By Cory McCauley, Building Kentucky
As Kentucky pushes past the economic strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, state leaders are urging lawmakers to prioritize not only economic recovery but a reimagined economy for the state’s future.
To chart a path focused on building the foundations for the Commonwealth’s economic future, one message is clear.
Kentucky must be ready to compete for jobs and workers like never before.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce recently issued its 2022 legislative priorities, outlining the business community’s top legislative priorities for the upcoming session of the Kentucky General Assembly. Topics identified in their report include education, workforce development, healthcare, and infrastructure. Several pillars were identified for Kentucky’s economy and the recommendations made by the Chamber.
Strengthening the workforce
Kentucky faces a magnitude of workforce challenges. Employers continue to struggle in their efforts to find people with the right skills for the jobs they have available and job seekers can be frustrated as they try to find the right job to match their skills at the compensation level they expect. Effective workforce training and service programs are critical, but so is the way in which they are implemented. The Chamber supports efforts to create stronger alignment and centralization of workforce programming throughout Kentucky.
The Chamber recommends the following goals should be considered to improve workforce development outcomes in the state:
- Ensuring collaboration and cohesion across state and local agencies and nonprofit and private sector partners.
- Eliminating redundancy and duplicative efforts.
- Streamlining data-gathering and information sharing.
- Allowing workforce development leaders to more effectively track workforce development spending, evaluate programs, diagnose structural problems, and ensure a strong return on workforce investments.
- Improving the customer-service experiences of employers and job seekers.
Support aggressive economic development
Kentucky must capitalize on its advantages, but also realistically assess its weaknesses and take swift action to address them. To achieve substantial employment growth and significantly increase the per-capita income of Kentucky, the state must aggressively pursue pro-growth policies.
The Chamber supports strategic investment in incentive programs designed to encourage the growth of high-wage jobs, long-term investment in strategically defined industry sectors, and promotion of small businesses. Further, the Chamber supports the enhancement of entrepreneurial development incentives to encourage innovation and competition in the global marketplace.
The Chamber recommends the following measures should be taken to strengthen Kentucky’s incentive program:
- Lawmakers should act on initiatives to expand and strengthen the Kentucky Investment Fund Act and Angel Investor Tax Credit.
- The Kentucky Reinvestment Act should be expanded to include technology and headquarters reinvestment projects.
- To ensure maximum effectiveness, accountability, and continuity, the state should maintain the public-private partnership board governance structure under which the Cabinet for Economic Development operates.
- Attention should be given to increasing Kentucky’s housing stock as it impacts Kentucky’s workforce challenges and supports economic development initiatives.
As the state looks to expand its economic footprint, The Chamber supports efforts to increase development in a variety of targeted sectors including:
- Distilling Industry
- Equine Industry
- Health Care
In addition, The Chamber recognizes agriculture is a key sector of Kentucky’s economy. They call on state lawmakers to recognize the importance this industry plays in the Commonwealth. The Chamber supports efforts to develop academic pathways that better link students with current, and developing, careers in agriculture.
Build and maintain infrastructure
Kentucky’s transportation network of roads, airports, riverports, railroads, and transit systems connect Kentucky businesses to the national and international marketplace. Kentuckians depend on the state’s transportation network every day for safe, reliable access to education, health care, and employment.
The Chamber’s infrastructure report noted that 8% of all Kentucky roads are in poor condition (including 16% of major urban roads) and motorists incur an average of $331 per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repair. The Kentucky Chamber strongly supports legislation that provides new and sustainable funding for the maintenance and improvements needed on our transportation system.
In addition, the following goals are recommended by The Chamber to improve infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth:
- Lawmakers should focus on legislation that implements broadband deployment incentives for wired and wireless networks across the Commonwealth.
- The General Assembly should restore the $1.6 million for the Kentucky Rail Crossing Improvement Program (KRCI) to ensure safe and reliable grade crossings for the traveling public.
- Investment should be made to support the construction of new and the modernization of existing energy infrastructure, including expanded use of fossil fuels as well as alternative energy sources.
- Attention should be given to ensure the Commonwealth’s water and wastewater systems are operating at a high level to deliver affordable and safe services.
You can read more about The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 legislative priorities here: https://www.kychamber.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/2022%20Kentucky%20Chamber%20Legislative%20Agenda%20Final.pdf.