The city of Lexington, which consolidated with Fayette County and so is often referred to as Lexington-Fayette, is the second-largest city in the Bluegrass State. It is the 60th-largest city in the U.S.
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Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington represents the heart of the Bluegrass region. It is one of two cities in Kentucky designated by the state as first-class (the other being Louisville). In the 2016 U.S. Census Estimate, the city’s population was 318,449, though the Lexington metro area population was more than 850,000. The Lexington-Fayette metropolitan statistical area includes five counties: Clark, Jessamine, Bourbon, Woodford, and Scott.
History and Tradition in Lexington
Many of the 19thcentury leading American political and military figures spent part of their lives in Lexington, including U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln was born and raised in Lexington, and the couple visited the city several times during their marriage.
Other historical figures who spent time in Lexington include Confederate President Jefferson Davis, U.S. Senator and Vice President John C. Breckinridge, and Speaker of the House, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State Henry Clay.
Lexington is proud to be the center of thoroughbred horse breeding and racing in Kentucky, with major racetracks and a museum of horses and horseracing. It is the location of the Kentucky Horse Park, The Red Mile, and Keeneland racecourses, as well as Rupp Arena.
The area is noted for its fertile soil, excellent pastureland, and numerous horse and stock farms. Kentucky bluegrass thrives on the limestone beneath the soil’s surface, playing a major role in the development of champion horses and the area’s landscape.
Residents like to refer to their home city as “The Athens of the West,” after a poem by Josiah Espy.
Lexington describes itself as having “a fortified economy,” strong in manufacturing, technology, and entrepreneurial support and benefiting from a well-balanced business base. No one industry can make or break the city.
Lexington had an unemployment rate of under 4 percent in August 2015, lower than many cities of similar size. In 2011, the city was ranked fourth for “Businesses and Careers” by Forbes magazine.
A lot of employment is generated by four Fortune 500 companies: Xerox, Lexmark International, Lockheed-Martin, and IBM. United Parcel Service (UPS), Trane, and Amazon have large operations in the city, while Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky is nearby in adjoining Georgetown. Also, the Lexington-area Jif peanut butter plant produces more peanut butter than any other factory in the world.
The city’s largest employer, the University of Kentucky, employs nearly 14,000 people. The university ranks as the ninth-largest economic company in the state, with an annual budget of $1.4 billion. The university’s College of Medicine is the 21st-largest company in the state.
Lexington ranks 10th among US cities in college education rate, with just under 40 percent of residents having at least a bachelor’s degree. This is due not only to the University of Kentucky but to Transylvania University and Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
The median income for a household in the city was $49,778, and for a family was $53,264. About 8 percent of families and 19 percent of the total population live below the poverty line, including 14 percent of those under 18 and 9 percent of those 65 and older.
Lexington and Addiction
Lexington has a long history with addiction. During the Great Depression, the Addiction Research Center (ARC) was created as a small research unit at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington. [Founded as one of the first drug rehabilitation clinics in the nation, the ARC was affiliated with federal prison. It expanded as the first alcohol and drug rehab hospital in the U.S.
Jefferson and Fayette counties had the most overdose deaths, with 352 and 123, respectively.
The number of deaths from drug overdoses in Kentucky jumped 11.5 percent in 2017 to 1,565. This set a new record, according to a report released Wednesday by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. Deaths attributed to heroin alone declined slightly, but the controlled narcotic and potent painkiller fentanyl claimed the majority of those deaths.
State efforts to combat the drug abuse scourge include the “Don’t Let Them Die” campaign, a public awareness effort that offers information on substance abuse disorder, drug treatment and naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of overdoses.
Also, the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet partnered with Operation UNITE to create the KY Help Call Center, which allows people with a substance use disorder or their family members to speak with a live specialist about treatment options in Kentucky.