Boasting a robust economy, the Bluegrass is a diversified growth engine for economic success. There are several key industries that are particularly significant to Lexington’s economy and are strategic targets for economic development.
Advanced manufacturing uses innovation and technology to improve the manufacturing process, typically through computer technology, advanced robotics, clean technology, automation, innovation, precision control, customization, and waste reduction. The Bluegrass Region has a strong advanced manufacturing sector, particularly in the automotive industry, biotechnology products, and renewable energy machinery. The region’s strong transportation network allows for the easy import of component supplies and the export and distribution of finished products. To support this sector, Lexington strives to help advanced manufacturing companies expand research and development activities and enhance product lines, and there are many educational programs in place to continue building a workforce to fuel the manufacturing industry for years to come.
Animal sciences involves the production and management of livestock and domestic animals. Animal scientists use biological, physical, and social sciences to understand and study animals’ physiology, behavior, welfare, nutrition, genetics, and diseases. The equine industry is an important part of animal sciences, particularly in Lexington. Horses are a major part of Lexington’s economy and are at the heart of our local culture, with an estimated 150 horse farms in Lexington and 450 in the region. Lexington and the Bluegrass Region have a strong infrastructure to support the horse industry, including horse farms, race tracks, the Kentucky Horse Parks, museums, equestrian events, equine medical facilities, and research and development at the University of Kentucky.
The Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM) is a regional initiative in the 22-county region anchored by Lexington and Louisville. Recognizing the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) for innovation, research, exports production, and high-wage jobs, the BEAM Trade and Investment Plan was developed in collaboration with the Brookings Global Cities program to examine FDI in the BEAM Region and proposes the way forward for metropolitan cultivation of FDI that helps build a resilient and growing regional economy. Lexington and the Bluegrass Region have a strong presence of foreign direct investment that makes important contributions to our economy. The Bluegrass Region is home to 21% of all foreign-owned facilities in Kentucky and 23% of the workforce – that’s 99 facilities with ownership from 18 different countries providing full-time employment to over 23,900 people (as of April 2017). In fact, Lexington recently ranked 7th Best City for Attracting Foreign Investment by fDi Intelligence.
Lexington is a regional hub for business and professional services, which help companies operate by providing services and support such as legal, architectural, engineering, consulting, and real estate services, as well as back-office support operations, accounting and payroll services, and processing facilities. Companies engaged in providing professional services tend to concentrate in metropolitan areas near their clients, while back-office and support services companies prefer lower-cost locations. Lexington is idea for both, with 100 headquarters operations and one of the lowest cost-of-business locations in the country. In fact, Lexington was named #8 City with the Lowest Startup Costs by Smart Assets in 2016 and #16 Best Place for Business and Careers by Forbes in 2015.
Clean tech uses technologies, processes, or services to minimize the environmental impact of production, energy consumption, and power generation. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are core to clean tech. Clean tech is an emerging industry in Lexington and there are many regional assets to help propel the industry forward. Of particular importance are the growing number of biotechnology firms in the area and the high concentration of life sciences research being conducted at the University of Kentucky. Many partners work alongside UK’s research and development of clean and renewable energy sources. The Center for Applied Creative Research (CAER) is a multidisciplinary energy technology research center to improve the environment, featuring multiple specialized research facilities.
In the Bluegrass Region and Kentucky, Lexington is a hub for the life sciences industry. Lexington has leveraged top ranked research programs at the University of Kentucky, a culture of innovation and commercialization, a superior business climate, and an expansive network of medical centers to provide an environment where any market niche of the life sciences industry can grow. The life sciences industry has two components: direct patient care and biotechnology. Direct patient care includes hospitals, nursing facilities, and medical centers, and is a prominent market in Lexington with a strong base of health care facilities, employers, resources, and several major medical centers. Biotechnology includes animal and plant science research and designing and manufacturing medical/veterinary products. Biotechnology is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and over 50 biotech companies have chosen to locate in Lexington.
Lexington has a unique business mix of software and information technology industry leaders, world-class small businesses, and social networking and interactive media startups. With such diverse businesses in the industry, Lexington is an ideal location for software and IT businesses. Software leaders include IBM branch offices, Funai Electric Company, Conduent, and Software Quality Systems (SQS). Lexington’s local startups are making a name for themselves in the world of social networking and game development, such as Frogdice Inc., an independent game developer of online role playing games and virtual worlds, and Gun Media, another Lexington-based gaming company whose goal is to build fresh and exciting interactive experiences for a wide range of platforms and gamers.
Visitor industries includes the sale of goods and the accommodation, entertainment, and recreational opportunities available for tourists, visitors, and residents, including businesses such as retail trade, travel arrangements, convention and trade shows, performing arts, spectator sports, museums, and food services. Lexington is a great place for business and leisure. Lexington is at the heart of the horse industry, the start of the Bourbon Trail, and the home of the University of Kentucky. Visitors are drawn to Lexington for events and conferences 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. To help strengthen and grow Lexington’s visitor industries, Commerce Lexington Inc. and VisitLEX’s teams have embarked upon a more formal partnership to develop strategies to recruit associations and business meetings to the area. Our teams meet quarterly to discuss various topics including infrastructure, marketing strategies, client feedback, incentives, and other items, as well as review our strategic plan.