Home » Economic Outlook: Economic Development — Despite a Continued Tight Labor Market, Experts Optimistic for the Coming Year

Economic Outlook: Economic Development — Despite a Continued Tight Labor Market, Experts Optimistic for the Coming Year

By wmadministrator

The One NKY Center is a $26 million Class A office building in Northern Kentucky developed by Corporex. Among the building’s occupants are regional economic development partners that include the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, meetNKY and the OneNKY Alliance.

After the economic development challenges in 2023 that included high interest rates, economic uncertainty and workforce shortages, Lee Crume, president/CEO of BE NKY Growth Partnership, expects businesses to maintain the cautious approach they adopted over the past year. Economic development is historically slow in presidential election years, he noted.

“We will aggressively market Northern Kentucky, continue our targeted business attraction work and double down on our business retention outreach to achieve strong results for our community in 2024,” Crume said.

Crume added that the Product Development Initiative program run by the Cabinet for Economic Development One has proven effective for bringing new industrial sites online and ready for new facilities, and BE NKY is an active participant.

The NKY Port Authority is a newly activated entity of the BE NKY Growth Partnership, too, with new developments underway. The NKYPA will own and eventually be housed in a new $26 million Class A office building developed by Corporex and occupied by regional economic partners that include Crume’s organization, OneNKY Alliance, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, meetNKY and others.

Crume spotlighted achievements of 2023 while looking ahead to 2024.

“BE NKY Growth Partnership won 16 projects with $383 million in capital investment and 1,419 jobs announced,” he said. “Seventy-six percent of these projects were from our existing industry base and 64% were manufacturing companies across several of our target sectors, including food and flavoring, medical devices and electronics. We’re proud of our results given the tough business climate in 2023.”

Commerce Lexington Inc. President/CEO Bob Quick believes the Greater Lexington area will remain attractive as a place to live and work in 2024.

“Economic development project activity has been on the rise recently, with more of the same expected,” he said. “However, some challenges that will impact attraction and retention of business and industry across the region include housing inventory and affordability issues, a lack of shovel-ready land for jobs, a tight commercial real estate market with limited available buildings, and not enough workers to fill jobs.”

The recently developed Economic Competitiveness Plan pairs regional partners within a nine-county area to help address some of these challenges by increasing marketing efforts, strengthening relationships with site consultants, recruiting and retaining talent, and advocating to state government players, he said.

Greater Louisville Inc. President/CEO Sarah Davasher-Wisdom has an optimistic view for the new year.

“We are starting 2024 with a lot of exciting momentum for our regional economy,” she said. “2023 was an extremely successful year of growth and new opportunities for our business community and we see no signs of slowing down in the year ahead. While there is still a degree of uncertainty of how the economy will handle inflationary pressures and elevated interest rates, we are confident we are well-equipped to navigate these challenges with minimal impacts on economic growth.”

Davasher-Wisdom added that a regional economic development push with partners throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana is being aggressively leveraged with consistent branding.

This includes a 2024 national marketing campaign with investment from Louisville Metro, designed to lure businesses to the region, with a new Greater Louisville Partnership website driving home key messaging about the region’s strengths.

“The campaign will target specific industries, including biomedical manufacturing, life sciences logistics, digital health and artificial intelligence, and electric vehicle battery production supply chain, as well as specific geographies where Greater Louisville offers a competitive advantage like Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington D.C.,” Davasher-Wisdom said.

The excitement generated by the opening of Derby City Gaming Downtown in Louisville is forecast to continue in 2024.

She pointed to Norton Healthcare’s new West Louisville hospital, Derby City Gaming Downtown and ongoing renovations at Muhammad Ali International Airport as exciting projects both new and upcoming. The airport was named in 2023 as the fastest growing in the continental U.S.

Somerset Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) President/CEO Chris Girdler anticipates 2024 will build upon the area’s record growth over the past few years in new job and business announcements, expansions, tourism, and educational and training program offerings.

“I anticipate 2024 continuing to follow that pattern, but we are always aware that sometimes things outside our control on the national and worldwide stage can interfere with that at times,” he said.

He pointed to the workforce as the top challenge facing communities and the state and said a variety of quality-of-life initiatives implemented in recent years will help entice people to move—and stay—in the Somerset area. His organization is also looking to increase the number of commercial/industrial build-ready sites.