Louisville and Lexington must cooperate to be competitive in today’s marketplace
In the week leading up to University of Kentucky’s Final Four victory over the University of Louisville earlier this year, a fight between a fan of the Cats and the Cards at a Georgetown dialysis clinic made national news, bringing to light what many in the region already knew: “When you grow up in Lexington, it is an article of faith that you’re not supposed to like Louisville.”
That, according to Bill Lear, managing director of the Lexington and Louisville law firm Stoll Keenon Ogden, has no place outside of arenas and stadiums.
“We’re part of the same region, and we’re going to get a lot more done if we act like it than if we let old petty rivalries — even if they’re in the DNA — get in the way,” he added.
Ted Smith, Louisville’s director of economic growth and innovation, echoed Lear’s thoughts. “The days of playing small-ball, zero-sum economic development are coming to an end. Having two business leaders opting to public service sends a message to the business community that common sense, not political nostalgia, guide our actions and the path forward,” Smith said about the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM) championed by the two cities’ mayors, themselves both former CEOs.
Fortunately for the future of the cities’ relationship, Smith, who has a track record as an entrepreneur himself, said he’s not seen the rivalry distract from business.
“I have never seen [it] come into play in any way other than in good-natured ribbing. All of the boards I serve on have both alum groups on them, so there is plenty of blue right here in Louisville,” he said.
In fact it was at the 2010 matchup between the Cats and the Cards when then mayors-elect Jim Gray and Greg Fischer hatched the plan for the cities to find a way to work together. But, Gray said, having an element of competition has made for better success, in his experience.
“I grew up in a family business with five brothers. Six of us all together — most of us working in the business, and we never kidded ourselves thinking there wasn’t competition involved,” Gray said about his experience with his family’s construction company, which grew into an international presence.
“That’s just the nature of a family; there’s competition, but there’s also cooperation and collaboration. If you’re competing, you’re also working together,” he said.