Though it seemed everything came to a standstill in 2020, that was not the case for companies looking to locate in Kentucky. A number of businesses needed to make major new location or expansion decisions on a short timeline, and Kentucky economic development leaders were up to the challenge.
Kentucky’s ability to help companies make a quick decision when looking to establish a new location certainly paid off for businesses like Chapin International. Last September, the producer of metal compressed air sprayers announced a new production operation in Mount Vernon, Kentucky, with a nearly $5.5 million investment that will create 100 full-time jobs in the years ahead.
The operation — the first in Kentucky for the Batavia, New York-based company — was officially announced just over a week after local and state economic developers were contacted by the company. Company leaders were impressed with the resources made available to them in such a short period of time.
“There were many moving parts that included purchasing this 175,000-square-foot facility,” said Jim Campbell, Chapin’s president and CEO. “The town, county and the State of Kentucky did an amazing job in bringing the project to conclusion in just under 10 days. We look forward to our part in growing American manufacturing in the great state of Kentucky.”
The state’s leaders were quick to jump to action, as they recognize the need to capitalize on every opportunity to secure a brighter future for Kentuckians. To do that through the creation of high-quality, sustainable jobs with high wages sets the foundation for the mission set forth by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and his administration.
“This is another example of people coming together to build a better Kentucky and create an even stronger economy,” Gov. Beshear said of the fast-moving project. “This project came together incredibly quickly, and I want to thank everyone, including our state and local economic development teams, who quickly worked to meet Chapin’s needs in such a short period of time and bring these jobs to Rockcastle County. We welcome Chapin International to Kentucky.”
The state’s responsiveness played a part in another substantial project locating in the commonwealth in 2020, resulting in the creation of 126 well-paying jobs in South Central Kentucky.
Ready, Set, Go
The state’s business development team was contacted in December 2019 about a potential new location project for the production of beverage cans. Just two months later, Gov. Beshear joined representatives from CROWN Cork & Seal USA, a subsidiary of Crown Holdings Inc., to announce the company’s $147 million, state-of-the-art facility in Bowling Green, with production scheduled to begin in 2021.
Kentucky’s ability to help companies begin production as quickly as possible paired with the many advantages of locating in the commonwealth make it an ideal landing spot for industry. The state’s roughly 4,500 manufacturing facilities benefit from low business costs, including industrial electricity costs that are among the lowest in the nation, in addition to an ideal central geographic location that provides substantial distribution advantages in speed and cost-savings. As the logistics center of the Eastern U.S., the commonwealth is located within 600 miles of two-thirds of the nation’s population. Kentucky is home to three global air-cargo hubs, with 20 interstates and controlled-access parkways, over 2,600 miles of freight rail and more than 1,900 miles of navigable waterways.
“In Kentucky, our team of business development professionals recognize the fact that, for companies planning an expansion, the adage ‘time is money’ looms large,” said Jeff Taylor, business development commissioner for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. “From finding the perfect site or building to obtaining the necessary permits and everything in between, we aim to lower companies’ lead times to the greatest extent possible. Businesses are continuing to learn how this approach, along with Kentucky’s abundance of business-friendly traits, make this state an ideal landing spot for organizations seeking to grow.”
These qualities are taken a step further when combined with any of several initiatives that help better prepare communities throughout the commonwealth to attract new industry and set Kentucky up for sustained success.
Build-Ready Program Saves Time
The state’s Build-Ready program is a perfect example of that statewide effort. The Cabinet currently lists 16 Build-Ready-certified sites, which provide an opportunity for companies to locate quickly, begin construction and become operational while shaving months off the projected timeline.
Build-Ready sites include a pad sized to accommodate a building up to 100,000 square feet or more, and utilities extending to the site’s edge. The designation also means the applicant — usually a city, county or economic development group — has filed the necessary permits, including water, environmental and geotechnical, as well as preliminary building plans, cost estimates and schedule projections.
In 2020, communities across the state also received — and continue to receive — funding that could prove transformational. Last October, a $36.5-million grant was awarded to support economic development projects, infrastructure upgrades and job creation in 54 Eastern Kentucky counties. The Appalachian Regional Commission grant is the organization’s largest investment in a single state in decades, and it could prove a vital tool in creating new opportunities and attracting a broader scope of businesses to the region.
Another program helping to position Kentucky communities for success is the Product Development Initiative (PDI), which awarded nearly $3 million in Economic Development Fund grants to eight Kentucky communities, selected by an objective, third-party consultant. The program is in collaboration between the Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Association for Economic Development and major utilities across the state, and supports each grant recipient’s plans to upgrade existing sites and buildings. Through the support of PDI, communities across Kentucky are becoming more competitive nationally. A few examples include:
University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research Campus — The gateway to the high-tech, higher education corridor in Lexington, Kentucky, was approved in September for $500,000 for construction of an office and laboratory building;
City of Bowling Green — Approved in August for $250,000 to offset costs associated with CROWN Cork & Seal USA’s aforementioned $147 million project to construct a new advanced manufacturing facility; and
Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Authority — Approved in April for a $500,000 grant for site leveling and grading, construction of a regional detention basin and to ensure availability of utilities at the TJ Patterson Industrial Park.
These and a number of other initiatives and programs are injecting tens of millions of dollars into cities and counties throughout Kentucky to support upgrades of industrial sites and buildings, utilities infrastructure, roads and other improvements that help position the commonwealth for long-term growth.