Category Archives: Economy

Defining Lexington by Its Professional Skill Set

Cities are central to innovation and new technology. They act as giant petri dishes, where creative types and entrepreneurs rub up against each other, combining and recombining to spark new ideas, new inventions, new businesses and new industries. –Richard Florida

The point of cities is multiplicity. – Jane Jacobs

Cities are exciting places and have always been linked closely to new opportunity. They provide concentrated access to knowledge and attract and nurture clusters of workers with  complementary and contrasting skills. Over 107 million LinkedIn members are located in the United States, and by mining the skills and location data in their profiles, research consultants at LinkedIn have developed a map that highlights the skills which define almost every major city in America. To see which skill categories are most uniquely found in Lexington, check out the list below. To view an interactive map – click here.


Top Skill Category: Business

Top Skills:

  • Theology
  • Lean Manufacturing and Quality Management
  • Education and Teaching
  • Healthcare Management
  • Non-profit, Fundraising, and Grant Management
  • Logistics and Supply Chain Management
  • Ecology & Environmental Science
  • Marketing and Event Management

Some professionals considering their next career move may be interested in an area that has a rich ecosystem of talent in their specialty. Others might want to find places where they’d stand out and offer a unique capability and point of view. According to LinkedIn’s analysis, other cities with a skill mix comparable to Lexington include:

  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Columbus, OH
  • Chicago, IL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Mobile, AL
  • Greensboro/Winston-Salem, NC
  • Memphis, TN
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

CLX Economic Development Team 

Commerce Lexington Update

  • Global Entrepreneurship Week is this week! Click here to learn more and to view the schedule of events.
  • Lexington’s growing high-tech sector recently added of four companies, bringing 17 new jobs and over $3.3 million in grants and capital investment to Kentucky. Click here to read the press release.
  • Don’t miss Geek’s Night Out! It’s Tuesday, November 18th from 5:00 to 7:00 at Natasha’s. Click here to RSVP.
  • Startup Weekend Lexington 2014 is happening this weekend! Learn more and RSVP for this 54 hour event here.

October is Manufacturing Month in Kentucky

The Commonwealth is home to more than 4,000 manufacturers, representing $27 billion in GDP and 220,000 jobs. To pay tribute to one of Kentucky’s largest industries, Governor Steve Beshear proclaimed October as Manufacturing Month.

Since 2013, 248 of Kentucky’s existing manufacturers have announced over $3.2 billion in new investments and plans to create more than 7,600 jobs. In the same time period, 57 manufacturers announced relocations or openings in the Commonwealth. These projects are expected to create more than 4,300 jobs and $1.4 billion in new investment. In total, Commerce Lexington’s eight-county region in central Kentucky has been the recipient of more than one-fifth of the state’s private investment in manufacturing since 2013.

Jif factory in Lexington, KY
J.M. Smucker Co. spent over $43 million on upgrades to their Jif plant on Winchester Road in Lexington in 2013. Photo Source: Lexington Herald Leader


In the past five years alone, Kentucky’s manufacturing GDP has grown by more than a third and it makes up a significant portion of Kentucky’s growing export. Last year, the commonwealth exported a state record $25.3 billion to approximately 200 countries. Exports this year are up nearly 10 percent, far exceeding the national average of 3 percent. Kentucky’s top exports are aerospace products, motor vehicles and parts, and resin, rubber and fiber materials.

Here’s a rundown of some of the more interesting facts about manufacturing in Central Kentucky.

  • Ale-8-One: The soft drink has been bottled in Winchester since 1926 and is the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence.
  • Alltech: Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. is one of the few joint brewing and distilling operations – or “brewstilleries” – in the world.
  • Big Ass Solutions: Owns the world’s only research and development lab built specifically for testing large-diameter fans.
  • Clark Material Handling Co.: Headquartered in Lexington, Clark is credited with having invented the modern forklift. Today, there are over 350,000 units operating worldwide.
  • Jif: The Jif (J.M. Smucker Co.) plant in Lexington is the largest peanut butter producing facility in the world, requiring 188 billion peanuts annually.
  • Kaba Mas: Headquartered in Lexington, Kaba Mas is the world’s leading manufacturer and supplier of high-security electronic locking solutions.
  • Tiffany & Co.: the Lexington manufacturing plant (Tiffany’s first facility outside of the northeast) produces the classic six-prong engagement ring and other pieces of fine jewelry.
  • Toyota: Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in Georgetown is able to produce a new Camry from its production line every 65 seconds.
  • Webasto: German-owned Webasto Roof Systems, Inc. started production at in Lexington in 2003, which is now their largest production site for sun and panorama roofs in the United States.

