First day of Business Summit focuses on competitiveness, international trade

On July 16, two Kentucky mayors kicked off the Kentucky Chamber’s Business Summit and Annual Meeting, presented by Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP,  with a discussion on how Kentucky’s two largest cities – Lexington and Louisville – compete with other U.S. cities. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer noted however, that the question should not just be how the cities compete  nationally, but how they compete globally.

Fischer, and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray have been working closely together, along with the help of the Brookings Institution, to identify the main competitive advantages that these two cities offer. Manufacturing – specifically automotive manufacturing – is one thing both cities have in common, with a Ford plant located in Louisville, and a Toyota plant located right outside of Lexington in Georgetown.

To build upon this strength, the mayors recently launched the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM) – to develop a joint regional business plan supporting the growth of high-quality jobs in advanced manufacturing. Fischer said one of the primary goals of BEAM is to increase exports of Bluegrass Region by more than 50 percent over the next five years.

“We also discovered with Brookings that in a state with 8 percent unemployment, many of our manufacturers say they struggle with finding a qualified workforce,” said Gray. “What can we do differently? We have to recognize that we have a problem and attack it.”

Next on the agenda, Dr. Pearse Lyons, Founder and President of Alltech, provided an update on international trade and connectivity. Under Lyons’ leadership, Alltech has become a global leader in the animal health and nutrition industry, giving him unique insight into making Kentucky “an entrepreneur’s Commonwealth.” Lyons views Kentucky’s future as undoubtedly linked to the imagination and curiosity of its entrepreneurs. Imagination, he said, and our ability to take that vision or image around the world is essential to the Commonwealth’s future in the global marketplace. Lyons inspired the audience with Alltech’s many ventures that have helped give Kentucky and Alltech an international presence and ultimately left listeners with the message that “the future of Kentucky is about doing things.”

At the end of day one of the Business Summit, a panel of business leaders addressed how international trade can benefit the state’s signature industries — horses, bourbon and coal. Former Gov. Martha Layne Collins, who moderated the panel, set the stage with statistics. Exports accounted for:
— 12% of Kentucky’s gross state product in 2011
— 48,000 direct jobs
— 39,000 indirect jobs

On bourbon, Makers Mark Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr., noted that the internationalization of bourbon is strong, with Kentucky brands leading the way. The strengh of the industry could create an “inevitable monopoly” for Kentucky, and a few small changes by state government are needed to align state policies with the industry’s prospects for growth.

Keeneland President Nick Nicholson noted that Kentucky, when compared to other countries, is the third largest ‘nation’ in thoroughbred production in the world. International sales are growing, and Keeneland’s strong market share has helped it and Kentucky develop an international brand.

Alliance Coal President and CEO Joe Craft said coal is the fastest-growing fuel in the world and the industry expects demand to increase by 1.3 billion tons in the next four years. Craft said improvement in the national economy should create a higher value for domestic sales of western Kentucky coal.

Click here to download powerpoint presentations from the Business Summit.

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