Kentucky Innovation Starts in Cities
By J.D. Chaney, Executive Director/CEO, Kentucky League of Cities
At the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC), we have the fortunate opportunity to serve those who serve at the local level. As we move into a new decade, our commitment to serving cities remains firm, while our organization envisions new ways to help cities succeed. We know that no organization, business, or city can be complacent.
Cities are the economic engines of Kentucky. Four of five jobs in the state are located in our cities, and more than half of all Kentucky residents (55%) live in cities. Their success elevates our commonwealth, its businesses, and its future.
As a nonprofit member association for nearly 400 Kentucky cities, as well as municipal agencies, we watch in awe as thousands of city officials make real sacrifices to do everything that can be done just to make life better for their citizens. City officials are closest to the people. They do it without fame, glory, power or much, if any, pay to make our communities stronger.
Cities are where companies come to do business. Our Kentucky cities are places of unimaginable beauty, filled with passionate people who love where they live. Amidst our eastern Kentucky mountains, our western Kentucky lakes and farms, our storied horse farms and our cosmopolitan golden triangle (Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky) are cities that offer strong workforces, local assets, and a spirit of innovation. Small Kentucky cities are the birthplaces of Abraham Lincoln, thoroughbred horses, bluegrass music – and bourbon.
Much of our local innovation comes from necessity. Business leaders know that vast challenges exist everywhere in our modern world, from addiction issues to affordable housing. Cities have very limited resources and still serve the public every day. We like to say, “What people don’t think about, cities provide,” – water, lights, streets, police, parks. Cities build infrastructure, provide incentives, and sustain the fabric of our modern lives. That pioneer spirit of our Kentucky ancestors strongly exists today in cities that are creating quality of place that results in a higher quality of life.
KLC was formed in 1927, when 12 Kentucky cities came together to create a unified front on common legislative issues, and to create economies of scale for purchases. Today, KLC is governed by an 18-member Executive Board of Directors representing communities of all sizes. The 62 members of the KLC Board of Directors develop a legislative agenda every year, provide legislative strategies, and review policy issues.
KLC is one of the strongest voices in our capital city of Frankfort, advocating for the best interest of cities and citizens. There are big challenges facing our commonwealth, and cities are leading the way in addressing issues important to Kentuckians. Currently, we are advocating for changes in state law to create a sustainable public pension system for our city workers who are responsible for delivering services to citizens. Cities, along with numerous other stakeholders, are leading the charge to get state policy makers to commit to investing more in both the state’s and our communities’ infrastructure needs to not only build, but also maintain and repair crumbling streets and utilities. And, it is our city leaders who are making the case for local government tax reform to move local governments away from an over-reliance on taxes on productivity to pave the way for greater competitiveness for economic growth. KLC also responds to our members’ changing needs beyond legislative advocacy.
Taking a wholistic approach, KLC provides cities, leaders, and employees with a range of services including legal inquiry services, personnel services, community development consulting, training, policy development and research, technology, and cybersecurity services and more.
In 1987, when private insurance companies left Kentucky cities, KLC stepped up and formed a municipal pool so cities could have stable insurance. KLC now covers more Kentucky municipalities than all other insurance carriers combined, insuring billions of dollars in local assets and providing health and employee benefits to city employees.
KLC also operates a financial services program which provides bonding and financing for municipal and quality of life projects. More than half of all Kentucky communities have used the KLC finance program. In 2019, KLC partnered with business to create the KLC Investment Pool. It is administered by KLC, governed by a Board of Trustees comprised of Kentucky local leaders, and managed and advised by professional asset managers.
Our organization values opportunities to partner with businesses that share our goal of providing cities with quality products and services. That’s why we started the KLC Cornerstone Partner Program. For businesses that want to capture the municipal market, KLC is the one-stop source because KLC is the most valuable, trusted resource for Kentucky’s 2,300 city officials and their 25,000 employees. KLC has a dedicated business relations manager on staff who works with businesses in and outside of Kentucky to create beneficial ways to reach the municipal market and more than $3.4 billion in annual purchasing power of Kentucky’s cities.
KLC is recognized as one of the nation’s most inventive and successful leagues of its kind. Part of that comes from a recognition that partnerships with businesses and other levels of government are critical for city success. As businesses, worldwide, continue to invest in Kentucky cities, we continue to invest in them as well, through our mission to support innovation, effective leadership, and quality governance.
Needless to say, we love with our cities and encourage business leaders to explore our Kentucky communities. It is inspiring for us to be a small part of city work, and it is what drives us at KLC to support local efforts. We believe that our commonwealth’s fate and future depend on the success of our cities.
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: Kentucky League of Cities
WHAT: A nonprofit membership association service over 380 Kentucky cities and municipal agencies.
WHERE: Lexington, Kentucky