Ribbon Cuttings or Grand Openings in Lexington?

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Commerce Lex at LFUCG Budget Finance Committee

Council Member Andrea James had specific questions for Commerce Lexington at today’s Budget/Finance Committee meeting.

“You all have had some great events. Mr.Gravely made a huge impact. And I’m wondering what Commerce Lexington’s going to do different now that you’ve heard him?” [Dr. Melvin Gravely is the author of The Lost Art of Entrepreneurship; When Black and White Make Green; and Getting to the Next Level: Business, Race and Our Common Goal to Be Competitive.]

Bob Quick’s response:

“Anytime we have any speaker come in, you always try to modify what you’re doing—your approach—kinda take the nuggets, the golden nuggets away. That’d be a good conversation—like from the Melvin Gravely event—with Tyrone. Again, we typically pick up as much as the participants there. In a way, I guess we are a participant. We try to pick up a lot of what they’re saying. To then focus it in again with what our mission has been. And then improve it, change it, as we need to. I know I’m being really generalistic….”

CM James: “I was looking for real changes.”

(Quick’s response, “We try to look for specific changes that we can make in how we assist companies. That’s something I’d just have to analyze and put a list together for you, as we do each of these.”)

Regarding the recent Minority Expo, James said, “A couple people specifically mentioned Commerce Lexington—they expected less of a benign effort following the Expo. They felt like they wanted more Action. There are business leaders who are waiting for Commerce Lexington—as the primary recipient of Urban County Government general fund dollars for the purpose of economic development—to really take a leadership role in the outcomes of that Minority Expo.”

She asked for “immediate take-aways” from Rebecca Ryan’s recent visit to Lexington.

Quick’s responded, “Bringing Rebecca back to Lexington was all about her being on the ground—having a chance to interact with you, with the tech sector, with people who are happy, those who are not happy. Trying to figure out how can we then take the points that have got us to 13th in mid-size magnet cities and analyze where we’re at compared to all these other 12 ahead of us, and try to improve ourselves. What we’re doing now is taking the pieces and trying to put those into action plans. But also we’re hoping that other groups, organizations will take on the challenge of some of her findings as well.”

Toward the end of the meeting, James pointed out, “Fortunately or unfortunately, all of our money’s going to Commerce Lexington for economic development. So they are, at this point, the only entity that is to fulfill that role. So that’s what we got. Unless we want to do something different at budget time, this is the opportunity to talk about what our economic development needs are—in conjunction with DDA, Planning, Neighborhood Associations, and everybody together…My question, Mr. Quick, is what do you need from us to know we are interested in pursuing—at least some of us—for local retail to be part of economic development for Lexington.”

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Council Member Jay McChord asked, “Your-all’s strategy, your guiding philosophy and what you all do—I know a strategic plan was done a couple years ago—do you feel like, honestly, it is working? That it is good? That it is solid?”

Bob Quick’s response was, “Yes….Can it be enhanced? We’re always looking for ways to enhance it.”
McChord’s comments on Ryan’s visit included:

“Rebecca Ryan said it very well at Buster’s—I would encourage all of us in this room to go with this sentiment—Sometimes we like to celebrate ribbon cuttings over Grand Openings. And we like to celebrate what we’re thinking about doing, versus ‘this is what we got done, and here is how we’re doing it.’ I think that’s what this body needs to take up, as well as our partners out in the Community.”

[Ace attended the Grand Opening of Buster’s for example, and reported at the time that Harold Tate of Lexington DDA was present. As was PVA’s David O’Neill. LFUCG/economic development turnout was sparse, though Distillery District growth is often cited as a positive goal for Lexington within Lexington’s planning and economic development leadership. ]

 

 

 

  • Bill Johnston

    Reading Commerce Lexington’s responses to Councilwoman James’ questions, I was struck by the lack of anything specific being said. That illustrates a real problem Lexington has. We have developed great expertise in having people come and make presentations and observations, and we have developed great expertise in visiting example cities from which to glean ideas. We are weak in implementing what we learn, so we keep doing what we feel comfortable doing over and over: attending presentations and making visits. It is easier to attend and visit and pretend to be moving forward via a false sense of action, than to actually accomplish something.



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