A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT– To better understand just how involved Kentucky is in transporting and exporting products across the country and around the world, consider the lobster.
Most people normally wouldn’t associate the commonwealth with the crustacean, but they should, because for more than a decade now, we have been home to the world’s largest inland lobster tank. It’s a key stopping point between Nova Scotia and some of the United States’ finest restaurants.
The company owning the tank – Clearwater Fine Foods – chose Louisville because it wanted to be close to UPS and its sizeable shipping center, which sorts and sends 1.6 million packages a day on average. That facility is the foundation for about 30,000 jobs, a figure that includes more than 140 companies that, like Clear Water Fine Foods, were also drawn to the region because they depend heavily on fast delivery.
DHL, meanwhile, anchors thousands of jobs as well in Northern Kentucky at what is one of its three global hubs. Just earlier this month, the German-based company unveiled the latest stage of more than $100 million in upgrades it has made over the last four years. These changes are helping it better serve customers across the United States and every other country in the world but Turkmenistan, which so far has closed its borders to the company.
When you combine UPS and DHL’s operations, it’s easy to see why Kentucky ranks third among the states in air cargo shipments.
Over the last 18 months, Kentucky officials have rededicated efforts to make sure that the commonwealth also sees similar success when it comes to moving our own products to other states and beyond.
Several weeks ago, Governor Beshear and other state officials traveled to Canada, Kentucky’s largest trade partner by far. Since early last year, he has also led trade missions to Taiwan, Japan, India, Germany and France.
2012 turned out to be a banner year for exports, with sales topping $22 billion for the first time, which was a 10 percent increase over 2011. Our products are now being sold in nearly 200 countries.
On the flip side, foreign-owned businesses accounted for a third of all capital investment in the state last year and nearly a fifth of all new jobs. Overall, there are 420 foreign-owned companies in Kentucky, and total employment is nearing 80,000. Japan is responsible for 37,000 of those, and is poised to add 750 more thanks to Toyota’s recent announcement that it will soon begin assembling the Lexus at its Georgetown plant.
In an effort to build on these gains, the state is moving ahead with the Kentucky Export Initiative (KEI), which is bringing together state officials with trade-oriented organizations. As its name implies, the goal is to make it easier for Kentucky companies to add more international customers. One pilot program in which KEI is involved had already helped nearly 80 small businesses as of last December. If you want to know more, please visit www.kyexports.com.
Just as 2012 was a positive one for Kentucky exports, there was good news on other economic fronts as well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, said our net job growth rate was among the top 10 states between Nov. 2011 and Nov. 2012 and the highest in the eastern U.S.
The Cabinet for Economic Development added that, in 2012, the manufacturing, service and technology industries alone created 14,000 new jobs and invested $2.7 billion. Four-fifths of all expansions were from businesses already here in Kentucky, which is itself a good sign.
Like virtually every other state, Kentucky still has a lot of ground to make up as it continues to recover from the tough economy of the last five years. If we can continue to make the same type of gains that we have over the last year or so, though, the future should be brighter than it has been in a long time.
As always, I encourage you to let me know your thoughts or concerns on this or any other issue affecting Kentucky. My address is Room 366B, 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.