Lexington talks more business grants, economic development challenges

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Building on the success of a similar program last summer, Lexington may do another grant program to help small businesses complete coming out of the pandemic.

But it’ll probably be at least next month before the Urban County Council works out all the details.

The city is considering using $5 million in federal stimulus money for refundable loans of up to $25,000 for businesses with less than 50 employees. Restaurants could have as many as 100 workers. If they meet their guidelines, the loans will be forgiven.

At least 50 percent of the loans would got to women- or minority-owned businesses.

The program is similar to a successful $2.5 million program that helped more than 100 businesses last summer.

“All of this is good for the city because more wages being paid is more payroll taxes coming into the city, more businesses thriving, net profits coming into the city and more net profits and more payroll mean more services to our constituents. And of course, these employees who are keeping their jobs or earning a better wage can better afford their basic needs and enjoy spending money in our economy. That again means more opportunity for our city,” said Council member Preston Worley, who was the driving force behind last year’s program and suggested a second round earlier this year.

While members of Council’s Budget Committee agree the program is needed, they still want to work out management fees, how other federal stimulus dollars might be spent, application processes and other details.

The full Council will discuss it at its April 6 work session at which time some of the questions raised during Tuesday’s discussion will have been answered.

Meanwhile, the Budget Committee also heard presentations on progress by three of the groups that receive funds for business and economic development. And while all three outlined reasons for success and optimism, they also noted significant challenges.

The cost of land, the lack of large industrial tracts and Fayette County’s size often are roadblocks for Lexington when it comes to recruiting large, new job producers.

Price is a big issue because it makes it harder for the county to put together large blocks of land. UK’s Coldstream Research Park may help some, but it’s still an issue, the committee was told.

To make sure potential industries know the work force is available, Lexington includes surrounding counties in marketing itself. That extends the city from a mid-sized market t ne of almost one million people.

That lets employers know a large work force is available within 30 miles. But it also sometimes sends companies looking across county lines.

“Price is a big price point if you can cross the county line for $50,000 less or 20 contiguous acres instead of five acres here or there and be in a park, it is significant numbers you know. But I’d rather it be in Woodford County or Madison County  than in Nashville, Tennessee,” Commerce Lexington’s Gina Greathouse told committee members.

Committee members were told Lexington has lost several projects to surrounding counties. Those counties reap big tax benefits while Lexington still does get some indirect sales and other revenues.

Categories: Featured, Local News, News