Kentucky Is Ahead of the Field in Jobs, Investment

Kentucky's economic engine is firing on all cylinders, driving a powerful and diverse economy that generated a Gross Domestic Product of $165 billion in 2011 and includes auto production, advanced manufacturing, energy technology, life sciences and health-care industries known around the world.

On Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 10:09
It is only appropriate in a state known for its horses that Kentucky's economy is galloping along on a fast track.

Aided by an ambitious economic development strategic plan, the state is attracting jobs and investment from across the nation and around the world, building a reputation as a center of innovation in numerous industry segments and creating a diverse and dynamic $165 billion economy.

The state's Gross Domestic Product has grown 31 percent in the past decade. The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Kentucky’s net job growth from September 2011 to September 2012 was 2.6 percent, second-best in the nation among all states.

Under the leadership of Gov. Steve Beshear, the state's economic development efforts spurred some $2.6 billion in investment and created 13,220 jobs in Kentucky in 2011 alone and another 6,800 jobs and $1.4 billion in investment through August 2012.

“Kentucky has a rich tradition of talented, hard-working people and we think that is a major plus in attracting business,” says Larry Hayes, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the state's chief economic development arm.

Hayes says the Bluegrass State's excellent location, competitive utility rates, highly skilled labor pool, highly flexible workforce development programs and full suite of incentives have made it a location of choice for companies to locate and expand.

E-Commerce Firm Makes Kentucky Home

One of the more recent arrivals is CafePress Inc., which announced in April 2012 that it would invest $16.5 million to expand its existing 140,000-square-foot production facility by an additional 185,000 square feet, creating 592 new full-time jobs in Kentucky over the next 10 years. The company has also relocated its headquarters to Louisville from California.  

CafePress helps individuals, groups and businesses create, buy and sell customized and personalized products online using the company's innovative and proprietary print-on-demand services and e-commerce platform.

Louisville has been CafePress' main production site since 2005 when Bob Marino, CafePress chief executive officer, joined the local team there and helped build the flagship plant.

"We were pleased to move our headquarters to Kentucky, making us the first publicly traded e-commerce company to call Kentucky home,” Marino says. “This move has cemented our relationship with the great state of Kentucky and its amazing people. Already we’ve doubled the size of our facility and added jobs in Kentucky and look forward to continuing to build on our already great relationship with the State."

Kentucky is a destination of choice for corporate headquarters. Six Fortune 500 companies are based in the state, including Humana, Yum! BrandsAshland as well as companies, such as Lexmark and Altech, that are known around the world.

Foreign Direct Investment in Kentucky

And the world has gotten to know Kentucky. The state's proactive approach to drawing foreign direct investment, including major foreign trade missions by Gov. Steve Beshear, is paying dividends.

In 2011, more than 23 percent of new jobs in Kentucky came from foreign direct investment. U.S. affiliates of foreign companies employ more than 89,000 people in the state, according to the Organization for International Investment, and more than half of those jobs are in manufacturing.

Kentucky ranks second among states for direct investment by Japanese companies, a legacy built on the massive Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility in Georgetown, where the automaker makes a number of popular models.

Blueprint for Success

The state's success in landing new companies and helping existing businesses succeed is no accident. Kentucky has strategically set its agenda for economic development over the next five years, following extensive input from community leaders, elected officials, partner organizations, Kentucky companies and government representatives throughout the state.

Economic development efforts are focused on five categories - advanced manufacturing, sustainable manufacturing, technology, health care and transportation – that include 10 industry targets, such as automotive manufacturing, advanced battery storage, data centers, renewable energy and life sciences.

Hayes says the state has directed as much focus and resources on keeping existing businesses in the state as it has on attracting out-of-state companies.

“In fact 80 percent of new jobs created in the state have come from our existing businesses,” Hayes says.

Kentucky’s central location and excellent air, rail, highway and waterway assets make it a major distribution hub. Two international airports and two top air cargo hubs – UPS and DHL – helped the state rank third in the nation in total air cargo shipments in 2011.

Area Development magazine awarded the state a Silver Shovel Award, acknowledging its efforts in creating jobs and securing investments in new and expanding facilities in 2011. And Business Facilities ranked Kentucky in the top 10 in six of its major categories in economic strength for its 2012 Rankings Report. Kentucky gained some major exposure in December of 2012 when its economic prowess was featured in United Airlines’ Hemisphere Magazine.

The state’s pro-business climate has received a great deal of attention as one of states with the lowest overall costs of doing business. A 2012 Tax Foundation report ranks Kentucky as the seventh most business-friendly state in the country for new firms and the sixth-lowest-cost state for new corporate headquarters. Kentucky’s innovative and progressive tax incentive programs also provide the flexible financial assistance businesses need considering whether to relocate or expand.

“Today’s competitive environment requires that we tailor our programs to meet the needs of those businesses seeking to relocate or expand, and we think that has made a great deal of difference for us,” Hayes says.