Heads Up: Louisville, Lexington Aim To Become Advanced Manufacturing Hub

The Great Lakes region has always been known as a center of advanced manufacturing. But with auto jobs disappearing, that title may be up for grabs. Now, the mayors of Louisville and Lexington, KY, want to nab it.


Greg Fischer, the mayor of Louisville, and Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington, announced in Chicago on Thursday that they will team up for an 18-month, $250,000 study of how to turn their region into a “cluster” of advanced manufacturing expertise.

In doing so, the Kentucky cities hope to attract new investment, adding to the auto jobs the state has landed in recent years. The study, to be done by the Brookings Institution, was unveiled at the Clinton Global Initial America, where both mayors were on hand.

The two cities, which sit about 75 miles apart on Interstate 64, have gained thousands of automobile, auto parts and other manufacturing jobs over the past quarter century.

Louisville is home to a Ford assembly plant, while Toyota’s largest North American complex sits just a few miles from Lexington in Georgetown, KY, which opened in 1986.

“Louisville and Lexington, like America itself, need to ask what are our assets, what are our strengths and weaknesses, what can we leverage in new and inventive ways to create jobs and growth in a global marketplace,” Gray said.

Georgetown, and Kentucky itself, have become a model for other cities and states trying to attract investments from U.S.-based companies and international firms alike.

On Thursday, professor Michael Porter of Harvard University said regions such as the Midwest will have to find solutions to expand employment, rather than seek federal help.

Professor Michael Porter

“What we have in America is a collection of very different regional and local economies. The fundamental drivers of competitiveness are regional and local, they’re not in Washington,” Porter said.

He said regions had to capitalize on their “innate strengths” and build clusters, like the one the Kentucky mayors are trying to create, in order to attract jobs. Said Porter: “Regions that do this are regions that can succeed.”

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