Opportunities abound for Kentucky’s workforce on heels of record economic growth

By the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has led a record year for economic growth in Kentucky, including the largest single private-sector investment in the state’s history. (Source: Team Kentucky)

The commonwealth is experiencing economic growth like it has never seen, and the result is more opportunities than ever for growing businesses of every size and specialty, and residents looking to land quality jobs.

Year-to-date, new and expanding companies in Kentucky have announced $10.3 billion in new investment, creating over 15,200 full-time jobs in the coming years. That’s a state record for single-year private-sector investment, with companies across numerous key sectors contributing to Kentucky’s unprecedented economic momentum.

Wages are rising across the commonwealth as well. Through September, the average incentivized hourly wage was $24.15. That represents a 10% increase over the 2020 figure, which was the second highest full-year average since 2015.

The evolving automotive industry is leading the way behind Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation’s announcement in September of a $5.8 billion battery park in Hardin County known as BlueOvalSK that will create 5,000 jobs in the heart of the state.

The industry’s shift toward electric power has made an impact across the commonwealth, as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky announced a $461 million investment that will transition 1,400 team members from indirect roles to direct Toyota positions. Meanwhile, Nemak Kentucky plans to invest $27 million and create 170 jobs at its Glasgow facility to support future electric-vehicle-related business, and Firestone Industrial Products broke ground on a $50 million expansion in Williamsburg, creating 250 jobs to support the company’s growing presence in the EV market.

In total, automotive companies have committed to invest $6.6 billion with more than 7,100 full-time jobs expected in the years ahead.

“This has been a remarkable year for economic growth in our state,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “We have talked about creating a better future for Kentuckians, and our time is now. We recognize the monumental shift that is currently underway within the automotive sector, and companies across the commonwealth are taking steps to prepare for a future that includes an increased focus on electric power. The impact is felt across numerous industries, and the result has been momentum like we have never seen in our state and more opportunities than ever for our residents to find quality jobs.”

Growth in other key industries includes $1 billion in new investments and over 1,000 jobs announced within the food, beverage and agritech sector, more than 2,500 jobs announced by business/financial services companies and roughly 1,700 jobs declared by metals-related businesses.

In Louisville, GE Appliances announced plans to add more than 1,000 full-time jobs with $450 million in investment by the end of 2023. In the past five years, the company has invested over $1.3 billion toward its U.S. operations, with the majority of its more than 3,000 announced jobs located in Kentucky.

“GE Appliances continues to bring manufacturing back to the United States, creating jobs and economic growth,” said Kevin Nolan, president and CEO for GE Appliances, of the October announcement. “We want zero distance between us and the millions of families we serve with our products across America. I want to thank Gov. Beshear and the entire economic development team for their understanding of the importance of growing and sustaining existing businesses in the commonwealth.”

Workforce development key to Commonwealth’s continued momentum

In addition to record business growth, Kentucky continues to support workforce skills training for companies across the state. The Bluegrass State Skills Corp. (BSSC) is at the center of those efforts.

BSSC, administered by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, assists private-sector businesses to establish industry-specific training programs with Grant-in-Aid (GIA) and Skills Training Investment Credit (STIC) programs. GIA provides cash reimbursements for occupational and skills upgrade training at Kentucky businesses, while STIC offers state income tax credits for companies to offset the costs for approved training programs.

In fiscal year 2021, which ended in June, BSSC reported approximately $6.1 million in funds and credits for 111 facilities statewide. The funds will train nearly 18,300 Kentucky workers across a range of vocations.

Thus far in fiscal year 2022, BSSC has provided an additional $4.8 million in funding and credits to train more than 10,500 Kentuckians across 40 facilities.

The program also recently approved a $4.5 million Metropolitan College Tax Credit, which will benefit more than 2,300 students in the Louisville area. Metropolitan College is a joint education-workforce-economic development initiative spearheaded by UPS in partnership with the University of Louisville and Jefferson Community & Technical College, with support from Louisville Metro and State of Kentucky governments. The partnership assists students with access to tuition-free, post-secondary education and high-quality employment opportunities.

Learn more about BSSC or apply for workforce training assistance at CED.ky.gov/workforce/BSSC.

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