Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lexington-Louisville cooperation plan is not about development along Interstate 64, Jim Host says

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Efforts by Lexington and Louisville to cooperate in economic development, selling the two metropolitan areas as a "super region," might seem to raise some issues for places between them, particularly places on Interstate 64, such as Midway, and especially in light of the new comprehensive plan proposed for Woodford County.

The leader of the project is Jim Host, left, the Lexington sports entrepreneur who impressed just about everyone with his supervision of the construction of Louisville's KFC Yum Center. When Host spoke to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council on Tuesday, he cited the Dallas-Fort Worth area as an example of a an economic super-region. He should stop that, the Lexington Herald-Leader said in an editorial.

"The image it conjures of miles of urban sprawl is an instant turnoff to many of the people whose support the regional effort will need," the newspaper said. "In fact, the committee that Host will chair should make it clear early on that preserving the rural character of the corridor between Lexington and Louisville is a priority," the editorial said. "The last thing they need is an anywhere-USA vista of glass high-rises and chain restaurants running the length of Interstate 64."

Since Midway is surrounded by some of the world's best farmland, has a white elephant of an industrial park on the other side of I-64 from the rest of the town, and may be governed by a land-use plan that could encourage traffic and road-building in its environs, we wondered what implications the Louisville-Lexington effort might have for Midway.

"This is not about us filling the gap between here and Louisville with a bunch of manufacturing plants or anything else," Host told me in an interview. "It's about teaching people how to use technology." He said Dallas and Fort Worth are connected not just by I-20 and other roads, but by education, and a major focus of his effort is to get the state's two major universities to collaborate on engineering projects and reshape the state's education system to create a more solid foundation for that.

"This doesn't have anything to do with any Woodford County industrial sites," Host said. He said the 15-member board of the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement will include the presidents of the two universities and the owner of a small business in Shelbyville. (Full disclosure: Host is a contributor and fund-raiser for the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which I run.)

Beverly Fortune reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader on Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's speech to the Lexington Rotary Club: "For too long, Lexington and Louisville have spent energy on college sports rivalries and differences that separate them, rather than looking at resources they share, Fischer said. With teamwork, the state can get ahead, he said. The goal of the economic initiative is to create high-quality jobs and to increase exports by making Kentucky a global center of excellence in advanced manufacturing." (Read more)

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