UK and Lexington Fail in Making the Case for Their Leadership in Defining a 21st Century Kentucky
Ivan C. Potter, Publisher West Kentucky Journal
(February 10, 2020, Clinton, Hickman County KY) Like super spoiled teenagers who always want more allowance money, the Mayor of Lexington and the President of UK, have defined how they want to control of Kentucky's future.
Mayor Linda Gorton, City of Lexington and UK President Eli Capilouto, made the case in an editorial in the Lexington Herald Leader on February 6, 2020 that more state money and federal money will make their city and their university a high tech center. They suggest the best use of public investments would be a strong Lexington and UK to carry the state of Kentucky into the future. With the right investments, Lexington could become a hub for high-tech jobs
This suggestion worked in the 1970s but is woefully outdated fifty years later in the 2020 world.
Why? I think it's because both feel a looming future being very unkind to both of their worlds.
The editorial mentions recent studies pinpointing how modern high tech jobs are locating in America. They write "five metro areas--all on the coasts--accounted for 90 percent of high tech growth in the United States over the last decade, according to the Brookings Institution study."
Closer to Kentucky is the Amazon powerhouse going to Nashville with plans for creating 20,000 high tech creative jobs, at an average of $125,000 per job.
Economic geography for future economic development is going to those cities or regions of America, which have invested time and resources since 1970s that make them "shovel ready" for creating jobs of the future. Cities like Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee, Birmingham and Huntsville Alabama, Asheville, Charleston in the Carolinas are good examples of a new "Southern 2020 Silicon Valley" in a 21st Century South.
Sadly, neither Lexington nor UK has the moral right to speak for all of Kentucky. Both institutions have been on "policy auto control mode" for the past fifty years.
The money to create the high tech hub will come from somewhere. Rural areas that feed workers, students and money into Lexington and UK are being asked to sacrifice clean air, clean water and clean jobs to help the flagship city and the flagship university get bigger and more important. Long known as Kentucky's flagship university, UK forgets that a flagship has a symbiotic relationship with its fleet. When the fleet works properly it enjoys mutual defense, mutual sacrifice and mutual success. In Kentucky's case, the fleet is the rest of us not living in Lexington and attending the University of Kentucky.
In their argument, the Mayor and President list the blessing they already enjoy:
-40% of residents have a bachelor's degree
-more PhDs and advanced degrees
-more patents, more research dollars
-a safe community
-"an enviable quality of life"
These attributes still aren't enough to elevate Lexington and UK into the top tier of tech cities.
May we suggest that other cities and towns in the Commonwealth would count their blessings with these resources?
Those who have much have done little to give back to the rest of Kentucky not so graced.
Instead they ask for more.