I’ve written before about how Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer saw cooperation with Lexington as a vehicle for making his smallish region more competitive. This has gone beyond talk. As Louisville and Kentucky fought it out on the basketball court, the New York Times was reporting on how the two cities are planning to become economic teammates. Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution also wrote about this initiative.
The first concrete step in this is something called the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement. It’s a partnership around advanced manufacturing between the two cities developed in conjunction with Brookings. Here’s a video about it. It’s a big goofy, and the production values clearly need improvement (such as the two minutes of basically dead air at the end of it), but it should illustrate what they are trying to get at. (If the video doesn’t display for you, click here).
I’ve historically been a bit skeptical of the mega-region concept. I could never figure out exactly what it is mega-regions were supposed to accomplish that would provide step change improvements in metro area performance. It’s not exactly clear here either what is going to ultimately happen. However, if you are going to make mega-region type development happen, Louisville and Lexington are pretty well placed to prove out the concept. They are in the same state, they are both too small to plausibly go it alone in the global marketplace, and they are close – only about 80 miles apart. They are just far apart to be separate media markets and spheres of influence, but close enough to make going back and forth a breeze. They also decided to pick just one area to start with, which I think was smart. I’ll be very interested to see what comes out of this. Anyone interested in cross-regional collaboration should keep an eye on what’s happening here.