True Economic Enthusiasm Dawns for 2018

After years of ‘cautious optimism,’ Kentucky business leaders express confidence about the year ahead

By Mark Green

cover-story

With private-sector construction vigorous, a charging housing market limited only by inventory, and the state coming off of by far its best year ever for economic development announcements, there is genuine optimism about 2018 in Kentucky’s business community and related public sectors. The automotive sector expects another strong year to draft closely behind a 2017 whose sales were close to the consecutive records set in 2015-16. Tourism growth served up by an ongoing boom in bourbon’s popularity underpins a strong spike in hotel construction as well as distillery growth. Demand for single- and multifamily housing also has developers green-lighting projects, especially in the state’s urban areas. Public officials in Frankfort still are trying to figure out how to reform Kentucky’s tax system and pay off pension liabilities, but their actions last year to make the commonwealth a “right to work” state and repeal prevailing wage requirements for federally funded projects clearly paid off: 2017 brought $9.2 billion in private-sector project announcements that will create 17,000 new jobs. That bested the previous one-year record investment total by 77 percent and has the business community convinced the Great Recession at long last has passed into history.

“Kentucky has taken historic strides the past two years toward our goal to become the center of engineering and manufacturing excellence in America. There is a catalyst for the record-shattering more than $12 billion in corporate investment and creation of 34,000-plus new jobs. It is the transformational pro-business legislation, policies and programs that we have put into place. An exciting new economic development day is dawning in the Commonwealth. The nation and the world are taking notice. In 2018, we must address additional, longstanding challenges in order to continue our advancement. Meaningful action on pension, tax, tort and entitlement reform is critical for future success and growth. I am confident that together we will rise to the occasion and become the greatest possible version of ourselves, because … We are Kentucky!” — Matt Bevin, Governor, Commonwealth of Kentucky

“There will be significant growth in 2018 based upon a set of economic factors that are creating confidence among business leaders. The business transformation to leverage our digital economy is providing economic opportunities that have not been in the grasp of most companies in the past. The ability to leverage transactional data, external data, and IoT (internet of things) and analytics enables a company to provide its clients with business outcomes that are predictable and scalable. These outcomes are a result of a more collaborative and business-partner-centric ecosystem built on trust and value-based business relationships. The positive economic indicators, coupled with tax reform, will provide business owners with the confidence to make additional investments to expand operations, employment and prosperity.” — Steve Sigg, CEO, SIS

“Despite an uncertain future for healthcare in 2018 around the country and in the commonwealth due to the political landscape, 97-year-old Lexington Clinic is positioned to continue offering care as our region’s largest multispecialty medical group. In 2017, we added Lexington Clinic Mount Sterling as well as several physicians and providers. Lexington Clinic continues to offer customized, premier network options for progressive employers in the commonwealth through our population health and premier provider network agreements.” — Dr. Andrew Henderson, CEO, Lexington Clinic

“The transformative Omni Louisville Hotel will open downtown in 2018, and the $207 million renovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center will be complete. In the coming year, we will build on our prosperity, continue to invest in our foreign-born population and ensure everyone is along for the ride, with projects like a $200 million transformation of neighborhoods west of downtown. Louisville’s economy is on the rise, with $12 billion in capital investments, 2,500 new businesses and more than 70,000 new jobs gained over the past six years. Unemployment remains low, at 3.9 percent. We continue focusing economic development efforts on five key sectors: advanced manufacturing; business services; food/beverage; lifelong wellness/aging care; and logistics. And we’re growing workforce skills through partnerships like one with Jefferson Community and Technical College, which plans a new Advanced Manufacturing & Information Technology Center.” — Greg Fischer, Mayor, Louisville Metro

