FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Matt Bevin this weekend departed on his administration’s first economic development and trade mission to the People’s Republic of China, a weeklong trip to build business and diplomatic connections in one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies.
Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development executive officer Vivek Sarin and Erran Persley, the cabinet’s executive director for international affairs and business development, joined Gov. Bevin on the trip. The group plans on strengthening relationships with Chinese companies already operating in Kentucky, as well as developing new business and government connections to fuel future growth.
“Chinese-owned companies are already substantial employers in Kentucky, and we are excited to build upon these strong sub-national relationships with our visit to China this week,” Gov. Bevin said. “Chinese companies are emerging as economic powerhouses in a wide range of markets and, as we prove Kentucky to be a ready and willing business partner, that will mean even more jobs and foreign direct investment flowing into our state. We want Kentucky to be the first state that countries around the world think of when they choose to locate in the U.S., and we are confident that this trip will significantly further our goal.”
The mission to China follows numerous international trips during the Bevin administration, which included a trip to England, Japan and South Korea earlier this year.
The China trip follows a visit to Kentucky by China’s U.S. Ambassador Cui Tiankai, who met with Gov. Bevin and various government and business leaders in August.
Eight Chinese-owned companies operate facilities in Kentucky, currently employing approximately 8,700 people. Those include some of Kentucky’s most recognizable employers, such as GE Appliances, which employs more than 6,000 in Louisville, and Lexmark, with approximately 1,600 employees in Lexington.
Other existing Chinese-owned facilities include Krauss-Maffei Corp. in Florence, LEDVANCE Sylvania in Versailles, Midea America Corp. in Louisville and, in Lexington, Birtley Industrial Equipment and FGX Septech LLC. Additionally, Global Win Wickliffe announced in August its plans to reopen the former Verso Corp. paper mill in Ballard County with a $150 million investment expected to create 500 full-time jobs.
Through August (the most recent data available), Kentucky exported about $1.5 billion in products and services to China — making it Kentucky’s sixth largest export destination by dollar value. In 2017, Kentucky exports to China hit record levels, with more than $2.8 billion in products and services shipped, making it the commonwealth’s No. 4 trade partner for the year with a nearly 60 percent increase over 2016. However, Kentucky imported more than $8.09 billion in goods and services from China in 2017, creating a $5.28 billion trade deficit.