The4th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism was held on Thursday, October 18, 2007, at 9:30 AM, at Keeneland in Lexington. Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, Co-Chair; Representative Eddie Ballard, Co-Chair; Senators Julian M. Carroll, Brett Guthrie, Ray S. Jones II, and Gary Tapp; Representatives Carolyn Belcher, Larry Belcher, Kevin D. Bratcher, Larry Clark, Leslie Combs, Jim DeCesare, Milward Dedman Jr, Ted Edmonds, Jim Gooch Jr, Mike Harmon, Melvin B. Henley, Dennis Horlander, Joni L. Jenkins, Dennis Keene, Adam Koenig, Tom McKee, Tim Moore, David Osborne, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Don Pasley, and Ancel Smith.
Guests: Nick Nicholson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Keeneland; Jay McChord, 9th District Fayette County Councilman; and Deborah Taylor Tate, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission.
LRC Staff: John Buckner, Committee Staff Administrator; Karen Armstrong-Cummings; Louis Pierce; and Dawn Johnson.
Co-Chair Kerr welcomed committee members to the joint meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism and the Interim Joint Committee on Labor and Industry.
Nick Nicholson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Keeneland, welcomed members to the racing facility. He noted that last year 8,418 thoroughbreds were sold at Keeneland for $8.4 million, with nearly all of the buyers coming from outside Kentucky, and with most of the proceeds remaining in the state. He said last year's yearling sale totaled $299 million while this year's total was $285 million. In 2006, 32 horses were sold for more than $1 million each totaling $89 million; although the same number of horses sold this year for $49 million. He said that although business was down, the middle and lower areas of the market continued to be strong. He said 475,000 people attend the racing meets each year, with half of those coming from outside the Lexington area. Mr. Nicholson noted that he supported the proposed compulsive gambling legislation that was prefiled for the 2008 session of the General Assembly.
Mr. Jay McChord, Fayette County 9th District Councilman, explained the Healthway Initiatives Program to committee members. Mr. McChord said Kentucky has some of the most beautiful areas in the United States but most cannot be seen by car. He said a movement has begun in Lexington to promote healthier people, a healthier environment, and a healthier economy through a Greenways/HealthWay Trail System. He said Kentucky ranks near the bottom in health-related areas. He said trails are being created locally but not statewide. Mr. McChord said the Rails to Trails program created in 1994 has not been as successful as in other states such as Ohio. He said with trail creations, community health increases, and as a result, the economy and quality of life also increase. He said young professionals are demanding greenway trails which also attract and retain tourism. Kentucky is 45th in the nation in trails availability having only 21 miles of rail trails because of the way the legislation is set up. He said Kentucky is 5th in the nation in obesity, 50th in the number of smokers, 50th in lacking leisure activities, 47th in cardiovascular deaths, and 63 percent of Kentuckians are classified as being overweight.
Mr. McChord said the model of 21st century economic development is to build communities that are attractive to knowledge-based, primarily young professionals. He said there are very specific things this group wants such as a trail system and a way of getting around other than by car, a beautiful environment, economic opportunity and a high quality of life. He said Ohio, Virginia, and Minnesota have ideal trail systems. Mr. McChord said Kentucky could save $80 million per year in healthcare costs if 10 percent of Kentuckians walked 30 minutes a day, three times per week. He said the question is where would people walk in Kentucky without trails. He said Kentucky is 20 years behind on developing a trail system but this could be reversed in five years. Lexington has created a replicable model that can be used across the state. Casey, Shelby, and Hopkins County have all shown interest in this model. The Lexington greenway system will connect downtown to the Horse Park on to the Kentucky River in Garrard County. Mr. McChord challenged the members to review the Rails to Trails legislation, to look at Georgia's model, and to appropriate $20 million in the next two budgets to create a fund for communities that are ready to proceed.
A motion and second were made to approve the minutes of the September 20, meeting. Motion carried by voice vote.
Next was Ms. Deborah Taylor Tate, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission. Ms. Tate said she had a recent meeting with small telecommunications agencies. She stressed the importance of providing broadband services to facilitate economic development in the state. She said ConnectKentucky has become a nationwide model. She said Kentucky is on its way to reaching the 98 percent connectivity goal and there is now a ConnectTennessee and a ConnectNation based on the Kentucky model. Ms. Tate said broadband services are essential to education. She said the Universal Service Program is important for states with rural areas like Kentucky so they are not left behind.
Ms. Tate said the transition from analog to digital signal will occur February 18, 2009. She said when the broadcast spectrum is swapped it will become the largest spectrum the country has ever had and the spectrum auction is expected to be very profitable for the Treasury. She said National Association of Broadcasters will contact all states to ensure every American has television access February 18, 2009. She said DTV.gov will answer all questions regarding the transition.
Co-Chair Kerr noted that each member received a copy of the update on the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund in their folder.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 10:05 AM.