From Kentucky Economic Development Guide 2024

Fast & Furious In Kentucky

Business moves at swift speeds in the Bluegrass State.

Speed to Market
In September 2024, Gov. Andy Beshear joined leaders at Pratt Industries for the grand opening of the company’s two facilities in Henderson.
Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Office of the Governor


hen Pratt Industries opened its doors last September on a state-of-the-art $500 million paper mill in Henderson creating more than 320 good-paying jobs, it confirmed what many business leaders already knew about the state.

When it comes to providing speed to market for growing companies, nobody does it better than Kentucky.

The mammoth project went from start to finish in less than two years. On opening day, Henderson Economic Development Executive Director Missy Vanderpool said, “It’s incredible to think that only two years ago, we shared news of Pratt Industries’ plans to construct their next ‘millugator’ in Henderson, Kentucky. We’re overjoyed to celebrate its official opening and express our appreciation to Pratt for their commitment and investment in Henderson. The community will feel this investment’s positive impact for many years. We extend our sincerest thanks to Pratt for choosing Henderson.”

This is not an aberration in Kentucky. Every level of state government works together to make business investment deals go from announcement to ribbon cutting as quickly as possible. The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development promises it: “Whether you are an existing business in Kentucky with an opportunity to expand or a company evaluating our state for a new business location, you must be able to access accurate and timely information from a single source. The Cabinet’s Department for Business Development staff is that source. With years of experience in economic development, any member of our highly qualified team can be your single point of contact for the duration of the site selection/expansion process.”

At that team’s helm is Kristina Slattery, commissioner of the Department for Business and Community Development. 

“In 2024, you will see more regional collaboration with the Cabinet and different regions of the state,” she said.“Infrastructure, speed to market, etc., will all be addressed in regional community meetings. That will make us even faster and better. We will be sharing more knowledge with each other. Our project management team in 2024 will become more specialized. We are also fine-tuning our target industry sectors. You will see us be more strategic with our in-house expertise in the Cabinet. We will be even faster, smarter and more efficient in how we work projects.”


Kristina Slattery, Commissioner, Department for Business and Community Development


Services Designed to Expedite the Site-Selection Process

The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development assists business investors with a wide variety of services. Among them are: 

  • Site evaluation services, including detailed physical characteristics of Build-Ready sites, shovel-ready sites and available buildings.
  • Detailed community data on utilities services, business costs, local government services, labor availability and other local resources.
  • Accompanying officials to Kentucky communities for confidential community/site evaluations.
  • Liaison with state and local government agencies, utility companies, and other organizations, including arranging for confidential meetings where appropriate.
  • Preparation of financial packages including training, tax incentives and other project inducements.
  • Assistance in obtaining required state permits and licenses or assistance with questions about environmental compliance.
  • Coordination of public announcements for location decisions, groundbreaking ceremonies and facility grand openings.

Heather Spoon, consultant for the Columbia-Adair County Economic Development Authority, has seen these services put into action recently, facilitating multiple private investment deals at the county’s Green River Commerce Park. These include Phillips Tank & Structure and the Pennyroyal Distillery, which will be Kentucky’s first whiskey incubator.

“Back on Jan. 6, 2023, I was talking to someone about getting our county on the Bourbon Trail,” Spoon recalled. “We produce a million bushels of corn each year in the county. We are No. 2 in corn production in Kentucky. Farmers could grow and sell their corn right here if we got a bourbon company.”



A delegation from Kentucky recently met with leadership at Wieland during a visit to Vohringer, German.

Photo courtesy of Wieland


Two days later, she was giving a tour of Green River Commerce Park to four people in the bourbon business. The result: a $25 million investment on 60 acres in Columbia.

“We pitched putting a bottling facility in the park. We set up a meeting with the state on incentives,” she said. “Now, that has grown from a bottling company into a distillery that will be built in the park. Within the span of just one year, on the north side of the park, we now have Phillips Tank & Structure that will start construction by the end of this year. And Pennyroyal will start construction this year in the park as well.”

Resources Make Speed to Market Attainable

Brad Thomas, economic development manager for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, said, “It is all about teamwork. There are so many moving pieces to business deals. That speed to market comes to fruition here.”

Having the resources that companies need to expand is essential. “People are seeing their electric rates not grow as fast here because of our ability to provide electric power to new industrial sites. Kentucky is also blessed with water. Water is the new black gold. Being able to say that we have water and power — those are driving factors for us.”

This combination of resources and speed to market is opening new doors for Kentucky. 

“We have a lot of supply chains that we are servicing on the electric vehicle and battery side. The metals industry is going through the roof now too. Energy costs are driving them away from Europe. The diversification of these projects will be the key to our success as a state going forward.”

Rebecca Goodman, secretary of Kentucky’s Energy & Environment Cabinet, said the state’s strength in speed to market starts at the very top. “We are all striving to be better. The Governor has challenged us to do that to accommodate companies that have tight construction schedules. We meet with companies early in the permitting process and tell them how quickly we can accommodate their project approval requests. In the case of Pratt Industries in Henderson, the process worked to perfection. Company owner Anthony Pratt told Gov. Andy Beshear that it was the easiest approval process they had ever been through.”

Goodman added, “We are excited to welcome new businesses to Kentucky. We will do everything within our power to expedite the process. The key for them is to reach out to us early. If they do that, we will work with them every step of the way to make their project happen as quickly as possible.” 

Wieland North America, locating a copper recycling facility in Shelbyville, is one of the new companies learning how quickly Kentucky brings businesses on line.

Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

Lindsay Lopp
Associate Editor of Site Selection magazine

Lindsay Lopp

Lindsay Lopp joined Conway Data in 2023. She is the assistant editor of the company’s Custom Content division and regularly contributes to Site Selection magazine. In 2021, she graduated from Pratt Institute with her BFA in Creative Writing and is currently completing her MFA in Popular Fiction and Publishing at Emerson College.

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