Kentucky just concluded its best two-year period in the state’s history for announced private-sector investment and job creation, including a record year in 2021 for new-location and expansion announcements with $11.2 billion in new investment and more than 18,000 full-time jobs. Last year was not far behind, as 248 projects totaled $10.5 billion and 16,000 full-time jobs.
Companies are attracted to the Bluegrass State because of the pro-business climate, modern infrastructure, and diverse, highly skilled workforce. Kentucky’s state, regional, and local governments collaborate with each other and the private sector to expand the economic base in creative ways, forming strong, lasting economic partnerships.
For example, automotive has long been a key manufacturing sector in Kentucky, and now the state is emerging as an innovative leader in the production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries and other EV-related materials. Since 2020, EV-related investments in Kentucky have totaled nearly $10 billion, including the BlueOval SK and Envision AESC battery plant projects, which are both on track to start operations in 2025.
“As one of the nation’s leading manufacturing centers, BlueOval SK will have best-in-class supply chain management and increase the state’s manufacturing footprint with?a $5.8 billion investment,” says Ursula Madden, director of External Affairs with BlueOval SK and BlueOval City.
Kentucky’s success in landing mega-size business projects is in part due to its streamlined site-selection preparation process and the Build-Ready program. Build-Ready Program
Kentucky’s success in landing mega-size business projects is in part due to its streamlined site-selection preparation process and the Build-Ready program, which reduces construction time and costs for industrial sites with communities completing many of the site upgrades beforehand. Preparation can include environmental studies, permitting, utilities, and ground preparation, all of which accelerate a company’s construction timeline. Kentucky currently has 20 Build-Ready sites certified and ready to go. To date, six Build-Ready sites have been selected by growing companies, including four in Bowling Green in South Central Kentucky.
“The Build-Ready program is a prime example of how smart product development initiatives can drive economic development and create opportunities,” says Ron Bunch, president and CEO of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce. “Its impact in South Central Kentucky has been remarkable, including new job creation, increased tax revenue, and a higher quality of life for residents.”
Kentucky Product Development Initiative
The Kentucky Product Development Initiative (KPDI) was recently established by the state to further upgrade industrial sites statewide. The program builds upon the success of the pilot PDI program, which launched in 2019 and quickly proved itself.
The Kentucky Product Development Initiative (KPDI) was recently established by the state to further upgrade industrial sites statewide. A PDI grant for energy infrastructure was critical in Pratt Paper’s decision to select Henderson for its $500 million facility.
“From first visit to announcement took only three months — our ability to meet their timeline was critical,” says Missy Vanderpool, executive director for Henderson Economic Development.
Thanks to support from Gov. Andy Beshear and the state legislature, KPDI will invest $100 million to upgrade existing sites and is accepting proposals from communities across the state — reflecting the state’s commitment to expanding the competitiveness of its local communities and creating new jobs.
The Kentucky Skills Network provides workforce solutions such as employee recruitment, customized training, and skills development. In 2022, training was provided to 95,000 workers and 5,000 companies. Additional funding for training facilities and apprenticeship and scholarship programs is available through the Bluegrass State Skills Corporation.
Kentucky is one of only three states selected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to implement its Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) program. Kentucky is one of only three states selected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to implement its Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) program. TPM’s goal is to develop a diverse talent pool that leverages education and workforce development systems. To date, TPM has launched more than 30 industry collaboratives that are “producing tangible results that are positively impacting individuals, businesses, and communities across Kentucky,” says Makinizi Hoover, strategic advocacy manager for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
From speed-to-market initiatives to a commitment to workforce development, Kentucky is helping companies take their business to the next level.
Mark Crawford, Staff Editor, Area Development
Mark Crawford is a full-time freelance writer based in Corrales, New Mexico, who specializes in business, technology, and history.