– CLX Economic Development Team

Commerce Lexington Update

  • The October 5Across pitch competition is October 29th at Awesome Inc. in downtown Lexington. 5Across is an informal gathering of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers from Lexington, KY. Each 5Across meeting features presentations from local entrepreneurs who pitch their idea to a panel of judges. To register, click here.
  • Students and recent grads are invited to the Fall 2014 undrcvr Lex  event to learn about the dozens of tech and creative companies in Lexington. From software to hardware, products to services, startups to established companies, come meet the backbone of Lexington’s entrepreneurial tech and design community. Discover opportunities from part and full-time positions to internships and co-ops.

Labor Force Participation

 There are lies, damned lies and statistics. – Mark Twain

 America’s job picture appears to be seeing a huge improvement, with robust numbers that are giving investors’ confidence in the economy. The U.S. added 248,000 jobs in September, bringing the national unemployment rate below 6 percent.

 However, unemployment rates provide an incomplete measure of local labor market conditions. Unemployment does not include involuntary part-time workers; nor does it include discouraged workers who stop seeking work because they cannot find jobs. If we were to look at the labor force participation rate, which is essentially the percentage of persons 16 years of age and older that are classified as employed or unemployed (but looking for a job), we would see a different picture.

The labor force participation rate grew from about 60 percent nationally in 1970 to about 67 percent in 2000, with much of the increase resulting from increased participation by women. Unfortunately, the American labor force has been shrinking for more than a decade, and the September participation rate fell to 62.7%, marking the lowest level since 1978. The falling participation rate has been a hotly debated topic for some time, but the puzzle is even more confusing given the string of solid jobs gains and the continued drop in the unemployment rate.

A detailed new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimates the majority of the decline has been driven by the retirement of the Baby Boom generation and that only one-sixth of the decline is clearly attributable to a weak economy. Other economists, however, believe that the decline in the labor force participation is a result of a historically weak economy and the unprecedented numbers of Americans who have lost their jobs and given up hunting for another one. Research from different arms of the Federal Reserve, such as this paper from a Boston Fed conference and this paper from the Philadelphia Fed, has reached contradicting conclusions.

So, how does our local labor force participation rate compare?

For selected areas, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics program produces current estimates of labor for participation rates. This includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia and a handful of large metropolitan area, excluding the Lexington-Fayette MSA. Thus, to estimate labor force participation locally, we used the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics data to calculate the size of the labor force and Census Bureau population estimates to estimate the age-16-and-up population of Fayette County (per this ARC report, Local Area Unemployment Statistics data may validly be combined with Census population estimates to determine the labor force participation rate).

As the chart below indicates, the decline in national labor force participation is mirrored by both state and local data, although Fayette County appears to have experienced a much more dramatic drop in labor force participation, followed by a leveling off that, as of 2013, was comparable to the national rate.

Annual Average Labor Force Participation Rate


Lexington, KY Labor Force Participation Rate
Annual Labor Force Participation Rate


What about the big drops in participation locally?

While our diverse economy continues to reflect national trends, Lexington has experienced a fairly rapid growth in its working age population. The population age 16 years and over grew from 204,082 to 248,945 between 2005 and 2014, representing a 22% increase. Since the labor force is expanding at a slower rate than the population, the participation rate is going down. The large drops in labor force participation on the chart are reflective of significant jumps in the overall working age population, which were primarily due to an increase in college-aged residents. It could be that the younger populations that are largely responsible for the area’s population growth are enrolled in college, and thus, not part of the labor force. The good news for Lexington: rising education levels increase labor force participation rates in the long-term.

– CLX Economic Development Team

Commerce Lexington Update

  • Commerce Lexington is leading a group of Lexingtonians through Dubai this week. The itinerary includes time dedicated to exploring the connections between Central Kentucky and Dubai, including a meeting at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, a look at the Dubai Thoroughbred racing tradition, and a visit with representatives of Dubai businesses with Kentucky connections.
  • The Kentucky Association of Manufacturers and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is hosting the first Kentucky Manufacturing Innovation Conference on October 24th at the Lexington Center. The one-day event is designed to bring the state’s manufacturers together to discuss, share and learn about cutting edge manufacturing innovations and technologies that can help increase productivity, improve quality and add to the bottom line. The conference is an initiative of BEAM, the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, a partnership between the mayors of Lexington and Louisville and the Brookings Institution.