By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
Kentucky business leaders gathered in Louisville for the 13th annual Business Summit to hear from policymakers and experts on the most critical issues facing the state. Below is a summary of some of the presentations at the 2018 Kentucky Chamber Business Summit.
Kentucky vs U.S. — In the opening session of the Business Summit Thursday, Ted Abernathy of Economic Leadership LLC discussed where Kentucky stands compared to the rest of the country in a number of areas and what the commonwealth needs to do in order to become more competitive in the future.
Abernathy noted Kentucky lags behind much of the rest of the country on job growth. While areas like trade and manufacturing are strong in the state, Kentucky has not caught up with technology jobs and other areas.
The need for a strong and healthy workforce was a key theme in Abernathy’s presentation as talent is critical for companies looking to locate to a state. Abernathy said workforce is at the forefront of needs as there are currently qualitative and quantitative challenges.
He stated the work Kentucky has done over the last decade on education and approving achievement has really paid off as the state’s rankings have improved greatly but added the low ranking seen in the number of Kentuckians with a bachelor’s degree or higher are concerning.
Abernathy also said Kentucky and businesses in the state should be focused on the future of technology as well as highway access, labor costs, quality of life, proximity of suppliers and others as companies are primarily focused on these areas when considering where to locate.
Trade, Tariffs, and Kentucky’s Economy — As trade and the impact of tariffs continues to be an important topic of conversation in the state and across the country, a panel of experts discussed the importance of trade and the developing trade war underway between the U.S. and several countries and its impact on Kentucky. The session was moderated by Ashli Watts, senior vice president of public affairs at the Kentucky Chamber.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, U.S. Chamber Senior VP John Murphy, Auto Industry Association Executive Director Dave Tatum and Ontario Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rocco Rossi discussed how recent tariffs and plans to expand tariffs on automotive, agriculture and many other products have created uncertainty for business, and higher costs for consumers while threatening jobs.
Murphy explained the work of Congress in addressing the tariffs and legislation being debated. He also spoke about the critical need we have to tap new markets.
Tatum stated that discussions surrounding trade are important but ultimately a compromise needs to be forged to avoid lost jobs. He reminded the audience that the Toyota Camry is one of the most American made cars with 70 percent American made components.
The group also discussed trade agreements and how the tariffs impact their future. Rossi expressed the need for the U.S. to pursue multi-lateral agreements to avoid missing out on large blocks of nations joining together. Quarles, however, expressed that there is value to bilateral agreements.
Regarding Canada’s future relationships with the U.S. and Kentucky, Rossi stated that the relationship is centuries old and while politics are impacting it now, in the end there will still be a relationship likening the situation to how families fight and makeup.
The panelists all agreed that there are workable solutions for the U.S. Conversations must continue, negative perceptions of trade must be addressed, and agreements must be reached to open the U.S. to new markets.