No Southern state's rural regions benefited more from the recovery in 2011 than Kentucky's
By Mike Randle
SB&D pays special attention to every economic development project that receives any kind of publicity in the South. We have made it very easy to do that. At the beginning of 2011, SB&D launched The Randle Report (www.RandleReport.com), which aggregates virtually every significant -- and many not so significant -- economic development, business and political story that breaks each hour of the day in the South and it does it in real time.
The Randle Report, which posted over 30,000 stories in 2011, is a real ball and chain around here. For example, not long after it was launched, we received a phone call from a person who was on the site. She said, "There hasn't been a story posted on Randle Report in 20 minutes. Is something wrong with the site?" Geez. So, as a result of the call, we have been posting stories ever since as if our hair is on fire.
So, what did we find by creating and reading the pages of The Randle Report each day? Well, let's just say this: we thought we were informed before The Randle Report came along, but we were wrong. The advent of that site puts the word "informed" in a whole new context.
What we discovered by clicking the "economic development" sort button each day on The Randle Report, among many other things, is that Kentucky is not only doing a great job in creating jobs in the state, they are doing it with a tremendous emphasis on rural development.
There is no doubt that Kentucky's massive automotive industry is leading the rural development charge. We counted 34 large automotive projects that landed in rural Kentucky in 2011. No state in the South except for possibly South Carolina can match that total of significant automotive projects started in their rural regions in calendar year 2011. And it isn’t just the automotive sector that is contributing to new jobs in rural Kentucky. The packaging, distribution and metals industries are finding Kentucky to their liking as well.
In fact, since we have kept up with every significant project announced in the South since 1992, we have never seen Kentucky's numbers so high. In November, an economic developer in Alabama who religiously monitors The Randle Report each day confirmed our suspicion that Kentucky is on a roll. "It seems like every project announced in the South is from South Carolina or Kentucky," the Alabama practitioner said.
One community that had an outstanding year in 2011 was Harrodsburg/Mercer County, Ky. In October, Hitachi Automotive Systems established a hybrid electric vehicle battery production facility in Harrodsburg. The announcement was the fourth for Hitachi in Kentucky since 2009, when Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear traveled to Japan to meet with Hitachi officials. Since that visit, Hitachi has announced a total of 335 new jobs and $154.5 million in investment in its two Kentucky locations.
Other recent successes in rural Kentucky include Glasgow/Barron County. There Akebono Brake, Fortis Manufacturing, Integrated Pharmaceutical Packaging and Amneal Pharmaceuticals have announced projects.
Some other rural locations in Kentucky that stood out as a result of solid job generating projects in 2011 include Lebanon/Marion County (Curtis Maruyasu), Calvert City/Marshall County (Gerdau Ameristeel), Shelbyville/Simpsonville (Martinrea and Bekaert), Franklin/Simpson County (Tractor & Supply), Danville/Boyle County (Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems and Denyo), Henderson (Rio Tinto Alcan) and Morgantown/Butler County (Sequa Automotive Group).