Nearly 15,000 new and protected jobs in the Commonwealth. Another practical, balanced budget, with $1.6 billion in reductions since 2008. Marshalling federal and state resources to help families and communities recover from devastating disasters. These are just a few of the accomplishments Governor Steve Beshear highlighted in his "Top 10 Accomplishments of 2012" released today.
"I'm proud of the work we have done this year to help our families recover from tough times, from prescription drug abuse to tornadoes," said Gov. Beshear. "We remain focused on the goals we brought into the administration -- to create new jobs and keep them here, to manage taxpayers' money wisely, and to champion initiatives to improve public health, education and workforce development. We have garnered national accolades for our efforts in these areas, but we aren't working for recognition. We are working to better the lives of our Kentucky families."
1. 2ND-HIGHEST JOB GROWTH RATE IN U.S., WITH THOUSANDS OF NEW JOBS
In October, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked Kentucky second in the nation for job growth rate over the past year, with a net increase of 2.6 percent. That growth is more than double the rate of our nearby competitor states. From September 2011 to September 2012, 47,000 jobs were created in the Commonwealth.
Kentucky's flexible economic development incentives and friendly business climate continue to attract more new and expanding companies to our state. 2012 was a banner year for job growth made possible by these incentives, with the announcement of 342 projects representing 13,051 prospective new jobs and 1,896 jobs saved. Those critical job-creation projects represent a more than $2.6 billion investment across the Commonwealth.
Multiple national organizations have recognized Kentucky's prowess in nurturing and supporting businesses, including:
The Kauffman Foundation ranked Kentucky as one of the top 10 states for entrepreneurs, tied for the eighth-highest number of new startup companies;
CNBC rated Kentucky as the best state for cost of doing business;
State Policy Reports ranked Kentucky in the top 15 states for economic momentum;
Business Facilities magazine named the partnership between the Commonwealth and Ford Motor Co. as its national Economic Development Deal of the Year;
Trade and Industry magazine ranked the Ford Motor Company investment in Kentucky as one of the top 15 corporate projects in the U.S.;
Area Development magazine recognized Kentucky with a Silver Shovel Award, given to states which are the most successful in creating jobs and securing investments in new and expanding facilities; and
Southern Business and Development magazine named Governor Beshear its 2012 Person of the Year, based on his strong pursuit of economic opportunity for the state.
Major jobs announcements in 2012 include:
Anchor Packaging in Mount Vernon - $7.6 million investment, 150 jobs
Elovations Services Group in Erlanger - $13.7 million investment, 696 jobs
David Brown in Inez - $4.7 million investment, 24 jobs
iwis in Murray - $12.5 million investment, 75 jobs
Modern Transmission Development in Leitchfield - $3.7 million investment, 61 jobs
American Fuji Seal in Bardstown - $10 million investment, 45 jobs
Big Ass Fans in Lexington - $8 million investment, 150 jobs
Teletech Services Corporation in Hopkinsville - $12 million investment, 700 jobs
Amazon.com in Winchester - $20.7 million investment, 550 full-time, 600 seasonal jobs
CafePress Inc. in Louisville - $16.5 million investment, 592 jobs
Transcraft Corp. in Cadiz - $3 million, 80 jobs
Bluegrass Shavings in Liberty - $2.4 million investment, 50 jobs
GE in Louisville - $250 investment, 600 jobs
Plaza Recovery in Covington - $2.5 million investment, 250 jobs
Magna Seating in Shepherdsville - $20 million investment, 450 jobs
SMC in Nicholasville - $1.9 million investment, 94 jobs
Olympic Steel in Mount Sterling - $11.2 million investment, 40 jobs
Bingham McCutchen in Lexington - $22.5 million investment, 250 jobs
Berry Plastics in Madisonville - $96 million investment, 400 jobs
2. POWERFUL PRESCRIPTION DRUG LAW SHUTS ILLEGAL PAIN CLINICS
The state's comprehensive prescription drug law, House Bill 1 (HB1) has been in effect for less than six months but already shows major positive impact in shutting down unlicensed pain clinics, reducing prescriptions of some of the most abused drugs, and accelerating investigations of medical providers with suspicious prescribing habits.
HB1 passed with bipartisan support in a special legislative session this spring. The bill includes multiple elements to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs and to enhance law enforcement's tools to investigate illegal prescribing practices.
Since HB1 took effect:
20 of the state's known 45 pain management clinics have closed rather than submit to new rules that protect consumers.
The number of medical providers registered to use the state's nationally recognized prescription monitoring program, KASPER, has more than tripled.
The number of daily KASPER reports has skyrocketed from less than 3,000 per day to nearly 20,000.
Prescriptions for some of the most abused or diverted drugs have dropped compared to a year before (Nov. 2011 to Nov. 2012), including:
Hydrocodone -- down 16 percent;
Oxycodone -- down 16 percent;
Alprazolam (Xanax) -- down 20 percent; and
Oxymorphone (Opana) -- down 48 percent.
