Lexington, KY Downtown Development Snapshot 2016

The Lexington Downtown Development Authority recently released the Downtown Snapshot 2016, a publication that examines quality of life and economic vitality trends in Lexington, with an emphasis on downtown development and community growth.

Some findings from the Downtown Snapshot 2016 include:

  • Downtown Lexington hosted over 2.8 million overnight visitors, 74% in town for leisure and 26% for business.
  • Thirteen licensed bourbon distillers are within a 45 minute drive of downtown Lexington.
  • There are 187 restaurants and bars in and around the Central Business District, with 17 new restaurants, bars, and retail stores opening since 2014.
  • Major projects from the past year and a half include the Town Branch Commons linear park, Euclid Avenue and South Limestone commercial corridors, the renovation of the Historic Fayette County Courthouse, and the Gigabit City Initiative.
  • Recent development and investment in downtown total $1.49 billion in 27 projects, including $338 million in completed projects, $957.8 million in projects under construction, and $193.8 million in pre-development projects.
  • The University of Kentucky projects are a significant part of the development and investment in downtown Lexington, and over 30,700 students contribute to the knowledge economy of our city, as do more than 6,400 students at BCTC and 1,000 students at Transylvania University.

Want to learn more about Lexington? Read the full report here!

Lexington’s Unemployment Rate is 3.3%!

According to the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program, Lexington’s unemployment rate reached a low of 3.3% in August (most recent data available, preliminary), the lowest August unemployment rate since August 2000, when it was 2.9%. This August’s 3.3% is also the lowest unemployment rate this year, except for April 2016 when it was also 3.3%.


In fact, 3.3% is the lowest unemployment rate in Lexington since January 2001, when it was 3.1%.


In 2000, unemployment rates ranged from 2.5% to 3.5% but ranged from 3% to 5% from early 2001 through June 2008, when it began increasing above 5% before jumping to 6.9% in January 2009 and 8.1% just one month later in February 2009, reaching a peak of 8.8% in June 2009. Since then, the unemployment rate has steadily decreased, and has ranged between 4.3% and 3.3% this year.

Jobs in Lexington – Mapped! Part 2

Last year’s blog entry Jobs in Lexington – Mapped! explored Robert Manduca’s Where Are The Jobs? Map, which used data from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics database to map every job in the United States. At the time, 2010 was the most recent data available but 2014 data has since been published and Mr. Manduca has updated his map.

Each dot represents one job and is color-coded by industry:

  • Red – Manufacturing and Trade
  • Blue – Professional Services
  • Green – Healthcare, Education, and Government
  • Yellow – Retail, Hospitality, and Other Services


Lexington’s workforce is easily spotted on a national scale, indicating the competitiveness of our region.

Taking a closer look at the city, Lexington continues to demonstrate a healthy diverse economy, represented by all four colors and industries citywide:


Manufacturing and trade jobs (red) are concentrated around the north side of the city. Some of the city’s major manufacturers include Lockheed Martin (1,100 employees), Webasto Roof Systems (760 employees), Big Ass Solutions (701 employees), Link-Belt Construction Equipment Co. (700 employees), and Schneider Electric (500 employees), among others.

Manufacturing, particularly advanced manufacturing is a key aspect of the Bluegrass Region’s economy and is a targeted industry for Lexington’s economic development. According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, there are over 2,400 manufacturers in Kentucky employing nearly 245,000 Kentuckians full time and producing national brands such as Pop-Tarts, Dixie Cups, Jif Peanut Butter (in Lexington), Post-It Notes, Hot Pockets, Kentucky Ale, Tiffany & Co. jewelry (in Lexington), numerous brands of bourbon, and automobiles such as Toyota Camrys. (Read more about Lexington’s advanced manufacturing here).

Healthcare, education, and government jobs (green) are concentrated in the center of Lexington. The two green blocks near downtown represent the University of Kentucky, which employs 12,500 people and is the largest employer in the Bluegrass Region. Programs and people at UK provide high quality talent and innovation to the workforce in all areas of the economy, strengthening and growing our economy.

Lexington has a strong base of healthcare providers with six major medical centers including Baptist Health Lexington, KentuckyOne Health, and the UK Medical Center. The UK Healthcare System is an extensive network with three hospitals and fifteen clinics. Lexington is a healthcare hub serving people from all over the Bluegrass Region and direct patient care is a major employment industry, with quality human capital for medical professionals.

The healthcare industry in Lexington is supported by strong ties to academic programs at the University of Kentucky. UK has one of the nation’s top pharmacy programs and ranks nationally in the number of R&D expenditures. In addition, Lexington is home to the only research and development business park in the state of Kentucky — UK’s Coldstream Research Campus. Coldstream, a 735-acre office park, was specifically designed for recruiting high-tech and biotech companies, as well as university centers and start-ups. (Read more about Lexington’s life sciences industry here.)

Professional service jobs (blue) have a high concentration in downtown and appear throughout the city. In 2015, Lexington’s business and professional services sector employed around 27,000 people, including legal, architectural, engineering, consulting, and real estate firms, as well as back-office support operations, accounting and payroll services, and processing facilities. The business service industry leader in Lexington is Xerox, which employs around 3,100 people. (Read more about Lexington’s professional and businesses services here.)

Retail and hospitality jobs (yellow) contribute to Lexington’s thriving visitor industries. As the heart of the horse industry, the start of the Bourbon Trail, and the home of the University of Kentucky, Lexington draws visitors for events and conferences organized by VisitLEX at the Lexington Convention Center, which contains Rupp Arena and the Lexington Opera House. In addition, Lexington has attracted visitors through both national and international events, such as the Creative Cities Summit, the Alltech World Equestrian Games, and the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championship. Lexington is a great place for business and leisure, and growing the area’s visitor industries is an important aspect of economic development. (Read more about Lexington’s visitor industries here.)

The four colors on the Jobs Map represent the following NAICS industry codes:

  • Red, Manufacturing and Trade – 11 (Agriculture and Forestry), 21 (Mining), 22 (Utilities), 23 (Construction), 31-33 (Manufacturing), 42 (Wholesale Trade), 48-49 (Transportation and Warehousing)
  • Blue, Professional Services – 51 (Information), 52 (Finance and Insurance), 53 (Real Estate), 54 (Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services), 55 (Management of Companies and Enterprises)
  • Green, Healthcare, Education, and Government – 61 (Educational Services), 62 (Health Care), 81 (Other Services – largely Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations)
  • Yellow, Retail, Hospitality, and Other Services – 44-45 (Retail Trade), 56 (Administrative and Support Services), 71 (Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation – largely Amusement, Gambling, and Recreation), 72 (Accommodation and Food Services)


3.8% July Unemployment Rate Lowest Since 2001!

According to the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program, Lexington’s July unemployment rate (the most recent available) was 3.8%, the lowest July unemployment rate since 2001! (When looking at the unemployment rate over long periods of time, it’s a good idea to use the same month over time to avoid seasonal fluctuations.)

July2016 Unemployment

Lexington’s unemployment rate remained steady between 4.1% and 4.8% during 2002 through 2007, averaging 4.4% before spiking in July 2009, similar to other regions’ unemployment rates throughout the nation during that time due to the recession. Since then, the unemployment rate has generally decreased by about 1 percentage point every year. Last year represented a return to pre-recession levels, reinforced by this year’s even lower July unemployment rate.

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.