Immigrants in Lexington

Building off of last week’s blog, let’s take a look at immigrants in Lexington. (Unfortunately, much Census data available at the state level for the foreign born population is not available at the county level, such as occupations, so there’s less information than was presented in the New Americans in Kentucky report.)

According to Census data, just over 26,500 Lexington residents were born in another country, or roughly 9% of Lexington’s population, accounting for nearly one-fifth of the state’s immigrant population. Most originated from Mexico (32%) followed by China (9%), India (5%), and Japan (4%). Of these 26,500 people, nearly 28% have naturalized and become U.S. citizens, while 73% have not.

Like Kentucky immigrants in general, Lexington’s foreign born population is primarily working age: 71% are between 25 and 64 years old, whereas only 52% of the native population falls in that age range. Consequently, a higher percentage of immigrants are in the labor force (75%) than native born Lexingtonians (68%).

Less than 10% of Lexington’s immigrants are less than 18 years old (compared to 22% of the native born population), so it’s not surprising that immigrants tend to be enrolled in preschool and k-12 schools at lower rates than the native born population and are less likely to have a high school diploma. However, they are more likely to be enrolled in college or graduate school (63%, compared to 45% of the native born population) and more likely to have an advanced degree (22%, compared to 16% of Lexington’s foreign born population).

Lexington is also home to many foreign owned companies, such as Coldstream Laboratories purchased by Piramal Enterprises Limited of India, Funai Lexington Technology Corporation purchased by Funai Electric Company, Ltd. of Japan, Florida Tile purchased by Panariagroup of Italy, CLARK Material Handling Company purchased by Young An Hat Company of Korea, and Link-Belt Construction Equipment Company owned by Sumitomo Heavy Industries of Japan, to name only a few.

In 2015, Lexington ranked #4 Top 10 Small American City of the Future for FDI Strategy by fDi Intelligence, in recognition of our city’s economic potential, business friendliness, human capital assets, lifestyle, cost effectiveness, and connectivity. Foreign investors have also started small businesses in the region, including popular pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops, and invested in our horse industry by purchasing farm land and thoroughbreds.

The Contributions of New Americans in Kentucky

The New American Economy recently produced an overview of immigrants in Kentucky. The report analyzed multiple data sources, including the Census Bureau, and summarized the contributions of immigrants in Kentucky in several important areas. Take a look at a few key findings from The Contributions of New Americans in Kentucky.

KY Immigrants_1

Demographics – 160,000 Kentucky residents were born in another country, accounting for 3.6% of the state’s population. This may seem small, but the percentage has been increasing since 1990, when less than 1% of the state’s population was foreign-born. Furthermore, immigrants tend to have greater impacts on entrepreneurship, income and tax contribution, the labor force, STEM occupations, healthcare, and other aspects of our economy than would be expected from a group that makes up only 3.6% of the population.

Role of Immigrants as Entrepreneurs – In 2014, over 7,700 immigrants in Kentucky are self-employed, accounting for 5.0% of the state’s total entrepreneurs. These businesses make important contributions to our economy. In 2014, immigrant-owned businesses earned $315 million and employed 35,000 people in 2007 (most recent data). Equally impressive, 20% of Kentucky’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

Income and Tax Contributions – In 2014, immigrant households in Kentucky earned $3.8 billion, representing 3.8% of the state population’s total income. Of this, immigrants contributed $343 million to state and local taxes, $719 million to federal taxes, and $513 to Social Security and Medicare programs, with $2.8 billion in remaining spending power.

Role of Immigrants in the Broader Workforce – Immigrants’ age and educational profile is slightly different than the average native-born Kentuckian. Immigrants tend to be working age (25 to 64 years) at higher rates (67%) than Kentuckians (52%) and are less likely to be younger (0 to 24 years) or older (65+ years). Partially because of this, immigrants are 37% more likely to be actively employed and make up 5% of the state’s employed labor force. Immigrants are also 77% more likely to have an advanced degree, but 87% more likely to have less than a high school diploma. Thus they are good candidates for both high-level positions that require expertise and for lower-level positions. The occupations with the largest share of foreign-born workers tend to be in healthcare, technology, and agriculture.

KY Immigrants_2

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) – STEM occupations are expected to grow nearly 40% faster than the U.S. economy as a whole between 2014 and 2024. In 2014, 11.7% of Kentucky’s STEM workers were immigrants. In that same year, 14% of Kentucky’s STEM Master’s degree students and 38% of Kentucky’s STEM PhD students were immigrants, indicating that immigrants will continue to support Kentucky’s STEM industries into the future.

Healthcare – The Kentucky Occupational Outlook to 2024 anticipates that healthcare jobs will be the fastest growing industry in the next ten years, increasing by 38.2% and adding the most new jobs. Currently, 22% of doctors and 29% of psychiatrists in Kentucky are graduates of foreign medical schools, as were 1.7% of nurses and 2.4% of health aides, likely indicating that these healthcare professionals were foreign-born.

Housing – In 2014, over 26,000 Kentucky immigrants owned over $5 billion in housing wealth and produced 7.3% of Kentucky’s rental income.

Naturalization – Just over 35% of Kentucky’s immigrants have already naturalized and become citizens, as of 2014. Another 52,000 (or 50%) are eligible to naturalize (non-citizens at least 18 years old, with at least 5 years of residence in the Untied States, and proficient in English).

