With economic growth providing never-before-seen state revenue, Kentucky faces an opportunistic moment to take not just steps to make residents’ life better today but to put the state on an upward course for decades.
If state leaders can be brave enough, continue being bold and aspire higher than their predecessors ever have, it can be a permanent positive transformation.
The fruits of the past decade’s labors are paying off in more investment and jobs than the commonwealth has ever seen, and that wave will continue, very likely for several years. Public and private leaders have the unique opportunity to consider how best to channel newfound resources so that today’s rising tide becomes a sustained virtuous cycle.
State tax revenues are growing in every category, even for income tax, whose rate dropped in January from 5% to 4.5%. Revenue growth “triggered” another half-percentage point rate cut next year, a move the General Assembly made its first legislative action of the 2023 session and Gov. Andy Beshear signed.
Those are strong signals to business decision-makers who are in the process of site selection for what economic developers tell us is a full pipeline of further investment during the current cycle. Other factors improve the state’s growth prospects, too.
Demographics foreshadow further tightening in labor markets already at historic lows for unemployment. Companies large and small are investing to improve productivity because there simply are not enough workers. The need to improve supply chain integrity has many industries looking to put more operations in the United States.
Kentucky has geographic advantages, superb logistics operations, a desirable workforce, lower costs and is providing build-ready sites that meet today’s speed-to-market demands by companies making strategic investments.
Sustaining the virtual cycle that is pushing benefits into every region of the commonwealth requires state leaders to look not just at solving the needs of the moment but envisioning the conditions they want in the future.
Kentucky needs to grow its workforce. That means retaining more native residents and attracting others. It means providing more and better and affordable housing. It means improving all elements of our education system, giving it the resources to obtain the faculty needed for technical as well as traditional academic programs. This will include noninstructional supports for families under stress if schools are to succeed in teaching skills.
Health care is crucial too. Kentucky has quality but major imbalances. Like education, health care is vital to workforce development.
Additionally, stewardship of Kentucky’s unparalleled natural environment is vital. It attracts and retains residents, tourism dollars and visitors who might become new residents.
In all these important categories—workforce development, education, housing, health care, natural assets—if the state’s leaders raise the bar for themselves, aspire to and push for transformation, future Kentuckians will say, “We stand on their shoulders.”