New Ranking: College Sports Town

One of the best things about compiling rankings and accolades for a great place like Lexington is that there are always an abundance to choose from. I recently finished my update to our ever-famous Bluegrass Rankings document and the next day a new ranking gets published.

Lexington is officially (according to Forbes) the #5 college sports town in America.

Though our sporting traditions are certainly legendary, the ranking also takes into account quality of life, public school quality, and crime. The article also mentions the great real estate return on investment as well as the attractiveness of college towns for business, especially among information and start-up companies.

http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/12/college-sports-towns-lifestyle-sports_0212_college_towns.html

1 Horse = 16.5 People

I receive all kinds of inquiries here at Commerce Lexington. My position as Research Director makes me a catch-all for any kind of question that people can come up with about Lexington or the surrounding area.

Being that we are in the Bluegrass, I received a question this week about how many horses there are in Fayette County. I had absolutely no clue – the US Census Bureau is generally concerned with humans – so I had to ask for help.

Luckily, the great people at the Kentucky Horse Council were able to track down some information for me. Turns out, the US government IS concerned with more than humans, but instead of looking through the Census Bureau, I had to look at the Department of Agriculture. Sure enough, every five years, the USDA does a Census of Agriculture. You can find Kentucky’s results HERE.

The USDA says we have 14,121 horses and ponies in Fayette County. This is just the start, however. The USDA only records data on “farms.” A “farm” to the USDA is any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year. The great people at the Kentucky Horse Council were able to estimate (along with help from the state) that in every county except Fayette, you can add another 40% to the USDA number to include the number of smaller farms with horses. Because Fayette County is such a unique county, they estimate that only another 20% can be added on for smaller farms.

This gives us a grand total of 16,945 horses and ponies in Fayette County. With a 2007 population of 279,044 humans, that means that there is a horse or pony for every 16.5 people in Lexington.

Coincidentally, Fayette County ranks #1 in the state for the number of horses and ponies. That number also makes it #5 in the nation – I’m still trying to figure out who in the world the other four counties are.

Not surprisingly, even though there are four other counties in the US with more horses and ponies, Fayette County is #1 in terms of sales. Well, technically, it is sales of horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys but I’m guessing the mules, burros, and donkeys aren’t much of that total.

Lexington Unemployment

The unemployment rates for December were released recently. I expected a spike in the non-adjusted unemployment rate due to both the expected loss of many holiday retail jobs as well as the current recession. What I saw truly surprised me. As you can see below, the unemployment rates for both Louisville (up 1.1%) and the state of Kentucky (up .9%) showed a rapid rise from November to December. In contrast, Lexington unemployment (up .1%) remained relatively flat.

croppercapture7I would never advocate that Lexington is immune to any type of national or state economic crisis. However, Lexington is proving to be surprisingly resilient to the violent economic sturm und drang that is devastating many communities. State governments already facing budget shortfalls are having to cope with the rising costs of providing unemployment insurance. It is an unfortunate reality of a poor economic climate that the very organizations or entities that people turn to in times of crisis are less capable of helping due to their own financial circumstances.

There are many possible explanations as to why Lexington is largely avoiding the state and national chaos surrounding the current recession. A highly educated workforce and a diverse economy are two pillars that are often mentioned in the same sentence as Lexington’s economic health. In reality, with the variety of factors that have kept us treading water thus far, I can honestly say that even if Lexington does start to show more serious signs of economic shutdown, I’d rather be weathering the storm in Lexington’s ship than just about any other boat out on the economic horizon.

2009 Economic Forecast

The Herald-Leader is already up with a summary of this morning’s 20th Annual Economic Outlook Conference, sponsored by the University of Kentucky Gatton College of Business and Economics, Commerce Lexington, The Lane Report, and The Center for Business and Economics Research.

You can find it here: http://www.kentucky.com/103/story/681821.html

The full Kentucky Annual Economic Report that was distributed at the conference can also be found here: http://cber.uky.edu/kentuckyannualreports.asp

My version of the highlights:

Kentucky’s economy is predicted to grow in 2009, albeit at a much weaker pace than it has been (Dr. Troske predicts .5% growth in Kentucky for 2009).

Dr. Troske also expects that Lexington will continue to have a relatively stronger economy than Louisville or Northern Kentucky.

Unemployment rates will continue to rise in 2009, with Louisville and Northern Kentucky continuing to have higher unemployment rates than Lexington.

Prices are declining, even when you take out food and energy. Combined with low interest rates, this should provide some boost to the economy.

Lexington should remain somewhat insulated from the housing price declines due to its position as a population growth area. In economic terms, a growing population will increase demand for houses, which will help offset the abundant supply of houses currently on the market.