International Students – The report found that Kentucky is home to approximately 7,000 international college students with temporary visas (the NASFA Open Doors program has a slightly higher number, as discussed in a previous blog). Although these students represent only 2.9% of all Kentucky college students, they support over 1,600 jobs.

Voting Power – More than 50,000 of Kentucky’s immigrants were eligible to vote in 2014 and an estimated 33,000 were actually registered, constituting 2% of Kentucky’s eligible voters. It is much more likely that these voters could affect local or state elections than national races.


Commerce Lexington Named Chamber of the Year!

Commerce Lexington has been awarded Chamber of the Year!

ACCE Chamber of the Year 2016

Commerce Lexington Named ‘Chamber of the Year’ by Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives

Marketing Project Receives Grand Award in Communications Excellence
Commerce Lexington Inc. was named “Chamber of the Year” in the large chamber category (Category 4) during the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ (ACCE) annual convention in Savannah, Georgia.  At an awards program last night, Commerce Lexington Inc. President and CEO Bob Quick and a portion of its staff accepted the honor from ACCE, after competing against other category finalists, which included other chambers from Brooklyn (NY), Jacksonville (FL), and Tacoma-Pierce County (WA).

ACCE’s Chamber of the Year Award recognizes the dual role chambers have in leading businesses and communities, honoring excellence in operations, member services, and community leadership. The comprehensive awards program includes an operations survey where chambers must meet key performance areas, an application that details two programs or initiatives, and finally in-person interviews with leaders from each finalist chamber conducted by a judging committee.

Mr. Quick said, “This is the pinnacle for our organization, as well as our entire membership, the board of directors and volunteers, and the many partners with whom we work on a daily basis. The award not only affirms that we are doing quality work in events and programs across our organization, but also recognizes the efforts of many great people throughout the region working day-in and day-out to strengthen Central Kentucky.”

In addition to the Chamber of the Year Award, Commerce Lexington Inc. also received one of ACCE’s top communications/marketing honors – a Grand Award – for the Economic Development Division’s “Here’s Our Proof” marketing campaign during the 2015 Breeders’ Cup.  Partnering with VisitLEX, this Bourbon box marketing gift showcased Lexington as a great place for business and a top location for conventions and tourism.


Originally posted on Commerce Lexington’s other blog.

Mid-2016 Unemployment Rates

June unemployment rates were recently released, and Lexington continues to maintain low unemployment!

According to data from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program and the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, Lexington’s unemployment rate was 3.9% in June 2016, a slight uptick from the previous two months but relatively steady over the past year.


Over the past year, Lexington’s unemployment rate was consistently below the national average, by 1.2 percentage points each month on average, and below Kentucky’s unemployment rate, by 1.6 percentage points.

Kentucky followed the national trend more closely, averaging 0.4 percentage points higher but ranging from 1.1 to 0.0 percentage points higher so far in 2016, although it was lower in August 2015 and was the same as the national unemployment rate for a few months during late 2015.


The Bluegrass Region was also consistently below the national average and state unemployment rates each month (primarily because about 50% of the Bluegrass workforce lives in Lexington). On average, the Bluegrass Region’s monthly unemployment rate was 1.3 percentage points lower than Kentucky’s statewide unemployment rate and .9 percentage points lower than the national average.


April was the best month for every county, with the lowest unemployment rates in the first half of the year. During April 2016, Lexington’s unemployment rate was only 3.3%, the second lowest in the Bluegrass Region, with Woodford County’s unemployment rate an impressive 2.9%.

All counties experienced the highest unemployment during February (and January for Franklin County), but none experienced unemployment higher than 6.0%. Even during it’s “worst” month, Lexington’s unemployment rate was only 4.3%. Woodford County had the lowest unemployment rate every month, followed by Fayette County.

Note: June 2016 unemployment rates are preliminary.

Lexington Ranks #1 Best Large City for First Time Home Buyers!

Lexington ranked #1 Best Large City for First Time Home Buyers by WalletHub, and ranked #10 Best City Overall for First Time Home Buyers!

This 2016 analysis considered housing affordability, the local real estate market, and quality of life. Variables included the average cost of homeowner’s insurance, average household income compared to the average housing prices, home-energy costs, and the city’s recreational options, weather, and schools systems.

The Cost of Living Index reinforces this ranking, particularly the Housing component which includes home purchase prices, mortgage rates and monthly payments, and apartment rent. Lexington’s 2015 annual average housing score was 76.3, meaning that housing costs in Lexington are just 76.3% of the average cost of living elsewhere in America–$0.76 compared to $1.00. This year, Lexington also ranked #31 Lowest Cost of Living based on home values, property taxes, rent, and other measures.

Lexington certainly has a high quality of life. Lexington is a vibrant cultural hub with live music, art studios and galleries, museums, theaters, and outdoor festivals. Residents and visitors enjoy over 100 retail shops and 170 restaurants and bars in downtown alone, an array of local coffee shops, weekly outdoor music at Thursday Night Live, events at the Lexington Center and Rupp Arena, Keeneland and other equine attractions, craft beer and ice cream at the Distillery District, outdoor theater at the MoonDance Amphitheater, numerous shopping centers, and dozens of other assets.

These quality of life  resources helped Lexington become an attractive place for people of all ages, but Lexington recently ranked #21 Best County for Young Professionals and Millennials by Niche (2016). This ranking considered the percentage of residents aged 25-34, educational attainment, population diversity, crime, unemployment, and access to bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. Furthermore, Lexington ranked #16 Best Large City to Live In by WalletHub and is listed among Forbes’ Best Places to Retire in 2016.