“The Kentucky automotive industry’s nearly 500 manufacturing sites and 90,000 employees expect continued North American and global industry strength in 2018. Despite coming off two record sales years, 2017 was very close to those record numbers again. And while there are clouds on the horizon, we think overall economic conditions bode well for continued sales strength. Low interest rates, favorable crude oil prices, low unemployment and high vehicle replacement rates all lend themselves to a robust sales environment. Recent Federal Reserve interest rate increases have not dampened customers’ enthusiasm for products, and the industry continues bringing amazing vehicles and technology to market. We are intensely watching ongoing NAFTA negotiations, tax reform, global oil prices and political uncertainty in many regions of the world, as any of these could be significant market disruptors.  On balance, however, we remain very optimistic for 2018 for continued growth in our Kentucky automotive industry.” — Dave Tatman, Executive Director, Automotive Industry Association

“While Kentucky agriculture produces a $45 billion statewide economic impact, our ag sector experienced modest increases in cash receipts and net farm income in 2017. We hope this upward trend continues, but there are many factors to consider in estimating what increases, if any, will be seen in 2018. Maintaining strong trade opportunities is critical. In recent years, exports accounted for more than 40 percent of the commonwealth’s agricultural sales. Other issues that could affect the family farm and rural communities include progress on tax and pension reform, maintaining existing ag-related tax exemptions, the upcoming budget, support for rural infrastructure needs, expansion of adequate broadband service and awareness of the need for enhanced water resource management.” — David S. Beck, Executive Vice President, Kentucky Farm Bureau

“Strengthening domestic and export hardwood lumber markets are fueling optimism in Kentucky’s forest products industry. The 2018 outlook is positive. Exports to China, Europe and Vietnam will increase, and domestic demand will be steady to rising. With the GDP strengthening, U.S. manufacturers may begin to restart shuttered plants, which would escalate demand. Worldwide demand for Appalachian hardwood in its rawest form, the log, increased nearly 100 percent in 2017. This, coupled with a more stabilized U.S. housing market, could create opportunities for expansion of existing and/or new hardwood manufacturers in Kentucky.” — Richard Sturgill, CEO, BPM Lumber

“For Toyota, the year starts strong with the launch of an all-new, Kentucky-made Avalon. Our state-of-the-art paint facility will continue to take shape in 2018, while new construction begins in our powertrain plant to expand 2.5-liter engine capacity. These projects are part of a $1.5 billion investment in TMMK, and underscore a healthy automotive industry and a strong business climate in Kentucky. With U.S. manufacturing facing an estimated 2 million worker shortfall over the next decade, workforce development remains a top priority. In 2018, Toyota will continue working with local communities and other manufacturers to close this gap and inspire the next generation of makers in our state.” — Susan Elkington, President, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc.

“Kentucky had another banner year for construction and economic development in 2017, and Messer Construction Co.’s data indicates steady growth into 2018. Businesses are expanding in Kentucky based on its central location and unparalleled strength in logistics, distilling and manufacturing. Ongoing discussions regarding tax reform and pensions indicate state leaders are poised to tackle the tough issues that could stifle long-term economic expansion. Those issues may be short-term concerns for many, but we see that momentum as a positive indicator for future development. Messer is working to address a challenge many Kentucky employers face: attracting and retaining the best workers to support expansion. We are investing in apprenticeships, training, diversity programs and other workforce development initiatives that ensure we can continue delivering for our customers.” — Mark Gillming, Senior Vice President, Messer Construction

“I see 2018 as a tipping-point year for the city of Louisville and the region surrounding it. For starters, multiple downtown projects will come online, including the Kentucky International Convention Center, the Omni Hotel, and the Old Forrester Experience. Homebuilding is booming with many large multifamily projects and new subdivisions underway. The Urban Bourbon Trail will draw many more tourists. The local economy is strong and should stay that way throughout 2018. We look for our metro population to grow faster as GLI’s initiatives to attract, retain, and develop the best and the brightest people take hold. In summary, Greater Louisville’s future looks bright.” — Kent Oyler, President/CEO, GLI

