Urban Central Kentucky Takes a New Name:
The Birth of a Super Region
The planets are lining up for Central Kentucky. A new regional strategy is being born amid the economic chaos of the 21st Century. Pulling together like two powerful magnets, the cities of Louisville and Lexington are seeking a new plan for walking the same path instead of their past method of working against each other.
Instead of their magnetic forces repelling each other, regional leaders in Central Kentucky now envision the joint power of the two largest urban areas unifying their efforts to build a true modern strategy for high tech job development. This new plan is called the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement
According to a power point program provided to us (the cover photo above), the project will include 27 counties in central Kentucky framed by Louisville and Lexington and four counties in southern Indiana across the Ohio River from Louisville. The Kentucky counties are Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Meade, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, Trimble, Hardin, Franklin, Anderson, Fayette, Clark, Bourbon, Boyle, Jessamine, Madison, Woodford, Scott, Estill, Garrard, Harrison, Lincoln, Mercer, Nicholas and Powell. The Indiana counties are Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Washington.
New leadership in both cities understands the power of working together is far more rewarding then simply repeating decades of mistrust and outright economic cut-throat competition for jobs.
During August, in meetings in Louisville and Lexington, Louisville/Jefferson County Mayor Greg Fisher and Lexington/Fayette County Mayor Jim Gray held joint press conferences to announce their intention to move the two largest urban areas of Kentucky into a joint economic development strategy for the 21st century. Working with the Brookings Institute, Fisher and Gray secured one of America’s top independent think tanks to agree to help develop the new strategy.
Brookings Institute, through its Metropolitan Policy Group, added Central Kentucky project as one of seven U.S. regions it will assist in developing a comprehensive business plan for regional economic development. A gift from the Bloomberg Foundation of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of $4.8 million is the basic funding source for the seven national and regional Brooking Institute studies.
The budget for the 18 month long project includes $250,000 in private contributions coming from private Kentucky businesses. Much of this initial amount has already been raised. The Brookings Institute will donate $750,000 in time and staff for basic research and strategic services.
Key man Jim Host, of Lexington, who recently finished overseeing the development of the KFC Yum Center in downtown Louisville, will be the project director. Host told Beverly Fortune of the Lexington Herald Leader about the experience of traveling into Louisville each day from Lexington.
Fortune wrote “For five years while working on the Yum Center, Host drove from Lexington to Louisville every morning and back home at night. Host said he learned a great deal about how Louisville works and it only bolstered an idea he had for many years that the Lexington-Louisville corridor should function like the Dallas-/Fort Worth corridor.”
Central Kentucky is the crossroads of Interstates 64, 75, 71, the Bluegrass Parkway and West Kentucky Parkway and the Mountain Parkway. All major four lane highways in Kentucky flow through these 27 countries and Southern Indiana.
Other regions’ political clout will be considerably weakened by creation of a voting bloc of super region members. Party lines, the Mason – Dixon line of Kentucky politics in the past, could fall to regional loyalties.
This region is home to 44 House of Representatives members, a voting bloc of 44%.
Stretching across half the geography of the state, West Kentucky will have 24 members, 24% of the House. Eastern Kentucky has 22 members for 22% of the House and Northern Kentucky is left with 10 representatives for 10% of the House.
There’s a similar story in the Kentucky Senate. The super region, with 19 senators, 50% of the Senate’s membership, will outpace the West with its 9 members (24%), the East with 7 members (18%) and the North with 3 members (7%) of the total vote.
The time is ripe for the birth of this super region in Kentucky. It will happen because not only do the mayors of Louisville and Lexington want it, but so do all the major players and powerful influence brokers in Central Kentucky. When the two mayors rolled out this idea for public showing, they involved over 1,200 powerful individuals into the process.
The basic question for the future of Kentucky is what will be the impact of a super region in the heart of the Commonwealth on the rural areas and small towns? Can a state tilted toward a dense urban area still be called Kentucky?
Only time, future shock, state budgets and legislators can answer that question.