Lexington, Kentucky: Built on Strength
Each year, the Chamber leads a delegation of business, community, nonprofit and education leaders to visit a peer city and learn about best practices that can be applied in the Springfield region. In September, more than 80 leaders from our area visited Lexington, Kentucky. A full written report covering takeaways and potential next steps will be released later this year; what follows is the introduction to that report.
Sometimes it can be easy for midsize cities, especially in the Midwest, to get lumped together. The term “flyover country” was coined for a reason, after all.
But when you arrive in Lexington, Kentucky, there is no mistaking where you are. Whether you arrive by air or by highway, the city’s brand is evident. It’s all about “bourbon, basketball, and the blue horse” ... and it’s pervasive in nearly every part of this county of half a million people.
The brand is no accident. It’s the result of years of work figuring out the city’s identity and building on those strengths to create a brand that could be easily, well, distilled.
As the members of Springfield’s 2019 Community Leadership Visit delegation learned, that’s how the people of Lexington handle most things:
- They identify their strengths
- They address their issues – even the issues that are difficult to tackle
- And they make a concerted effort to include a place for everyone at the table when discussing the path forward
It’s the way they’ve handled a whole range of concerns: growth planning, diversity and inclusion, downtown revitalization, the connection between the community and the university, workforce development, investment in education and more. It’s a methodical, focused approach that ensures everyone’s voice is heard and then joins those voices into one, mostly unified chorus.
Of course, not everyone agrees on every topic. That’s the nature of true discussion. But they are intentional about including everyone in the process from the beginning, building deep trust that spans different generations and diverse backgrounds in race, religion, ideology and experience.
That approach also has created an identity for the city that is truly authentic ... something that goes beyond a branding effort. Because Lexington has realized its biggest strength – just like most cities – is its people ... all its people.
Below are a few photos from the delegation's trip to Lexington!