“Lexington’s economy is strong, and the future looks bright. Two recent steps at City Hall will make our city even more competitive, as we work to attract good companies with good jobs. First, in partnership with the University of Kentucky, we opened 250 acres near the interstates to industrial development, enabling us to compete for manufacturing employers. Secondly, a fiber-optic network is coming to Lexington with ultrafast internet service that will attract high-tech businesses: MetroNet plans to start building its network in January at a cost to the business of at least $70 million. That’s the fuel needed by a university city with expanding technology jobs and advanced industries.” — Jim Gray, Mayor, City of Lexington

“As Louisville’s downtown convention center expands, nearly 2,000 new hotel rooms come online and an Urban Bourbon District continues to emerge with three more distillery openings, so the city is preparing to host growing visitation in 2018. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research anticipates convention growth for 2018, and current delegate attendance is a leading indicator. With new convention products opening in Louisville, we should expect to be part of this national trend. Leisure tourism attendance at Louisville’s top attractions is expected to grow in 2018. Attendance peaked in 2017, up 5.3 percent, indicating leisure travel momentum driven by major attractions that have announced renovation or expansion plans, including Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum, the Muhammad Ali Center and the Frazier History Museum.” — Karen Williams, President/CEO, Greater Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau

“Regulatory cost pressures, while easing under the Trump administration, continue to loom for operators of fossil plants. Maintaining affordable, reliable energy will continue to be critical for Kentucky’s economy, particularly the energy-intensive manufacturing sector, which employs 250,000 Kentucky workers directly. Even while energy efficiency and distributed energy resources are slowing the growth of energy consumption, utilities must prepare for a future that includes a growing role for electric vehicles, which promise substantial cost savings for drivers. Maintaining a grid of power plants and lines that provide energy on demand 24 hours a day is complex and expensive, and energy providers must continue carefully balancing reliability and affordability.” — Anthony “Tony” Campbell, President/CEO, East Kentucky Power Cooperative

“While the Northern Kentucky destination enjoyed a banner year in 2017, the outlook for 2018 is moderate. We forecast marginal increases in our hotel occupancy levels and average rates, partly due to a significant increase in hotel supply in Northern Kentucky and neighboring downtown Cincinnati. We expect another strong year attracting faith-based visitors with strong demand at the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter. In concert with the Kentucky Distillers Association, Northern Kentucky will launch the “Bourbon Line” with local craft bourbon distilleries and select bourbon restaurants and bars. Newport on the Levee will launch the Skywheel in 2018, adding another exciting attraction to our already wide array of visitor experiences.” — Eric Summe, President/CEO, meetNKY | Northern Kentucky CVB

“Northern Kentucky had a record-breaking year in 2017 with more than $1.75 billion in announced new capital investment across 27 projects. Our Kentucky business climate improved significantly in 2017 with right-to-work legislation, and now pension and tax reform need attention. Northern Kentucky is anticipating Amazon Prime Air’s project at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, and we are making strides with our allies to build a robust talent pipeline. We are addressing gaps in industrial site availability, attending to local economic development needs, fostering the emergence of a strong life-sciences industry and advancing multiple opportunities for entrepreneurs and existing primary industries. Northern Kentucky is primed for growth!” — Dan Tobergte, President/CEO, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED

“After a robust 2017, the City of Jeffersontown is on track for a prosperous 2018. Data from the city’s JOBS program indicate wages are rising at qualifying employers, with $60,000 the annual average. Bluegrass Commerce Park is near capacity, and businesses there are looking to expand. Jeffersontown’s office sector has experienced strong activity; the biggest project in 2018 will be Appriss Inc.’s relocation to five floors in an 11-story office tower in Plainview. Meanwhile, Jeffersontown’s burgeoning restaurant/bar scene will welcome Feast barbecue and an expansion of Third Turn Brewing in 2018. They join Mac’s Dough House, The Beach and a revamped Bearno’s Pizza that opened this year.” — Mike Kmetz, Director, Jeffersontown Economic Development Authority

