Kentucky tops Governor’s Cup rankings in 2021 for economic development projects

By Gian Prabhudas, Building Kentucky

In back-to-back years, Kentucky was recognized for a litany of awards in Site Selection magazine’s 2021 Governor’s Cup. The Commonwealth was atop the South Central region for economic development projects per capita, and in the top three, nationally, for economic development projects per capita.

However, Site Selection magazine also recognized many communities within Kentucky who contributed to its overall success. Below are the top three winners (and one honorable mention) that helped push the Commonwealth forward in this record-breaking year for economic development and job creation.

Small-to-medium-sized cities

As the hub of the U.S. Inland Waterways, the Paducah-McCracken Riverport is centrally-located near the confluences of four major Eastern U.S. river systems, allowing shippers to move their goods to over 65% of the U.S. population and Canadian border within one day’s drive.

Kentucky tied for fifth in total projects for micropolitan areas – cities with populations between 10,000 and 50,000 – including eight announcements in Frankfort, which placed the community in a tie for seventh, nationally.

Five Bardstown projects put it in the Top 20 as well, with Danville (4), Paducah (4), Glasgow (3), Somerset (3), Madisonville (2) and Mount Sterling (2) also making the list of Top 100 micropolitan areas.

Ford and SK Innovation

Ford Motor Company announced an $11 million investment to bring two massive, environmentally and technologically-advanced campuses to Kentucky and Tennessee in September 2021.

Ford and SK Innovation’s BlueOvalSK Battery Park project in Hardin County was ranked seventh by Site Selection for job creation on its 2021 U.S. Giants list. Announced in September, BlueOvalSK will create 5,800 full-time jobs, with production of advance lithium-ion batteries to begin in 2025, placing Kentucky at the forefront of the automotive industry’s electrified future.

The border regions

The Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati region is a leader in logistics, home to the Amazon Air Hub located at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Many regions bordering out-of-state metropolitan areas have made the most of their location. The Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati region placed second in projects per capita for metropolitan areas with populations over 1 million and seventh in the total number of projects category, boasting 125 projects.

Meanwhile, Louisville moved into the Top 10 per capita category, ranking seventh. The Clarksville, Tennessee, region, which includes Guthrie and other areas of southern Kentucky, placed in the Top 10 per capita category for metros with populations between 200,000 and 1 million.

Honorable mention: Bowling Green

Bowling Green is home to many Kentucky attractions, including Western Kentucky University, Lost River Cave and the National Corvette Museum.

Bowling Green moved up the list to second place in total projects for metros with population below 200,000, and third in projects per capita. The Elizabethtown-Fort Knox area joined Bowling Green in the per capita Top 10, with eight company announcements placing it in a tie for sixth in overall projects.

To view the full list of awards, visit

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