By Abby Laub
It used to be people moved to the places where they could find employment – to work, pay their bills and care for their families – and didn’t necessarily flock to places they truly love. But Fayette County has figured out a grander solution: Make a place that people want to move to, and then reap the benefits.
“Fifty years ago, people moved to where the jobs were,” said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. “Today, jobs move to where the people are, where the talent is. And talent moves to where there’s a premium attached to quality of life.
“Throughout our city we work hard to create the environment that attracts companies with good jobs to Lexington, and encourages local companies to grow. That environment includes a focus on quality of life and place, a compelling and lively central business district, excellent parks, bike trails, a lively arts and cultural community and excellent education opportunities.”
Fayette County’s business climate, amenities and attractions are among the nation’s best, so it’s no wonder that its industrious residents and business creators are launching the area into an ever more prosperous future, building a modern economy over the established foundation that features rich culture, heritage and Bluegrass pride of place.
For proof that the county is thriving, look no further than the unemployment numbers. In July 2017, Fayette County ticked in at 4.5 percent unemployment. Three of its neighbors also boasted some of the state’s lowest numbers. A skilled 21st century population is growing, while authentic antiquity is admired.
WalletHub ranked Lexington as No. 5 in the nation on its Overall Rank of Best Cities in America, in July 2017. Smart Asset moved Lexington up from No. 11 to No. 7 on its Best Cities for New College Grads list, citing factors like affordable rent, a growing number of entertainment and dining options, and the list’s second-best Yelp score for bars.
More accolades for Lexington and Fayette County include, No. 6 Best Large Real Estate Market by WalletHub, No. 2 for Automative Manufacturing Strength in Kentucky by Business Facilities, No. 2 Most Charitable City in America by Deseret News in 2016, No. 5 Best City for 20-Somethings by move.org in 2016, No. 6 Most Inspiring Cities for Young Artists by USA Today in 2015, and No. 11 in percent of population over age 25 with an advanced degree among cities over 250,000 by the U.S. Census 2013.
Lexington’s educated population begins with a progressive and growing school scene – Fayette County Public Schools added three new schools in the past year, including an ultra modern sixth major high school. And the new programming offered through its Academies programs are keeping FCPS students in step with future workforce demands.
At the collegiate level, the 30,000-student University of Kentucky is in the midst of several billion dollars worth of construction that spans from housing to athletics to academics. Lexington’s Bluegrass Community and Technical College is part of the 16-institution Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which in 2017 reported a record-setting number of new graduates and credentials awarded.
The three main hospital systems, Baptist Health, KentuckyOne Health and University of Kentucky, are the main care providers not only for Central Kentucky but much of Eastern Kentucky.
Lexington is a major retail and financial center also with a concentrated focus on improving its logistical accommodations to big business. Multimillion-dollar roads projects, including the widening of a major Lexington traffic artery, New Circle Road, are underway to keep commerce moving in the area. It’s home to major corporate headquarters such as Valvoline, a $2 billion company.
In the housing market, home inventory is dropping – developers can barely keep up with the demand for single-family housing. Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors members reported 13,580 sales totaling $2.52 billion in 2016. The residential median sales price increased 5 percent from $147,500 in 2015 to $155,000 in 2016.
Residents and visitors need entertainment and amusement, and Lexington is full of action for young and old, including iconic horse racing tracks at Keeneland Racecourse and The Red Mile. There is a vibrant arts scene through entities like LexArts and Lexington Philharmonic and a large collection of local galleries and collectives.
Within the city limits are many outdoor activities with inviting natural infrastructure at locations like the Legacy Trail, historic McConnell Springs, rustic Raven Run and an abundant parks system as well as dozens of collegiate athletics.
Fayette County boasts a world-level food and beverage business cluster.
Lexington’s regional retail hub status makes shopping a major draw, increasingly so in 2017 thanks to the opening of the upscale and local-oriented The Summit at Fritz Farm.
In 2016, Commerce Lexington was named “Chamber of the Year” in the large chamber category during the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ annual convention.