Category Archives: Ranking

Biotech is Booming in Lexington!

Last week was the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) International Convention. Every year BIO brings biotechnology leaders and innovators together to showcase cutting edge technologies and to offer a week-long opportunity for participants to network and create partnerships. Attendee’s at last year’s convention included over 15,000 people from more than 60 countries, 300+ academic institutions, top 25 pharma companies, top 20 CROs and CMOs, and 1,800 exhibitors.

This year’s convention was held in Philadelphia, and members of the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (BBDP) were in attendance. The BBDP includes representatives from Commerce Lexington Inc., the University of Kentucky, and the City of Lexington. The BBDP delegation traveled to BIO to advocate for Lexington and Kentucky, to meet with current prospects, and to develop new leads to bring businesses to the Bluegrass.

Lexington is an ideal location for innovative and high-tech companies, largely for its human assets. In fact, 40.1% of Lexingtonians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is considerably more than the national average of 28.8%. Lexington consistently earns high praise for its educated citizens. In 2014, Lexington was ranked the 23rd Most Educated City by Wallet Hub and the World’s 24th Smartest City by National Geographic. Lexington has also ranked #7 Best City in Terms of Business Cost (2014), #7 Best Midsized City for Jobs (2013), and #17 America’s Top 25 High-Tech Hotspots (2013).

Over 50 biotech companies have chosen to locate in Lexington, but two have recently made the news: AntiOp Inc. and Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals.

AntiOp Inc. founder Daniel Wermeling created an anti-overdose nasal spray to help save lives from heroin overdoses and has sold the life-saving product to the biotech firm Indivior, PLC. Depending on FDA approval, it may be on the market within six months. The FDA has fast-tracked the spray because there is an unmet medical need for heroin overdose treatment and the spray offers an innovative response with several advantages over existing injection-based anti-overdose methods. By removing the need for a needle, Wermeling’s invention can be used quickly, safely, and successfully by pre-hospital responders (i.e., on-the-scene law enforcement, paramedics, or even family members), and reduces the recipient’s risk of contracting hepatitis or HIV.

AntiOp, Inc. received approximately $4.5 million in SBIR/STTR funds to create the overdose antidote ($650,000 was returned because Indivior is not based in Kentucky). Wermeling, a University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy professor, created the life-saving nasal spray with support from the University of Kentucky and over $5 million in federal and state tax workers.

UK’s College of Pharmacy is the 5th Best Pharmacy Program in the nation and is an asset to Lexington. The cutting-edge medical research on disease and drug development performed by the grad students, faculty, and staff has benefited the area and the nation. Graduates enrich the workforce and faculty members have created 25 startup companies since 1989, including Wermeling’s AntiOp.

Another excellent example is Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals, a Lexington-based biotech company that has been honored with the Tibbetts Award. The Tibbetts Award is granted for exemplary technological innovation and SBIR achievement. This year the U.S. Small Business Administration granted the Tibbett Award to six individuals, three supporting organizations, and 23 small businesses, one of which was Transposagen.

Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals is a privately held biotechnology company that specializes in genetic manipulation technologies, stem cell engineering services, and creating genetically modified laboratory rats. Altering the genetic code of rat models allows scientists and researchers to compare modified organisms with normal organisms to better understand gene functions and advance medical research on disease and drug discovery.

“We at Transposagen are dedicated to providing improvements to the nation and to the world through application of our industry-leading genome engineering technologies. Receiving the Tibbetts Award is a great honor and further fuels our drive to produce high-quality, versatile gene editing tools that play a significant role in improving the quality of human life,” said Eric Ostertag, M.D., Ph.D., founder and CEO of Transposagen, reported by Globe Newswire

Last year, Transposagen entered into a multi-million dollar research collaboration and worldwide license agreement with Janssen Biotech, Inc. to develop allogenic cells that may one day be “on the shelf” cancer treatments that will not require a donor-recipient match. Transposagen’s genome editing technologies will be used to create allogenic Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells (CAR-T) therapies, and Janssen will pay up to $292 million per CAR-T therapy.

AntiOp, UK’s College of Pharmacy, and Transposagen are only a few examples of Lexington’s thriving business industry and the success that entrepreneurs and small businesses can have here in Lexington.

Art in the Bluegrass! Lexington Ranks 6th Most Inspiring City for Young Artists

WorldWideLearn recently sought to identify cities that inspire, support, and encourage young artists, and ranked Lexington 6th Most Inspiring City for Young Artists.

The report looked at cities with populations over 300,000 (for the record, there are 64) and used seven metrics to determine city rankings: college or graduate school enrollment, percentage of the population between the ages of 18 and 34, art dealers, performing arts companies, museums, fine arts schools, and creative industries businesses. In every area, Lexington performs better than the national average.

Inspiring City Criteria

What exactly is a “creative industries” business? According to Americans for the Arts: “The creative industries are composed of arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies.”

