A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – In recent days, the state’s Cabinet for Economic Development has been highlighting an industry that can be summed up in three words: Made in Kentucky.
It’s a phrase that applies to more and more products every year. According to the Cabinet, we now have more than 4,000 factories, and their 220,000 employees manufacture about $27 billion worth of goods, a third more than they did just five years ago.
We can point to several factors behind this positive trend, beginning with our exports, which grew faster than all but one state in 2013 and are 10 percent ahead of that record pace so far this year.
At the same time, more than 200 manufacturers announced last year that they were locating here or undertaking a major expansion. All told, they are on track to create nearly 7,500 jobs.
In a further breakdown of these numbers, there are three industrial sectors helping to lead this latest resurgence: aerospace, aluminum and autos.
The first of those is our biggest exporter, accounting for 20 percent of all that we ship beyond our borders. The auto industry is a close second, which is no surprise since we’re now third among the states in light car and truck production. In addition to our four assembly plants, we have more than 450 other factories supplying the parts these vehicles need.
As for aluminum, few states can match our production, and we’re set to see those numbers grow significantly as the auto industry moves toward all-aluminum bodies. Only about one percent of vehicles now fits in that category, but the Cabinet for Economic Development says this is expected to grow to 20 percent within a decade. This move is already having a major impact here in Kentucky, since it was the driving force behind two recent announcements amounting to $500 million in new investment.
In addition to making a name for ourselves in these three categories, there are other areas as well where we shine.
Consider that a Louisville company makes about 90 percent of the disco balls now produced in the country. If you’re looking for more timeless pastimes, Hopkinsville’s Ebonite International is the world’s epicenter for bowling equipment; a Northern Kentucky factory makes most of the playing cards we shuffle; another company provides athletic equipment used extensively by our pro sports franchises; and the houseboat industry that originated here in Kentucky more than 60 years ago now has annual sales topping $800 million.
In terms of everyday products, one of our factories makes enough Post-it Notes to circle the globe 100 times annually, and Louisville is home to Reynolds Wrap, which will celebrate a century of production in a few years.
Many of our manufacturers provide the food we eat and drink. Those include the world’s largest peanut butter plant in Lexington and the only factories that make Hot Pockets, Uncrustables sandwiches and Airheads candy. We also have 50 non-alcoholic beverage producers, 34 distilleries and 28 wineries.
Kentucky’s diverse profile when it comes to manufacturing speaks volumes about all that we have to offer, and it’s a good foundation from which to work as the industry adds jobs here that once went overseas. Our task now, quite literally, is to build on that foundation, but that’s something I’m confident we can do.
If you have any questions or comments about this issue, feel free to contact me. You can write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me or for any legislator, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.