By BRUCE SCHREINER Associated Press
Kentucky’s economic development campaign has produced nearly $5.8 billion in pledged business investments so far this year, already surpassing the state’s record for a full year, Gov. Matt Bevin said Friday.
Those investments — promised by existing businesses and companies locating to Kentucky — are expected to create about 9,500 jobs, the governor said.
“We are just getting warmed up,” the Republican governor said as he touted his administration’s pro-business record at an event in front of the state Capitol.
Kentucky’s previous yearly record for business investment was $5.1 billion in 2015, the final year of former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s tenure.
This year’s record-setting pace in business investments in Kentucky has been fueled by three separate billion-dollar announcements.
Toyota said it would spend $1.3 billion to retool its Georgetown plant that produces its flagship Camry sedan and supports more than 8,000 jobs. Online retailer Amazon said it would spend $1.4 billion to build a worldwide cargo hub in northern Kentucky.
Most recently, Braidy Industries Inc. announced plans to build a $1.3 billion aluminum plant in eastern Kentucky. The company promised to hire 550 people and pay them nearly twice the average household income in an area devastated by the loss of coal and manufacturing jobs.
State officials, in return, have pledged tens of millions dollars in incentives. The companies have to meet job-creation and investment targets to receive the tax incentives.
Those incentives and others come as the state is struggling to plug a massive shortfall in the pension system. State officials say the companies only get most of that money if they meet the targets, thereby generating more state tax revenue.
“By and large, the amount of incentives that we’ve used has certainly not been extraordinary or any different than how we’ve attracted businesses in the past,” state Economic Development Secretary Terry Gill said Friday.
State Democratic Party Chairwoman Sannie Overly said Bevin’s announcement touting record-breaking investments was based “more on speculation than reality.”
“He’s basing that on announced estimates that have not happened yet, and may never happen,” Overly, a state representative, said in a release.
“This entire announcement is a sham because this money has not been spent in Kentucky,” she added.
Bevin also used the event to tout the state’s new right-to-work law, calling it a key driving force in economic development efforts.
The law, passed by the state’s GOP-led legislature this year, bans labor unions from collecting mandatory dues from employees they represent in collective bargaining
Bevin lambasted labor groups that a day earlier filed a lawsuit asking a judge to temporarily block the right-to-work law while the suit proceeds. The Kentucky State AFL-CIO and Teamsters Local 89 claim the law violates the state’s Constitution.
“Anybody who would want to interrupt this momentum for political gain, shame on them,” Bevin said.
State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan said Thursday that lawsuit aims to prevent wages from eroding as a result of “this misnamed, discriminatory and punitive legislation.”