“In 2018, the airline industry will continue to grow amid the positive U.S. economic expansion. This growth is bringing our community larger, more comfortable aircraft, many of which now provide first-class service to passengers. Private aviation flights continue to comprise a large percentage of Blue Grass Airport operations. To support growing demand for services to private aviation, this year the airport will complete construction of new hangars and an airport-operated facility for aircraft owners. The airport will continue seeking non-aeronautical revenue opportunities to allow it to be more self-sustaining. Completion of new multimillion-dollar rental car service facilities will benefit passengers and rental companies while opening land for development opportunities.” — Eric Frankl, Executive Director, Blue Grass Airport

“I am moderately optimistic about 2018, particularly if the general economic climate continues to avoid tracking the drama generated in Washington and focuses more on the prospect of better-than-average returns from U.S. companies in a wide variety of sectors. My caution results from a concern about the potential for Americans to lose hope that our nation and other nations that value freedom will prevail. A decline in American optimism – believing that we are a place where “anything is possible” – could have a dangerous impact on our economy moving forward. This is why I constantly emphasize with Centre students the capacity to see challenge, not defeat.” — Dr. John A. Roush, President, Centre College

“The 2018 economic outlook is positive. Murray State University is a catalyst for economic growth and professional development opportunities for students to discover, grow and succeed while advancing both the west Kentucky region and the commonwealth. Legislative officials and individuals who advocate for higher education recognize the impact our university makes. Murray State’s strategic plan will remain focused on four guiding pillars: excellence; experiential learning; being student-centered; and upholding our sense of community.” — Bob Davies, President, Murray State University

“Kentucky’s real estate market will maintain growth for the third consecutive year in 2018. A 3 percent increase in home sales is expected, and home prices will see a 3-6 percent increase over 2017. Housing inventory will remain low and drive demand and home values up with fewer days on market. Millennial homebuyers will be a big influence in the expanding market. Other positives include increasing housing starts and construction. The constant uptick in rental fees also will make it more attractive to own a home vs. renting. What could slow homeownership growth? Interest rates rising too fast, and the effect of federal tax reform that changes mortgage-related tax savings, capital gains and other tax exemptions.” — Steve Stevens, CEO, Kentucky Realtors

“We anticipate growth in Lexington’s hospitality industry in 2018. History will come alive as three iconic Central Kentucky spaces that have been reimagined will reopen. VisitLEX administrative offices and Lexington Visitors Center will move into the renovated Old Courthouse along with a bourbon bar, restaurant by chef Ouita Michel, the Breeders’ Cup and event space. The James E. Pepper Distillery returns to the site of its original 1879 distillery with a tasting room, bar and gift shop overlooking Town Branch Creek. At the former Old Taylor distillery, Castle & Key will include a tourism center, tasting room, gift shop and grand garden designed by Jon Carloftis.” — Mary Quinn Ramer, President, VisitLEX

“Our university experienced substantial growth in 2017 and expects that to continue in 2018. We have shaped academic programs on all levels that reflect the need in a growing economy in Kentucky. Our students are focused in the sciences and business on the undergraduate level and at the graduate level in education, healthcare and business. Our new graduate cybersecurity program has been recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security and we expect it to help meet the industry demands in the years to come. University of the Cumberlands is a leader in education and will continue to provide an educated workforce across numerous industries not only in Kentucky but around the world.” — Dr. Larry Cockrum, President, University of the Cumberlands

“To meet the demand for greater value as Kentuckians opt for higher-deductible health plans, pay more out-of-pocket costs and more actively manage their healthcare, Baptist Health and providers are changing where and how care is delivered, offering more affordable and convenient alternatives. Baptist Health’s 24/7 Virtual Care allows online visits with a physician day or night from a mobile phone or PC. To increase capabilities and respond to rapid changes in uncertain times, more independent hospitals are becoming part of larger groups. Having successfully managed Hardin Memorial Health for 20 years, Baptist Heath is in talks to acquire the 300-bed Elizabethtown hospital. If finalized, HMH would be the fourth hospital Baptist Health has acquired since 2012.” — Gerard “Ger” Colman, CEO, Baptist Health

