for high school students will soon occupy a formerly vacant building near downtown Lexington. The funding is part of the governor’s Better Kentucky Plan, which aims to create 14,500 jobs in the commonwealth.

Another $11.8 million from the Better Kentucky Plan was awarded to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government in August for the Cleaner Water Program. LFUCG will replace current wastewater treatment plants at Town Branch and West Hickman with an ultraviolet disinfectant system.

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