“We are Kentucky!” This is more than just a simple catch phrase. From our cities to our rural communities, the commonwealth’s greatest assets are our people.
When given the opportunity, the ability of Kentuckians to accelerate our state’s economic engine is greater than any government program. A good job empowers our fellow citizens to provide for their families and contribute to their communities. That’s why I am encouraged that since the beginning of our administration, Kentucky has seen a significant drop in its unemployment rate and a significant increase in our workforce participation rate, thus improving the quality of life in every corner of the commonwealth.
The workforce statistics for March and April show unemployment at a record low of 4 percent, the lowest since 1976, when these statistics were first tracked. Since we took office in 2015, we have seen nearly 63,000 people join the labor force — that’s more than the entire population of Owensboro. During that same time period, Kentucky saw an increase in total employment of almost 85,000 people. That is more than the total populations of Covington, Murray and Shelbyville, combined! These numbers aren’t just statistics. They represent real Kentuckians and their families, whose lives are being positively impacted by our policies, our drive to attract employers and our relentless determination to improve the economy of the Commonwealth.
But, there is still room for improvement. In some areas of Kentucky, the growth has been a bit slower, and the unemployment rate remains higher than 4 percent. Kentuckians in those areas should be encouraged to know that we are fighting every day for you.
Recently, our administration worked to position Kentucky as one of the first states in the nation to gain federal approval of Opportunity Zones (KYOZ.com). These zones attract economic development projects to our communities most in need by offering federal tax incentives to investors. Tools like this one, coupled with the Commonwealth’s intrinsic advantages and our increasingly business-friendly climate, will help us to unleash our full economic potential in every county in our state.
Last year, we shattered state economic development records, with $9.2 billion in new investments and 17,200 jobs created. We have planted seeds that will bear a robust economic harvest and will result in widespread growth across Kentucky for many years to come.
One recent success story is Takigawa Corporation of Japan, which announced in December that it will invest nearly $46 million and create 180 full-time jobs by opening their first U.S.-based manufacturing operation right here in Kentucky. When I meet with CEOs and investors of job-creating companies like Takigawa, I tell them about the advantages of doing business in Kentucky. I tell them about our central geographic location and how we have become America’s premier logistics hub — that includes the UPS Worldport Hub, DHL’s Superhub and Amazon’s Prime Air Hub. I tell them about our first-class riverways, highways and railway systems that will allow them to transport raw materials to their facilities and to expedite delivery of their finished products to customers around the globe.
I also tell them about our administration’s commitment to workforce development and training through programs like the Kentucky Skills Network and HelpWantedKY.com. I also mention the affordable cost of living in Kentucky and our extraordinary natural beauty, just two more reasons that Kentucky will be a great home for their companies and their employees.
Finally, I tell them that Kentucky is a passionate supporter of small businesses and entrepreneurs. Just this past week, as part of Kentucky Startup Week, we unveiled additional tools to dramatically improve Kentucky’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. This includes the relaunch of “KY Innovation,” which will encourage growth in the innovation and entrepreneurial space. A retooled website (KYInnovation.com) and collaboration with groups like Endeavor, MIT and Revolution Capital (each of whom facilitate success for entrepreneurs) will reshape how we connect innovators with investors and help build successful businesses in Kentucky.
Leaving the private-sector business arena and running for elected office at a time when I knew that Kentucky was facing significant fiscal challenges, was not a decision that I made lightly. However, I knew that the Commonwealth had tremendous potential for economic growth. I have no intention of slowing down or easing up on our administration’s pursuit of helping Kentucky become the best version of itself. I believe that we will arrive at that point sooner than many might think because…“We are Kentucky!”