“The economic outlook for higher education in Kentucky relies heavily on pension reform. Without it, NKU’s annual contribution to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (KERS) is projected to increase nearly $13 million next year to $31 million, and our pension contribution will consume 65 percent of the dollars Frankfort has appropriated to us to invest in our students, retain and attract faculty, and continue the operations of the institution. We owe Gov. Matt Bevin and the General Assembly gratitude for creating a performance-based funding model matching university outcomes with state dollars, and taking the first step in addressing the historic underfunding of institutions like NKU and WKU. We hope to receive the other half of this funding disparity in 2018 and to see impactful pension reform to bring financial stability to our institutions.” — Gerard St. Amand, Interim President, Northern Kentucky University

“A slew of new developments indicate 2018 will be one of best years in recent history for Northern Kentucky. Young professionals and empty nesters are moving into urban areas, particularly in Covington, Newport and Bellevue, where new apartment projects are underway. Reconstruction of Ky. 9 in Newport is igniting growth while creating development opportunities on nearly 100 acres. In Fort Thomas, apartments with views of downtown Cincinnati are nearly complete. Multifamily projects are planned along the Ohio River in Dayton and Bellevue. A developer plans a mixed-use development on Ludlow’s main thoroughfare. SkyWheel, a $10-million, 200-foot-high Ferris wheel, will break ground in 2018 at Newport on the Levee. Four more phases of Riverfront Commons – the 11-mile walking, running, and biking trail that will connect all six Southbank cities – are scheduled for completion in 2018.” — Jack Moreland, President, Southbank Partners

“In Appalachia Kentucky, 2018 will be a year of economic opportunity action. Through collaborative efforts, the region now approaches challenges with an opportunistic mindset and leverages the resources and expertise of partners and stakeholders across all sectors to bring new jobs to the region. Appalachia Kentucky in 2018 will establish a new narrative of hope and promise, of belief that the region has the skilled workforce to compete and thrive in a global economy. This will be the year Appalachia Kentucky begins the narrative of a bright and promising future.” — Jared Arnett, Executive Director, Shaping Our Appalachian Region

“The University of Kentucky in 2018 will remain an indispensable engine for a robust and modern Kentucky economy. Our teaching enterprise provides a skilled workforce, preparing today’s employees to address tomorrow’s questions. Our high-tech research enterprise and commercialization infrastructure is at the forefront of innovation in healthcare, drug development, energy and agriculture that positions Kentucky to thrive in an evolving 21st-century economy. For Kentucky to have a dynamic innovation economy sustained by a multi-skilled workforce and leading-edge research, partnerships involving our university with local, state and federal governments, along with the private sector, will be critical for our success.” — Dr. Eli Capilouto, President, University of Kentucky

“The recent repeal of prevailing wage and right-to-work passed by the General Assembly will continue an infusion of business and industry to Kentucky and the Lexington region, which was named among the Top Mid-Sized Metros for Economic Development by Site Selection magazine. Commerce Lexington Inc. expects the positive economic trend to continue in 2018, with other cities and national media outlets recognizing the success of the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (City of Lexington, Commerce Lexington Inc. and University of Kentucky). With a diverse economy, low unemployment, central location and one of the most educated workforces in the country, Lexington is doing well. However, the long-term stability of Kentucky and its cities will depend on how state legislators solve the pension crisis.” — Bob Quick, President/CEO, Commerce Lexington Inc.

