August 20, 2012

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand

FRANKFORT– For most of the world, Kentucky is known for three things: fried chicken, horses and bourbon.

Over the last dozen or so years, however, the Commonwealth’s international reputation has grown significantly in other areas as well.  In fact, our exports doubled between 2000 and 2010, staying In 2010, we shipped more than $19 billion worth of goods to other nations.  Only 18 states sent more, and if you take away those that share a border with Canada or Mexico or are along the coasts, our ranking rises to fifth.

Canada is our biggest trade partner by far.  In 2010, it bought more than the next five countries – China was eighth that year, but it has climbed the ranks quickly this past decade.  Since 2000, the value of our exports there has gone up more than 1,000 percent.

Historically, India has not been a major trade partner with Kentucky, but that appears to be changing as well.  Last year, an Indian company announced a deal to invest up to $180 million for a flexible-packaging facility in Elizabethtown, and last week Governor Beshear’s office said that companies in that country would buy $7 billion worth of coal mined here and in West Virginia over the Not surprisingly, manufacturing dominates our exports, and nearly a fifth of Kentucky’s 209,000 jobs in this industry – 90 percent of which are found in small- to medium-sized businesses – are directly supported by what we send to other nations.  Our top exported products are transportation equipment and chemicals.

As our export market continues to grow, foreign companies are increasing their investment here in the Commonwealth.  In 2007, the latest year for which we have statistics, this was estimated at $28 billion, which includes the value of the factories and the equipment they have inside.

Thanks in part to the fact that Toyota’s largest North American plant is located in Georgetown, Japan is first on this list, with its investment topping $11 billion.  Germany was next, followed by the United Kingdom and then France.

Overall, there are about 400 factories across Kentucky owned by a foreign company, and they employ almost 76,000 people.

This week is a good time to focus on what we can offer to other countries because Monday was known as Kentucky World Trade Day.  It highlights an annual conference that is known as the state’s largest gathering of international trade and business professionals.

As those attending would undoubtedly agree, the world seems to get smaller with each passing year while Kentucky’s connections in it keep getting bigger.  If chicken, horses and bourbon are always the first things to come to mind when those in other countries think of Kentucky, there’s every reason to believe that we are also well on our way to adding a few other items to that list.

If you have any thoughts or comments about this issue or any other affecting the state, let me know.  I can be reached by writing to Room 367, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.

You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer