FRANKFORT – The year may be about over, but from an economic standpoint, it won’t soon be forgotten.
The first four months alone were especially noteworthy, with not one but three different companies announcing projects worth more than $1 billion apiece. Amazon said it is bringing a shipping hub to Northern Kentucky, creating 2,700 jobs; Toyota set the stage to spend $1.39 billion to overhaul its Georgetown plant, the company’s largest in the world; and Braidy Industries is moving forward with an aluminum mill in the Ashland area that, when it opens in 2020, will churn out almost 400,000 tons of metal for the auto and aerospace industries.
This past spring was also when Kentucky learned that it once again was among the leading states in attracting large economic development projects like these. We ranked seventh in 2016, well ahead of many larger states, and were second when measuring these announcements on a per-capita basis, the third consecutive year we have been among the top two.
Site Selection magazine, a national publication that tracks corporate development, compiled the rankings. To be included, a project must meet or exceed at least one of three minimum criteria: create 20 new jobs, have a capital investment of $1 million or add 20,000 square feet of new space. Kentucky had 231 such projects qualify in 2016, or one about every day-and-a-half.
One area where Kentucky shines is our export market. While the nation saw its overall numbers drop by 3.3 percent last year, ours rose by nearly six percent. We shipped almost $30 billion worth of products to nearly 200 countries, with a third of that from aerospace manufacturers alone. That category was nearly a fourth higher than it was in 2015.
Last month, the Cabinet for Economic Development said we are on track to crack the $30 billion ceiling in 2017, with the first two-thirds of the year running four percent ahead of the same timeframe last year.
The Cabinet also said last month that our overall auto industry continues to thrive, with 30 major projects announced through September. That includes the Toyota and Braidy expansions as well as $900 million Ford said in June it would be invest in the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.
All told, there are more than 500 automotive-related factories in Kentucky, and they employ 100,000 people.
In addition to the sizeable gains we have seen in manufacturing, other industries are exceeding expectations as well.
In May, state officials said tourists spent more than $9 billion in 2016, a five percent increase over 2015. Overall, that industry supports nearly 193,000 jobs that provide more than $3.2 billion in wages.
Just last week, meanwhile, economists from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture reported that this year’s farm receipts are expected to be $5.6 billion, with poultry, horses, soybeans, cattle and corn – in that order – accounting for three-fourths of the total sales.
The number is 3.5 percent higher than 2016’s, but still short of the record $6.5 billion sold in 2014.
The good news about all of these announcements is that there is no real reason for them to stop as we look at 2018 and beyond. The foundation that makes our economy possible – from a well-trained workforce to a relatively low cost of doing business – is just as strong as it has been. My goal as a legislator is to ensure that this rising tide truly lifts all boats, so that everyone and every region benefits.
If you would like to let me know your thoughts on this issue or any other affecting the state, please let me know. My address is Room 432F, 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