By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
Kicking off day 2 of the Business Summit, Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson gave an in-depth presentation about the seven key issues facing the commonwealth.
In his talk, Adkisson touched on the progress Kentucky has made as the legislature has begun passing pro-business legislation that is already attracting investments to the state.
Adkisson said pension and tax reform are tied for the most urgent on that list as the state faces crucial financial decisions with the pension crisis remaining the biggest financial threat to Kentucky.
Other key priorities the state needs to address, Adkisson said, include infrastructure needs, the state’s workforce shortage issues through all levels of education including K-12 and higher education, and the opioid abuse struggles faced by the state.
Adkisson said a big vision will lead to a better commonwealth and emphasized that the business community will be at the table as these discussions move forward.
Reimagining the Appalachian Coal Fields
In the opening keynote of the day, the founder of a coding company putting former coal miners in new careers in eastern Kentucky discussed the ways new industry and jobs can be brought to the Appalachian region.
Rusty Justice, Co-founder and Managing Member of Bit Source LLC, told fellow Kentucky business leaders he believes if opportunities are created in eastern Kentucky, natives will be able to stay close to home and the region will be able to attract more talent. Because of the coal jobs the region has had, Justice says the workforce in the area has the knowledge and technical skills that coding requires and easily translates.
“We can be a center of excellence. We have the workforce that can do it,” Justice said.
Justice said the Kentucky Wired project is exciting to people of eastern Kentucky because bringing broadband to the region will help transform their economy and way of life.
“It’s important for businesses to offer opportunity and hope,” Justice said.
The Home State of Horsepower
Kentucky’s powerful automotive industry was the focus of a panel with Doug Bowling, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc., Kurt Krug, Vice President – Human Resources, Communications & Governmental Affairs of INOAC USA, Inc., and Dave Tatman, Executive Director of Kentucky Automotive Industry Association.
The panel discussed the fact that Kentucky is the 3rd largest auto-manufacturing in the nation with facilities in 80 counties. Kentucky Automotive Industry Association Executive Director Tatman said that 1 out of every 18 jobs in Ky. is in the automotive industry.
When asked why automotive companies are locating in Kentucky, the state’s geographic location was a key point of discussion as the state is within a one day drive of two-thirds of the country’s population.
But while the industry continues to grow the panelists said there is still a struggle to find the skilled workforce needed for the jobs in the state.
As part of this issue, the panel talked about different programs happening in their sector to help Kentuckians get the training and certification they need to help strengthen the workforce and said they hope to continue to grow those programs moving forward.
The Bourbon Industry in Kentucky
The 12th Annual Business Summit concluded Friday with a discussion about one of Kentucky’s signature industries: bourbon.
The bourbon industry in Kentucky served as the luncheon keynote address featuring a conversation between Garvin Brown IV, Chairman of the Board at Brown-Forman, and Kentucky Chamber Board Member Tierra Kavanaugh Wayne, CEO of TKT & Associates, Inc.
In the discussion, Brown and Wayne talked about what it was like growing up in the Brown family, the evolution of the family business over decades, and the his career in and out of Brown-Forman.
For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line blog.