Governor Beshear has joined forces with partners in state and federal government to close loopholes and enact policies to thwart fly-by-night providers and doctor-shoppers who wreak havoc on families and communities through prescription abuse.
Gov. Beshear met with U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske to advise him of Kentucky's multiple efforts to battle prescription drug abuse.
This spring, Gov. Beshear spoke at the National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit to call on the federal government and state to develop aggressive shared tactics to fight prescription abuse.
In March, Kentucky signed a multistate agreement to share prescription drug dispensing data with at least 20 other states, to provide a more comprehensive database to cut off access to abusers and identify problem prescribers.
Governor Beshear added $6.1 million in new funding in the current budget for substance abuse treatment for Kentuckians enrolled in Medicaid. That treatment includes individual therapy, group therapy, peer support and intensive case management. The funding will provide treatment for 5,800 adults and teens over the biennium.
3. IMMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM HELP IN DISASTER RECOVERY
The March tornadoes that caused millions in damage and killed two dozen people, mostly in eastern Kentucky, are the 11th federally declared natural disaster of Gov. Beshear's administration. After those storms, Gov. Beshear visited the disaster areas multiple times, and worked directly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state agencies to ensure the affected areas got needed relief assistance immediately.
The tornadoes damaged more than 2,800 homes. Of those, 810 were destroyed. FEMA provided $24.5 million for repair projects, and $10.2 million for individual assistance grants.
Gov. Beshear also accelerated state assistance to areas like West Liberty and Morgan County. State agencies set up temporary offices in damaged areas within hours of the storm. The Governor directed long-term assistance as well, including providing funding for highway reconstruction and downtown redesign and rebuilding.
The summer brought scorching drought that affected nearly every Kentucky county. Eventually, all but 3 of Kentucky's 120 counties were classified as drought disaster areas by the U.S. Agriculture Secretary. Gov. Beshear worked with the state and federal partners to make sure farm families had access to relief assistance.
4. FASTER, CHEAPER, SAFER: KENTUCKY BRIDGES UNDER CONSTRUCTION
By working across party lines with other governors, accelerating construction timelines and promoting competition among contractors, Gov. Beshear has ensured that Kentucky's critical transportation arteries are under construction faster than anticipated. Moving quickly to build or repair these bridges will save tens of millions through increased competition and compressed timelines, and creates safer, more reliable transportation for Kentuckians.
Gov. Beshear joined Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana in August to break ground on the first construction phase of the Ohio River Bridges Project, which will build two new spans across the Ohio River in Louisville. The governors, working together, identified practical solutions to cut costs to an attainable level. They also split the project, giving Kentucky authority over the downtown bridge and Indiana responsibility for the eastern span. Their combined efforts dropped project costs 40 percent from original estimates. In November, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet awarded the contract for construction of the downtown Louisville bridge to Walsh Construction Inc. The contract is $90 million under estimate and the bridge is expected to be finished nearly 19 months ahead of schedule.
The Sherman-Minton Bridge in Louisville returned to service ahead of schedule following emergency closure in September 2011 after a suspicious crack was found during a routine inspection. Kentucky and Indiana worked hand-in-hand to redirect traffic and expedite the repair, which was completed in February.
In December, Gov. Beshear joined Ohio Governor John Kasich to sign an agreement to begin the formal process for planning and building a new span alongside the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington. The current bridge carries the entire load of both Interstate 71 and I-75 as well as local traffic. It is classified as "functionally obsolete" because of its narrow lanes, absence of emergency shoulders and limited visibility on the lower deck. A construction contract is could be awarded by 2014.
Govs. Beshear and Kasich also broke ground on another Ohio River bridge, this one spanning Ironton, Ohio, and Russell, Ky. The Ironton-Russell Bridge is 90 years old and will be demolished after the new bridge is completed in fall 2015.
The Eggners Ferry Bridge, which carries U.S. 68/KY 80 across Kentucky Lake, opened to traffic 2½ days earlier than expected after emergency repairs. The bridge was severed Jan. 26, when a cargo ship, the Delta Mariner, struck the bridge and tore away a 322-foot span. The bridge was repaired before Memorial Day weekend, saving the summer tourism season in the Lakes Region of Western Kentucky.
A new U.S. 60 Tennessee River Bridge between Paducah and Ledbetter may open more than a year ahead of schedule, thanks to an aggressive construction timetable. The Ledbetter bridge is scheduled to open by Oct. 31, 2013 -- instead of an original target of July 2014.
5. FOREIGN TRADE TRIPS LEAD TO DIRECT INVESTMENT
Gov. Beshear takes his message of Kentucky's business-friendly climate and strong workforce directly to job-creators across the globe, and 2012 offered outstanding results. Kentucky is home to approximately 420 foreign-owned companies from 30 nations, employing more than 77,000 people, and the Governor continues to pursue more. Nearly 35 percent of all capital investment and almost 20 percent of all jobs announced in 2012 were a result of foreign-owned enterprises.
