Legislative Update - Made in Kentucky
When looking at the foundation of Kentucky’s enduring success in making things and getting them from points A to B, two things stand out: Vision and location.
Vision, of course, is the one we control, and it says a lot that decisions our government and economic leaders made decades ago are proving to be even more valuable today.
Few people in 1913, for example, would have believed that Louisville’s work to make Henry Ford’s cars would ultimately lead to four major assembly plants in the commonwealth that produce more automobiles than all but two states.
One of those plants, Toyota’s in Georgetown, is the product of what at the time was a somewhat-controversial decision by former Gov. Martha Layne Collins to lure the company here in the mid-1980s through tax incentives that have since proven their worth many times over. Now, the city is home to Toyota’s largest facility in the world.
These plants have long churned out some of the country’s best-selling trucks and cars, and Bowling Green has been home to the iconic Corvette for nearly 40 years.
All told, there are now 525 factories across the commonwealth that are part of the auto industry, and they employ more than 100,000 people.
As substantial as this work is within the United States, it’s a distant second when measuring the exports Kentucky ships to nearly 200 countries each year. First on that list is aerospace, which shows no signs of slowing. According to the Cabinet for Economic Development, this sector’s already massive exports grew by almost 17 percent during the first six months of this year alone when compared to the same period in 2018.
On a smaller scale, there’s a good chance that some of the products you buy or use regularly were made here in Kentucky.
If you’re a DirecTV subscriber, for example, your satellite dish was likely made in London. The durable screens on iPhones come out of Harrodsburg; Post-It Notes predominately come from Cynthiana; Northern Kentucky makes most of the country’s decks of cards; Mt. Sterling churns out Hot Pockets; Owensboro is home to Ragu spaghetti sauce; and Louisville has manufactured Reynolds Wrap since the company was founded in 1919.
That city also makes most of the country’s disco balls, and Hopkinsville rolls out a half-million bowling balls annually.
Other notable products from here include Uncrustables sandwiches, which come from Scottsville; and Snuggle fabric softener, which flows out of Bowling Green. Lexington is also home to the world’s largest peanut butter facility.
As for restaurants, Kentucky has the corporate headquarters of two of the country’s largest pizza chains – Pizza Hut and Papa Johns – and also Taco Bell, KFC, Fazoli’s, Long John Silvers and Texas Roadhouse.
As I mentioned, location is a major contributor to our economic success, given we’re within 600 miles of two-thirds of the country’s population.
UPS, DHL and now Amazon have taken advantage of that by investing billions of dollars in their air hubs in Louisville and Northern Kentucky, with hundreds of millions of dollars more on the horizon.
We also have 20 interstates and parkways, 2,700 miles of railroads; and nearly 2,000 miles of navigable waterways. When it comes to moving products by plane, train, automobile or by ship, few states can match what we have.
The key to sustaining that success is making sure we act with the same vision that previous leaders have shown. That especially includes investing more in our workforce, both in their education and training and in their paychecks. One recent federal report indicates that goods-producing employees in Kentucky are earning just seven cents more an hour on average than they were two years ago. Hopefully we can boost that much higher in the next two years.
As we look back on what we’ve accomplished and look ahead, I’m confident our best days are still in front of us and that “Made in Kentucky” and “Kentucky Proud”will become even more prevalent down the road. Getting there is no guarantee, but we have certainly shown we have the tools, ideas and dedication to make it happen.
If you have any thoughts on this or other issues affecting Kentucky, please let me know. My email is email@example.com, and you can leave a message for me or any legislator by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.