Category Archives: Animal Sciences

Lexington’s Unique Equine Industry

The equine industry is a leading sector of Kentucky’s economy, and Lexington is a substantial part of that industry. With 24,000 horses in Lexington’s 283 square miles, Lexington takes up less than 1% of Kentucky’s land but is home to 10% of Kentucky’s horses, according to the most recent Kentucky Equine Survey.

To put Lexington’s equine industry into perspective, consider the location quotient (LQ), which measures an industry’s concentration or share of employment in a region compared to the nation. The LQ can signal a region’s uniqueness and strengths.

  • An LQ of 1 indicates that the region is no different from the national average.
  •  An LQ of greater than 1 indicates a regional strength, and a high LQ indicates uniqueness or a competitive advantage.
  • An LQ of less than 1 indicates a weaker industry, which can sometimes be an opportunity for development.

The industry with the largest LQ in Lexington is horses and other equine production (NAICS 11292 ), at 78.94 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). In other words, horses are Lexington’s most unique industry and the share of equine employees in Lexington is 79 times higher than the national share.

Looking at the region, the Lexington MSA has the second highest equine industry LQ in the country at 118.02. Furthermore, 22% of the country’s equine industry employees are in the Lexington MSA.

Kentucky has the largest equine industry LQ compared to all states at 18.16, far outpacing the second-highest state, New Mexico, which has an LQ of 3.64.




Lexington’s Target Industries

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

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

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.

Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement/Foreign Direct Investment 

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.

Business and Professional Services

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 Technology 

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.

Life Sciences 

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.

Software and Information Technology

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 

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.


Life Sciences and Biotech in Lexington

The Bluegrass Region has acquired a niche within the plant and genetic engineering segment of the life sciences industry, and many area companies are creating valuable pharmaceuticals, including Alltech, Naprogenix, ParaTechs Corporation, MosquitoMate, Evolva, Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals, and Hera BioLabs.

Alltech is a top ten animal health company founded in Lexington, with biosciences centers in the U.S. and Ireland, offices and distributors in more than 120 countries, and nearly 100 production facilities globally. Alltech’s $200 million algae production facility in Winchester is one of the largest algae production facilities in the world and was so successful that Alltech expanded to a second facility in Brazil. Algae are expected to become a crucial area of development as the United States pursues renewable sources of energy to power the country in the coming decades. Locally, the company is known for its award-winning line of beers and spirits with a brewery and distillery in downtown Lexington and, soon, in Pikeville.

Naprogenix is a startup biotech research company that derives compounds from native Kentucky plants to develop new technologies. Plants have a variety of uses in food and medicine and Naprogenix enhances specific bioactivity and qualities of native plants through genomics and molecular pharmacology to increase their usefulness to the pharmaceutical, health, and agrochemical industries. Naprogenix’s products are natural, giving the company a competitive advantage as consumers increasingly pull away from synthetic ingredients in both chemicals and medicines.

ParaTechs Corporation recently developed a bio-insecticide targeting corn earworm moths, the highest crop-damaging pest in North America and the second-highest worldwide. ParaTechs’s bio-insecticide is a mutated nudivirus, a sexually transmitted disease that sterilizes 100% of corn earworm moths it infects, compared to a 30% effectiveness rate when the nudivirus occurs in nature. In addition to increased effectiveness, ParaTechs’s bio-insecticide reduces the need for chemical pesticides and is unlikely to affect other species that do not mate with corn earworm moths.

MosquitoMate developed a biopesticide to reduce or eliminate Asian tiger and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes through sterilization. These pests carry several diseases that are harmful to people and animals, such as dengue, yellow fever, heartworm, West Nile virus, chikungunya fever, and the Zika virus. MosquitoMate infects male mosquitoes with a form of Walbachia bacteria and releases them to mate with females, who are permanently sterilized by the Walbachia. As a result, the next generation of mosquitoes is reduced and the spread of disease is prevented. MoquitoMate’s biopesticide is not transmitted to humans, animals, or other insects, and does not include chemicals or genetic modification.

Evolva, formerly Allylix, Inc., generates and isolates natural chemical compounds that are in high demand for pharmaceutical, agriculture, and flavor-and-fragrance industries. Evolva uses a reengineered version of the fermentation process to grow compounds in a way that is faster and more reliable that the traditional plant extraction process, and cheaper and less complicated than the chemical synthetization process. Evolva is developing a library of compounds that will make many previously unstudied compound samples available for research screening by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. These compounds can be used in the manufacturing of products such as foods, medicines, cosmetics, insecticides, and industrial cleaners.

Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals is a worldwide leader in genome engineering technologies and services with applications in therapeutics, research, drug discovery, bioproduction, clinical genetic testing, and agriculture. Transposagen specializes in genetic manipulation technologies, stem cell engineering services, and creating genetically modified laboratory rats.

Hera BioLabs Inc. is a Lexington-based Contract Research Organization (CRO) and a spinoff of Transposagen. Like Transposagen, Hera uses gene editing tools and services to manufacture genetically specialized products and services. In 2016, Hera announced an investment of $1.8 million to move its operations from its current location on the University of Kentucky campus and establish a new headquarters.

Many of these companies operate around the world and several were founded by University of Kentucky researchers.

For more about each of these companies, check out our Life Sciences webpage and white paper.