Kentucky Tops $10 Billion Mark in Record Year for Economic Development Growth

Published 2:39 pm Monday, November 1, 2021

Kentucky is experiencing unprecedented economic momentum, as Gov. Andy Beshear announced this year’s private-sector new-location and expansion projects have exceeded $10 billion in new investments for the first time in the commonwealth’s history with more than 15,200 full-time jobs announced.

“This is a monumental achievement for our state that represents months of dedication from local and state economic development leaders and businesses across Kentucky who continue to further their commitment to the commonwealth and our residents,” Gov. Beshear said. “This has been an incredible year for economic growth in Kentucky, but we are just getting started. It is my goal to ensure a better future that includes an opportunity for every Kentuckian to earn a quality job with a strong wage. Thank you to every company and every individual in our state who has helped us reach this point.”

Through the first 10 months of 2021, economic momentum in Kentucky has exceeded any other full-year totals for investment growth. Year-to-date, more than 110 private-sector new-location and expansion announcements include nearly $10.3 billion in total planned investment while creating more than 15,235 full-time jobs across the coming years.

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Additionally, jobs announced through September include an average incentivized hourly wage of $24.15 before benefits, a 10% increase over the 2020 figure, which was the second highest full-year average in the past six years.

The automotive industry has been the top sector for investment and job-creation so far this year at $6.6 billion and commitments to create more than 7,100 full-time jobs, solidifying an industry that already employs over 100,000 Kentucky residents across more than 525 suppliers and four assembly plants.

In September, Gov. Beshear, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chair Bill Ford and CEO Jim Farley, along with Dong-Seob Jee, president of SK Innovation’s battery business, announced the single largest economic development project in the history of the commonwealth, celebrating a transformative $5.8 billion investment that will create 5,000 jobs at BlueOvalSK in Elizabethtown.

Last week, Toyota announced a $461 million investment at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) plant in Georgetown for upgrades, including preparation for future vehicle electrification. The project will transition 1,400 indirect employees to direct Toyota roles.

These commitments mean Kentucky will continue to be a force in the evolving automotive industry well into the future.

Other top investment sectors include food, beverage and agritech ($1 billion); metals ($965 million); business/financial services ($558 million); plastics and rubber ($240 million); and logistics and distribution ($157 million). Rounding out the top-six sectors for job creation are business/financial services (2,515); metals (1,698); food, beverage and agritech (1,089); logistics and distribution (828); and health care (824). Companies in each of these industries continue to adopt advanced and innovative technologies to meet customer demand, prepare for the future and create jobs for Kentucky residents.

Companies have invested throughout the commonwealth in 2021, with noteworthy projects announced in every Local Workforce Development Area.

Along with Toyota’s investment in the Bluegrass region, AppHarvest announced a $42.5 million investment in Berea, which will create 60 full-time jobs, and Community Wellness Technology plans a $3 million investment that will create 445 jobs in Danville.

The Cumberlands region saw Firestone Industrial Products announce and break ground on a 250-job, $50 million-plus expansion in Whitley County. Chapin International, which also announced a new facility in Boyle County, added $8 million to its planned investment in Mount Vernon, pushing the total commitment to $13.9 million and doubling job creation to 200 positions at the facility.

In Eastern Kentucky’s EKCEP region, LION First Responder PPE announced plans to reopen its Beattyville manufacturing facility after more than a decade with an $850,000 investment that will create 75 jobs. Meanwhile, WellCare of Kentucky is nearly doubling its staff in Hazard with 18 new jobs in an expansion project that saw the community selected over locations in Nashville, Tennessee, San Antonio and Tempe, Arizona.

In the Green River region, Pratt Paper announced the largest investment in the region in more than 25 years, a $400 million paper mill that will create 321 well-paying jobs over the next five years in Henderson.

Last week in the KentuckianaWorks/Greater Louisville area, GE Appliances announced $450 million in new investment and over 1,000 jobs by the end of 2023. Also, KCC Manufacturing announced and broke ground on a new 700-job, $60 million manufacturing facility in Simpsonville, and Wieland North America announced a new headquarters in Louisville and copper recycling facility in Shelby County totaling 150 jobs and $108.8 million in investments.

In addition to Ford and SK Innovation’s investment in the Lincoln Trail region, Canada-based Kruger Packaging announced a $114 million commitment and 150 jobs in Hardin County to establish its first corrugated box plant in the United States.

Northern Kentucky announcements include Nucor’s $164 million, 72-job tube mill in Gallatin County and Fidelity Investments’ plans to add 600 employees in Covington, adding to hundreds of hires at the company since the start of 2020.

South Central Kentucky projects include Tyson Foods’ 451-job Bowling Green facility, also announced last week, which comes with a $355 million investment – the largest in a new facility in Warren County. In addition, Fruehauf Inc. announced plans to reestablish a U.S. presence with a $12 million investment to locate in Bowling Green and create 288 jobs.

In the TENCO region, four companies are expected to create more than 300 full-time jobs with over $20 million in new investments.

West Kentucky announcements include $70 million from Ahlstrom-Munksjö to build a second facility in Madisonville, creating 51 jobs, and Metalsa Structural Products creating 97 jobs with a Hopkinsville expansion.

The year-to-date economic success adds to numerous achievements and recognitions for the state throughout the year.

In July, thanks to strong fiscal management by the Beshear administration, the state budget office reported the commonwealth ended the 2021 fiscal year with a general fund surplus of over $1.1 billion – the highest ever in the commonwealth – and a 10.9% increase in general fund receipts to $12.8 billion.

In May, Moody’s Analytics published a positive economic outlook for Kentucky, noting mass vaccination as the driving force behind a sustained recovery in consumer services. The state’s recovery, Moody’s said, benefited from earlier reopening efforts and increased demand for manufactured goods over services. The report also found Kentucky’s manufacturing industry outperformed the nation’s since the national downturn last year.

Fitch Ratings in May improved the state’s financial outlook to stable, reflecting the commonwealth’s solid economic recovery. The state’s April sales tax receipts set an all-time monthly record at $486.5 million, as did vehicle usage tax receipts, at over $64 million.

In March, Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cup rankings for 2020 positioned Kentucky atop the South Central region, and third nationally, for qualifying projects per capita. The commonwealth also placed seventh overall in total projects, the highest of any state with a population under 5 million. Site Selection also recently placed Kentucky in a tie for fifth in its 2021 Prosperity Cup rankings, positioning the state among the national leaders for business climate.