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Blog: Economic Momentum

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Sometimes the timing of things is amusing.

One day this summer, Florida Gov. Rick Scott mass-mailed a recruitment letter to Kentucky businesses expressing his opinion that Kentucky's economy was in freefall and that they should move to his state.

That very same day, I was in Louisville to announce Gazelle Inc.'s $22.3 million investment in a new electronics processing center that will create 438 Kentucky jobs. A few days earlier, I had been in Northern Kentucky to break ground on DHL Express' expanded global hub, the culmination of a four-year, $105 million investment … and a couple of days later, Accuride Corporation announced a $5.8 million expansion of its steel wheel production facility in Henderson.

You get the picture.

While some people talk about economic momentum, here in Kentucky we're demonstrating it.

Gov. Scott's clumsy attempt to raid our economy helped focus attention in national media on what actually is happening in Kentucky.

I want to recount some of that progress, because it also refutes a recent newspaper opinion column by a former member of the New Zealand parliament (now an American "market expert"), who contended that Kentucky is "stuck in the economic doldrums" and unlikely to attract investment.

Theoretical conjecture is trumped by tangible reality.

Consider these facts about Kentucky's economy:

- Kentucky increased its manufacturing GDP growth in 2012 by 10.7 percent -- the third-highest increase in the country.

- Kentucky's 2012 exports reached a record $22.1 billion, and through the first six months of 2013, we're 12.6 percent ahead of that pace -- the second-highest growth in the nation. We now export to nearly 200 countries, and we've enjoyed an influx of foreign investment: Nearly 35 percent of all capital investment in Kentucky and almost 20 percent of new jobs announced in 2012 in the manufacturing, service and technology sectors came from foreign-owned enterprises.

- Site Selection magazine ranked Kentucky among the top 10 in the nation for qualifying industry locations and expansions.

- Business Facilities magazine ranked Kentucky as the 7th best Job Growth Leader in the United States in 2012.

- Kentucky's percent growth in entrepreneurial activity between 2010 and 2011 was ranked 5th highest in the country by Fast Company magazine. We ranked 2nd between 2011 and 2012 when population was taken into account.

- Kentucky's auto manufacturing industry is third in the nation again. We built more than a million cars and light trucks in 2012 … and through the first six months of 2013, we're almost 38 percent ahead of that pace. Since January 2010, more than 200 motor vehicle-related projects have been announced here, representing 14,500 new jobs and $3.5 billion in new investment.

And all four of Kentucky's major assembly plants are being expanded: a $1.2 billion transformation at Ford's two sites in Louisville … a $530 million upgrade at Toyota's Georgetown plant that includes a new Lexus production line … and a $134 million expansion at GM's Bowling Green plant.

- We also continue to use economic development incentives programs we created in 2009 to help existing businesses expand and close the deal when recruiting new businesses.

As of June we've used those programs on more than 570 projects representing investment in the Commonwealth of more than $6.6 billion. As these companies follow through on their plans, they will create or save more than 45,600 jobs.

But these facts are just the icing on the cake. We're also taking aggressive steps to improve Kentucky's workforce now and far into the future, because we recognize that talented and trained employees are the No. 1 concern of our businesses.

Kentucky became one of the first states to implement a Work Ready Communities program, which certifies the quality of the workforce based on six criteria specified by site selectors, business and industry leaders, economic developers and local officials.

We also are ramping up the academic rigor of our career and technical education classes, and we recently passed a law designed to keep every one of our students in school until they graduate. New national statistics show that our graduation rate improved more between 2000 and 2010 than almost any state in the nation.

Doldrums?

Not in Kentucky. Our economy is energized, and that energy will only grow stronger. Driven by the goal of constant improvement, we will continue to make the kinds of investments and implement the kinds of bold ideas needed to move Kentucky forward.


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