Germany -- after the Governor's trip in July, two German-owned automotive suppliers announced plans to invest and hire in Kentucky. Webasto Sunroof Systems announced plans to invest $10 million and add 65 jobs in Lexington, and iwis, which manufactures timing drive systems for engines, will establish its first U.S. manufacturing operation in Murray. The iwis project will create 75 new, full-time jobs and entail a more than $12.5 million investment in the Commonwealth.
France -- after the Governor's visit to global cosmetics and hair care manufacturer L'Oreal in Paris this summer, the company announced plans to invest more than $42 million and add more than 200 new jobs in Florence.
Japan and Taiwan -- Shortly after returning from a successful economic development trip to Asia, Gov. Beshear joined Taica North America Corp. officials to announce the company's plans to locate a manufacturing facility in Winchester. The Japanese investment will create 30 new full-time jobs over the next several years and entail a more than $8 million investment by the company. Kentucky has the second-highest per capita rate of direct investment from Japan in the country -- trailing only Hawaii.
India -- Gov. Beshear traveled to India in September, his third trip to the world's second most-populated nation. India-based Flex Films announced $180 million in investment and 250 new jobs in Elizabethtown after his first trip.
Other countries are also making direct investments in the state. China-owned Birtley announced in September it will invest $10 million and create 30 to 50 new, full-time jobs in Lexington. The announcement marks the first Chinese-owned manufacturer in Kentucky.
6. KENTUCKY LEAPS 20 SPOTS IN NATIONAL EDUCATION RANKING
Kentucky's ranking in an annual grading of all states on key education indicators jumped 20 spots in 2012, placing the state 14th in the nation for its work on academic standards, the teaching profession and many other variables related to public education.
The annual ranking by national publication Education Week is found in a special issue, "Quality Counts." The report tracks key education indicators and grades states on their policy efforts and outcomes. Last year, Kentucky ranked 34th in the nation in this annual report.
Much of the impetus for Kentucky's high ranking can be traced to 2009's Senate Bill 1, which set Kentucky on a course to become a leader nationwide in school accountability, teacher training, college/career readiness and stronger academic standards. Kentucky was also the first state to adopt tough Common Core content standards, which set minimum standards for math and language skills.
7. BUDGET CUTS BALANCE BOOKS, PRIORITIZE EDUCATION
Gov. Beshear balanced Kentucky's budget for the 11th time since taking office, and has now cut a total of $1.6 billion from state expenditures. While reductions have been significant in many parts of state government, significant cuts to our priorities of education, critical public safety programs and job creation efforts have been prevented.
Governor Beshear shrank state government to its smallest size in a generation, and continues to find ways to improve government efficiency with fewer taxpayer dollars.
8. COMMISSION OFFERS FAIRER, SIMPLER, MORE MODERN TAX CODE
Kentucky's tax system cushioned some of the impact when the nation's economy ran off the tracks in 2008. But as the state recovers from the recession, Gov. Beshear has begun an effort to make our tax code more fair to taxpayers and our state more attractive to new and existing business.
Early in 2012, the Governor appointed a broad, bipartisan commission to make sure our state doesn't face another economic crater by failing to update its tax code. A study of our tax system earlier this summer revealed that without significant changes, Kentucky will face a $1 billion shortfall by 2020.
The Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform just submitted its report to the Governor, which includes dozens of recommendations that could create $659 million in additional revenue. Gov. Beshear will study the report before he meets with legislators to build a consensus on moving forward on changes to our tax code.
9. OVERHAUL OF CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION
In a move to help produce the skilled workforce businesses require today and in the future, Gov. Beshear signed an executive order in August to overhaul the state's career and technical education (CTE) system.
The order unites the state's two CTE systems under the guidance of Kentucky's Department of Education. The goal is to create a unified, more relevant and efficient system to educate and prepare students for the world of work in a real-life setting.
Today's employers require a workforce that is skilled, adaptable and equipped to compete in the global marketplace. Students need an education system that provides job-training and learning opportunities that will put them on a career pathway. Transforming and elevating CTE is essential to this process.
10. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE DEAL SAVES BUSINESSES $600 MILLION
Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 495, a measure that provides the resources to pay interest owed on the state's federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) loan and that will save Kentucky employers $600 million in federal tax penalties.
The bill is the result of collaborative work by Kentucky employer groups. Since January 2009, Kentucky borrowed more than $960 million from the federal government to continue paying UI benefits to eligible Kentuckians, much like other states had to do. If HB 495 had not been enacted and Kentucky could not make the interest payment due Sept. 30, 2012, employers would lose all of the federal tax credit, and the UI tax payable by employers would rise.