“The technology sector will remain strong in the commonwealth through 2018 as companies continue to leverage productivity gains through investments in cloud solutions. Volta predicts the corporate tax cut will enable companies to invest more in technologies that improve enterprise security and infrastructure optimization. Corporate mergers, acquisitions and data center consolidation efforts will drive demand for more efficient IT solutions, and technology investments made now will not only deliver return on investment in the near term but improve companies’ outlook for weathering a downturn.” — Marshall Butler, President, Volta

“In 2018, KentuckyOne Health will refocus our efforts to transform healthcare so individuals and families can access care for health and wellness more easily. New and advanced technologies will improve the quality of our care. We also will invest in additional preventative services to improve the health of our communities. Access issues and economic conditions continue to be challenges in our state. However, in 2018, we will invest in patient-experience improvements like telemedicine, enhanced scheduling to ensure timely appointments, and furthering our partnerships with patients to help everyone make the proactive and preventative care choices that lead to a healthier Kentucky.” — Bruce Tassin, Market CEO, KentuckyOne Health; President, Saint Joseph Hospital

“Growth will continue in 2018 for Louisville’s airports and further solidify Louisville’s importance in the global marketplace. We added flights to eight new markets. Low-fare leisure options by Allegiant and Frontier fueled seven consecutive months of increased passenger activity. Legacy carriers are investing in larger aircraft and additional daily flights to major markets. In collaboration with our business community, we are planting the seeds for continued air-service development. Freight volume will increase with completion of projects like Taxiway Alpha, the introduction of larger cargo aircraft like the Boeing 747-8F and rapid expansion of regional e-commerce logistics. Louisville Renaissance Zone Corp. continues to promote Renaissance South Business Park, where more than $678 million in private and public investments are expected to continue, adding employment growth. As construction concludes on new facilities, 2,500 current employees should grow to nearly 3,000 by year’s end.” — C.T. “Skip” Miller, Executive Director, Louisville Regional Airport Authority

“The pace of evolution in technology drove dynamic growth across all industries throughout 2017, and we see that accelerating in 2018. Innovation that improves operations with the flexibility of storing and executing from “the cloud” is the future. Thus, Coastal Cloud saw 40 percent year-over-year growth, and we are accelerating hiring and delivery in every solution center across the country. Businesses are seeing the value of innovative, cloud-based technology solutions that provide a 360-degree view – from sales, operations, accounting, marketing and more – and accessing information regardless of location all on one platform. We don’t see this changing – just think how much we do on a cell phone or a tablet, then translate that to running your business. The future looks bright.” — Erik Dunnigan, MidWest Managing Director, Coastal Cloud

“As part of Humana’s commitment to improve the health of the communities we serve 20 percent by 2020 (our Bold Goal), we’ve looked more deeply at social determinants of health – including food insecurity, social isolation, and loneliness – and how these impact the number of healthy days a person has in a month. There is a strong correlation, and we are working hard with local physicians, government, and business and community leaders to address them. Humana is helping people age in a manner that keeps them enthusiastic about adding candles to their birthday cakes. Whether that’s improving their current health status, feeding their well-being, or delivering care in the homes they love, we are optimistic about the future of our senior population.” — Jennifer Willis, Vice President for Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, Humana Inc.

“South-central Kentucky is building on its success, with Bowling Green receiving recognition as the fastest growing city in the state since 2011. The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated Warren County projects representing nearly 10 percent of all job growth in Kentucky, including being home to the state’s fourth-ranked capital investment and second-largest job creation project among industry expansions. Talent remains the Chamber’s forefront objective for the region in meeting the needs of our companies through nation leading initiatives like SCK LAUNCH. With outstanding collaboration and support from our state and local officials, we look forward to another prosperous year in 2018.” — Ron Bunch, President/CEO, Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce

“Kentucky American Water will also remain focused on controlling operational expenses and providing a fair return to investors. As the largest investor-owned water utility in the commonwealth, providing water and/or wastewater services to portions of 12 counties, we’ve invested approximately $400 million in Kentucky in the past decade, and plan to invest approximately $20 million in 2018. This approach is critical for providing reliable, quality service to customers. Investing in water system infrastructure remains a priority. It’s estimated that over the coming decades more than $1 trillion in capital will be needed to upgrade U.S. water infrastructure.” — Nick Rowe, President, Kentucky American Water