In other words, these cities have a culture of art, with supportive resources to help artists develop and express their creativity, and to receive feedback from other creators in an environment that welcomes and encourages them.

According to Americans for the Arts, there are 825 arts-related businesses in Lexington employing 3,930 people. The largest share is design and publishing, with 306 businesses and 1,249 employees in advertising, architecture, and design. Visual arts and photography is the second largest creative industry category with 260 businesses, while the performing arts is third with 128 businesses that include music, opera, and theaters. There are also many organizations to support young and aspiring artists, such as LexArts and the Lexington Arts League.

Other than direct jobs, why is art important for a local economy? The answer boils down to two reasons: (1) tourist and consumer spending and (2) quality of life that attracts and supports development.

Tourist and consumer spending on the arts contributes to local economies. Americans for the Arts studied how arts and cultural organizations contribute to local economies and found that the national economic impact of art and cultural organizations and their audiences totaled $248.34 billion in 2010.


People attending an art event not only pay for admission, but also spend money on related items and experiences, such as parking, local restaurants, local ground transportation, lodging, shops, souvenirs, and other local crafts. The Americans for the Arts study found that, in addition to admission costs, the average art attendee spends $24.60 per event. Even more profitable for local economies, about 30% of attendees are from out of town (of which 60% visited solely to attend the art event) and spent twice as much as local attendees. In many cases, this represents money that would not have entered the local economy without the art event that attracted the attendee.

Art/cultural organizations themselves also contribute to the local economy because they employ citizens, pay wages and federal, state, and local taxes, and spend on supplies, buildings, and services. In addition, arts organizations are entirely local and offer unique consumer goods and volunteer experiences that cannot be generically replicated or imported.

The arts industry and culture also contribute to a community’s quality of life and its ability to attract and retain businesses. The American Planning Association stresses the importance of the arts as a community asset as companies are increasingly considerate of the kind of environment that attracts the high-tech, high-education workforce. And that isn’t just a neat theory. When companies ask Commerce Lexington about locating here, they request information about quality of life factors, such as schools, colleges, outdoor recreation, youth sports leagues, nightlife, museums, art and entertainment, theaters, and festivals. And, as WorldWideLearn has acknowledged, Lexington has a lot to offer.

Kentucky Horse Sales Rank #1 in Nation at $178 million (2012)



In addition to taking inventory of horses and ponies by county, the quinquennial USDA Census of Agriculture also reports sales. While the sheer number of horses and ponies in Kentucky, the Bluegrass Region, and Fayette County was impressive, the number and dollar amount of horse and pony sales is even more remarkable.

Horse and pony sales in Kentucky totaled $178.34 million in 2012, ranking #1 in the nation and representing 13% of the total national sales.

The Bluegrass Region generated $151 million in horse and pony sales, representing 85% of the total state sales dollars and 32% of the horse and ponies sold.

Fayette County ranked #1 in Kentucky for horse and pony sales at $63.6 million dollars, with 10% of the horses and ponies sold in Kentucky and 36% of the total sales dollars.

Nine counties in Kentucky had more than $1 million dollars in sales in 2012. Of those eight counties, six were in the Bluegrass Region. Even among these high-sales counties, Fayette County still outperformed the closest county by about $20 million, and most by $60 million.


Fayette County ranks second in the nation with $63.6 million in horse and pony sales. The only county in the nation with more horse sales than Fayette County was Marion County, Florida, with $112.8 million in 2012 sales. The next highest sales county behind Fayette County was Maricopa County, Arizona, with only $13.6 million in horse and pony sales.

Fayette County also outsold every state except Florida ($162 million) and Texas ($146.9 million).


Note: The USDA Census of Agriculture surveyed county farmers to report gross value of sales in 2012, and should not reflect sales that occurred at Keeneland by non-Fayette County residents.  

Kentucky Receives National Recognition for Economic Development Projects

Kentucky has been recognized for its economic growth. Site Selection Magazine recently released its annual Governor’s Cup Rankings for 2014, and Kentucky placed first nationally in Projects per Capita and sixth in Number of Projects. Both rankings are improvements from previous years—in 2013, Kentucky placed 4th in projects per capita and 12th in number of projects—and are proud accomplishments for Kentucky, which has focused on economic development efforts in the past few years.

“Winning the prestigious Governor’s Cup is a true honor,” said Gov. Beshear in a press release. “Kentucky works extremely hard to build and maintain relationships with our companies, and we go the extra mile to support their plans for growth. The Governor’s Cup speaks to the dedication of everyone in this state who’s working to build Kentucky’s economy, grow jobs and create success for our industries, our communities and all Kentuckians.”

Kentucky has been able to help businesses expand in key industries such as manufacturing and offers a bureaucratic climate that encourages and supports new businesses and business expansions. In fact, last year more than 350 new projects were announced, which should create 15,000 jobs and more than $3.7 billion in new investment.

