Gov. Matt Bevin has a vision for Kentucky as the engineering and manufacturing center of excellence in the United States, and continued growth of the state’s existing industries paired with innovative opportunities in burgeoning markets indicate the commonwealth has the potential to achieve that goal.
“Nearly every major industry in the country has a business presence in Kentucky,” Gov. Bevin said. “The diversity of our manufacturing efforts has contributed to our economic success in recent years and will ensure continued growth in the years ahead. Kentucky offers many competitive advantages for businesses as they look to locate and expand in the commonwealth, and I am confident that our manufacturing sector will continue to thrive here in America’s hub of engineering and manufacturing excellence.”
Kentucky products continue to be in high demand globally, as exports this year have increased by 3.4 percent through July – the most recent figures available – over the same period last year, as Kentucky exports jumped from $18.32 billion to $18.95 billion.
That increase continues a trend dating back several years. In 2018, Kentucky exported $31.8 billion in goods to nearly 200 nations, 2.9 percent more than the $30.9 billion exported in the previous year and over 15 percent more than the $27.6 billion in 2015.
Aerospace parts, motor vehicles and pharmaceuticals and medicines top the list of Kentucky products by dollar value exported. The state’s leading export product, aerospace parts, shows an increase of nearly 17 percent through July compared to the same timeframe for 2018 Among the top 10 product categories, the largest international demand spikes this year have come in communications equipment (up more than 49 percent), computer equipment (up nearly 28 percent) and pharmaceuticals and medicines (up more than 18 percent).
Lee Lingo, executive director for the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM), encouraged companies across the state to promote their industry during Manufacturing Month.
“The Kentucky Association of Manufacturers proudly celebrates yet another year of excellence in manufacturing here in Kentucky. With our proven productivity record and access to every type of transportation infrastructure, companies from around the globe are moving into our state, creating high-paying jobs while supporting and growing our local communities,” Lingo said. “The manufacturing industry in our commonwealth is opening new doors for our workforce and creating educational opportunities for people of all backgrounds by offering them lifetime career paths. In that spirit, we encourage all Kentucky manufacturers to participate in Manufacturing Month by inviting students and your community to visit your facility, learn what you do and why you do it. From shatterproof cellphone glass to hemp-based flooring products to aerospace parts to pickup trucks, we are proud of what Kentucky makes. We look forward to the continued expansion of our industry and the production of signature Kentucky products.”
To date, Kentucky has announced $16.7 billion in planned or current investments by manufacturers and nearly 30,000 new manufacturing jobs during the Bevin administration. Those numbers encompass more than 860 expansion or new-location projects and include growth at the state’s three largest manufacturers; Ford Motor Co. in Louisville, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in Georgetown and GE Appliances, a Haier company, in Louisville.
Pro-business state legislation has helped Kentucky move toward its goal of becoming the engineering and manufacturing center of excellence in America. Legislative changes in recent years include the adoption of Right to Work legislation and numerous workforce development initiatives. The commonwealth’s Red Tape Reduction Initiative has been another tool to limit the obstacles facing growing businesses in Kentucky.
“We could not be more proud of the progress we have made over the course of the past four years in terms of nurturing an environment of progress and success within our state’s business community,” said Vivek Sarin, interim secretary at the Cabinet for Economic Development. “We want to make it abundantly clear that Kentucky is open for business, and we continue to share that message on a global scale. Our manufacturers are a crucial piece of our state’s economic development formula and we want to take this opportunity to recognize their work and thank them for their commitment to the commonwealth.”
Among Kentucky’s advantages in attracting manufacturers is its geographic location. The state is centrally located – within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the US population and income – which has attracted a number of manufacturers looking to quickly distribute their products to key US markets. Global air cargo hubs by UPS, DHL and Amazon provide fast, reliable and distribution overnight to virtually all points internationally.
In addition, the state offers the lowest-cost industrial electric east of the Mississippi River, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Those factors have garnered attention from primary metals manufacturers, including producers of steel, aluminum and stainless steel, recycling facilities and metals processors.
Location, the state’s robust logistics and distribution industry, low rates for industrial power and plentiful access to water help draw food and beverage manufactures. That industry employs 52,000-plus people at 361 locations. The state’s climate provides optimal cycles of hot summers, mild springs and autumns and cold winters, helping to age its world renowned bourbon.
The same can factors greatly impact Kentucky’s automotive industry – which includes more than 101,000 employees at 525 facilities. Parts suppliers can source significant amounts of their necessary material – processed metals, plastics, rubber, glass and specialty chemicals – and reliably ship their products just-in-time to assembly points throughout the state, the Midwest, Canada, the South and Mexico – all key auto production markets.