“With Kentucky’s growing logistics and advanced manufacturing sectors, combined with our capacity for greater volume, we predict moderate growth for 2018. A potential NAFTA withdrawal could undermine this forecast, impacting Kentucky’s consumers and economy. Without NAFTA, World Trade Organization rules apply to trade in the region: Average import tariff rates would rise to 3.5 percent from Mexico and 4.1 percent from Canada with average export tariff rates on U.S. goods to Canada and Mexico increasing to 7.1 percent. Net result for the state: more costly feedstocks, consumer goods and lost competitiveness of products sold into NAFTA, Kentucky’s largest export market. Despite posturing under the Trump administration, we remain positive and view renegotiation of this agreement in the best interest of all three nations.” — Ed Webb, President, CEO, Kentucky World Trade Center

“After a banner year in NKY, with economic development announcements from companies like Amazon and CTI, we expect a big year in 2018. Unemployment in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties was under 3.5 percent the final two months of 2017. With expansion of advanced manufacturing, healthcare, logistics and distribution, construction, I.T. and financial services, the NKY economy should continue to excel. Tourism throughout NKY continues to contribute in a big way, accounting for over 20 percent of tourism for the state. Led by new destinations, and lower cost options at our airport (CVG), we have seen the average flight cost reduced by $200 over the past 4 years. Hotel stay statistics throughout NKY are up double digits.” — Brent Cooper, President/CEO, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

“New pro-growth laws supported by the Kentucky Chamber including right to work, repeal of the prevailing wage, and medical review panels helped lead to a record-setting year for economic growth in the commonwealth. In 2017, the state saw $9.2 billion in business investment and expansion and the creation of more than 17,200 jobs. Our workforce participation rate also has improved in part thanks to these investments with an increase of 1.3 percent over the last year. Though much has been accomplished, our state’s pension system is the worst-funded in the nation and, with tough budget times, legislators must tackle pension and tax reforms to truly create a positive outlook for Kentucky.” — Dave Adkisson, President/CEO, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

“Several positive factors to support my belief that the 2018 manufacturing outlook is trending up: Consumer spending is up, and retail sales are at record levels. Interest rates are favorable, and banks are lending. Employment is rising, as are wages. The housing market is heating up. Exports are ahead of last year and rising, so international trade is stable. These are all good omens for Kentucky manufacturers. More U.S. businesses are moving back to the U.S. from China and 59.8 percent of U.S. exports are manufactured products. All of this bodes well for Kentucky’s growing manufacturing sector this year and into the ’20s.” — Lee Lingo, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of Manufacturers

“As 2018 begins to shape up, the proposed tax law changes should have a big impact on the architectural and construction industries. The hope for expansion in business capital improvements due to reduced taxes and overseas monies returning to the U.S. holds great promise. That said, the monthly national Architects Billing Index (ABI), recognized as a leading economic indicator of future construction activity, at the end of 2017 was not as robust as it was a year ago. Given that conflicting sentiment, I am reminded of Gary Player, one of the great professional golfers, who had a statement I always admired: ‘Every day I have a choice, and I choose to be positive.’ Me, too.” — Steve Eggers, Managing Principle, K. Norman Berry Associates Architects

“Louisville Gas and Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities Co. is committed to meeting customers’ needs by advancing technologies and continued low rates to help advance Kentucky’s economy further in 2018. Site Selection, the international magazine, has named LG&E and KU one of the top 10 utilities in the country for economic development eight times. Our dedicated team works with state and local economic development personnel, attracting new and expanding businesses to Kentucky. This, coupled with our sustainable offerings, incentivizes business growth and development. Our programs include helping businesses install solar at their facilities, offering a subscription-based Solar Share Program, and energizing Kentucky’s roadways with new publicly accessible and customer-hosted electric vehicle charging stations.” — Victor A. Staffieri, Chairman and CEO, LG&E and KU

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