Gov. Beshear attributes Kentucky’s growth to the state’s many programs that help investors and companies quickly move into Kentucky and set up operations. For example, Kentucky’s Build-Ready program helps communities prepare building sites, including building pads, preliminary designs, permits, and utility and transportation infrastructure, which allows companies to quickly move into Kentucky and set up operations. Incentives programs have also helped attract new companies and helped current companies expand.

To further attract and retain companies, Kentucky has prioritized workforce development.

The Kentucky Skills Network is a job training program that has served over 4,000 companies and 84,000 people in its first year. In addition, KY FAME prepares students for manufacturing careers by introducing classroom training and work experience.

To be included in Site Selection’s rankings, projects had to make a capital investment of at least $1 million, create at least 50 jobs, and add at least 20,000 square feet of new floor space. This means that small business growth was not captured in the analysis.

“Kentucky’s small business growth is soaring,” Gov. Beshear told Site Selection. “We have placed tremendous emphasis on creating a culture of entrepreneurship where thousands of small businesses find success on many level.”

Kentucky’s unemployment has followed suite. Between January 2014 to December 2014, Kentucky’s unemployment rate decreased by 2.9 percentage points, from 8% to 5.1%. Every county in Kentucky experienced a decrease, ranging from a decrease of 0.4 percentage points in Russell County to a decrease of 8.4 percentage points in Leslie County.


What Makes a Business Climate Competitive?

 “We’re proud to offer companies a pro-business environment, including an educated workforce, strong infrastructure and progressive incentives. This ranking reflects our dedication toward creating more jobs and supporting our Kentucky families.” – Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

With some of the nation’s lowest industrial electricity costs, a competitive tax structure, aggressive and effective incentive programs, an ideal location and a high quality of life, Kentucky has become a top location choice for globally competitive enterprises. In fact, Kentucky was recently ranked as having the eighth best business climate in the country by Site Selection Magazine, the leading publication for corporate real estate strategy and area economic development.

That’s an improvement from last year, when the state ranked ninth. In 2012, it was 12th. In 2014, Kentucky scored strong in project activity categories, including a top five finish in new facilities per capita for 2013 and 2014, and top 10 in competitiveness and taxes for new firms.

While Site Selection’s rankings of economic development success are heavily project-based, it takes a competitive business climate for those projects to land in locations that rank in the winning states and metros. Fifty percent of the overall Business Climate Ranking is based on a survey of corporate site selectors who are asked to rank the states based on their recent experience on locating facilities in them. The other 50 percent is based on an index of seven criteria: performance in Site Selection’s annual Competitiveness Ranking; total New Plant Database-compliant facilities in 2013; total new facilities in 2013 per capita; total 2014 new projects year to date; total 2014 projects year to date per capita; state tax burdens on mature firms and on new firms according to the Tax Foundation and KPMG Location Matters analysis.

Kentucky Business Climate Ranking
Site Selection’s 2014 Top State Business Climate Rankings


In 2013 alone, over 200 manufacturing facilities announced a new location or expansion in the Commonwealth. So why are more companies choosing Kentucky as a place to do business?

  • Kentucky has the lowest cost of electricity in the industrial sector among states east of the Mississippi River – sixth lowest nationally – averaging nearly 20 percent less than the national average.
  • A 2012 Tax Foundation report ranks Kentucky as the seventh most business-friendly state in the country for new firms and the sixth lowest cost state in the country for new corporate headquarters.
  • Kentucky borders are within 600 miles of over 65 percent of the nation’s population, personal income, and manufacturing establishments.
  • Kentucky is well-served by 19 interstates and major highways, major rail networks, barge traffic on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, five commercial airports and dozens of regional airports.
  • Kentucky offers one of the nation’s lowest cost of living and housing costs up to 30 percent lower than the national average.
  • Thanks to the UPS Worldport in Louisville and DHL in Northern Kentucky, Kentucky ranks 3rd in the nation in total air cargo shipments.
  • Our educational partners work closely to train workers in industry-specific skill sets, and our ability to provide the flexibility and customization that companies require sets us apart. 

CLX Economic Development Team

Commerce Lexington Update

  • Global Entrepreneurship Week is November 17th through the 23rd.  Click here to learn more and to view the schedule of events.
  • Last week, Butler Animal Health Supply, a subsidary of Henry Schein Animal Health, held their Grand Opening Celebration for their new facility in the University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research Campus. The expansion will create 31 new jobs and have invested over $2.6 million in the expansion project.
  • Lexington was ranked the 12th Best City for Veterans by WalletHub.
  • This week, Commerce Lexington will be taking their annual Regional Tour to Northern Kentucky to hear about the area’s key attributes, challenges, and collaborative possibilities from elected officials, and business and community leaders throughout the region.
  • This week, members of Commerce Lexington’s Economic Development team will head to the Kentucky Association for Economic Development’s Annual Conference in Louisville, KY.