Lexington’s programs to assist foreign-language-speaking residents are getting positive reactions from several city council members.
Members of the General Government Committee got an update Tuesday from Multicultural Affairs Coordinator Isabel Taylor. Taylor said less than four percent of Kentucky’s population is foreign -born. In Fayette County it's closer to 10 percent. The Office of Multicultural Affairs, through Global Lex, on Versailles Road has offered multilingual services, citizenship classes, driver’s education, and public safety instruction since 2015. Council member Richard Moloney said it makes sense to put these services under the supervision of the mayor’s office. “You got people who are coming in who already have degrees," who can contribute to the community with jobs in places like hospitals.
Council member Kevin Stinnett said the immigrant community sustains Lexington’s construction, restaurant and grocery businesses. He said the local economy would collapse without these workers.
Taylor said there’s more study needed to focus on the economic benefits brought by these residents. “We need to get a little bit better idea of what the foreign investment is here,” said Taylor. “Who owns what and what are they generating in jobs and what are they generating in taxes.”
Council member James Brown said, in addition to the economic effect, there are significant cultural benefits to Lexington made possible by foreign-speaking residents.