Sunday, April 10, 2011

Commerce Lexington's relationship with city may change

By Janet Patton —
Posted: 12:00am on Apr 10, 2011; Modified: 1:54am on Apr 10, 2011

The role of Commerce Lexington — which has received $2.6 million in taxpayer money for economic development in the last five years — is about to change.

In recent years, the local chamber of commerce organization has guided local economic development efforts as the city took a largely hands-off approach. Commerce Lexington, which says its role is to market Lexington to businesses, provides limited public information about what it does with that city money.

But Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said he believes the relationship should be more transparent, and control of economic development should rest with city hall.

"I expect to have a much more active role" in economic development, Gray said in an interview last week. "My sense is, on a (day-to-day) level, the work has been competent. Where we have been lacking is in vision and leadership and strategy."

Bob Quick, Commerce Lexington's president and chief executive officer, in a statement Saturday in response to Gray's comments, defended the chamber's work.

"We have been successful despite a downturn in the economy, as evidenced by a number of projects: Tiffany & Co., Lockheed Martin, Allconnect, Orthopeutics, Galmont Consulting, to name only a few. All of this has been accomplished in an increasingly competitive environment," he said.

The companies — a jeweler, a defense contractor, a call center, a biotech researcher and a software analyzer — all figured prominently in Commerce Lexington's jobs and local investment announcements in the last year.

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