During the World Trade Center Kentucky Executive Forum at the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort this morning, Governor Matt Bevin shared his perspective on Kentucky’s opportunities for increased foreign direct investment, expanded trade, and overall economic opportunities in the Commonwealth.
During the event, Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson facilitated a discussion among the business leaders and policy makers on trade opportunities. He commented on the critical impact trade has on Kentucky’s economy and that the business community must do their part to tell the story of the benefits of trade, especially at the local level.
Gov. Bevin, who studied and lived abroad in Japan, acknowledged the “wealth of possibility” that exists in a world that is really a small place. He described the U.S. and Kentucky as a safe place for foreign investment as geopolitical uncertainties in other places in the world are causing a shift of investment back to the U.S. In Kentucky the logistical capabilities, infrastructure including roadways and rivers, abundant water supply and central location of the state are strengths the Governor uses as leverage to sell the state.
Policies, including passing right-to-work legislation, have built upon the strengths in Kentucky resulting in a record year of capital investment– $7 billion year to date, $2.9 billion of which is direct foreign investment. In the pipeline, there is another $8 billion in potential investment.
The Governor said that his job is to sell the state, noting that everyone is watching Kentucky including other nations and Congress. Referring to Kentucky’s many attributes, the Governor said, “It’s easy to sell this state. We are a crown jewel in America.”
Regarding the work that still needs to be done to improve Kentucky’s potential, several business leaders commented on the lack of certainty about trade policies. Multilateral trade agreements including the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) have been abandoned and efforts are underway to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Although there is uncertainty surrounding the future of NAFTA,there is general agreement that NAFTA should be modernized.
Jacob Isaac-Lowry who recently moved his company, FlyWire, to Kentucky from Hawaii described his challenges. Jacob explained that his customers need stability on costs and stated that his company has difficulty competing with those in other countries that have more certainty in trade policy.
Vivek Sarin, speaking at the event for the Ky. Cabinet for Economic Development, acknowledged that trade policy is a sensitive issue but explained that ultimately trade is a net benefit for Kentucky.
Participants also heard from the following panelists about programs and initiatives related to trade: Jeanine Duncliffe, director international economic development at Louisville Forward; Hal Goode, president and CEO at the Kentucky Association of Economic Development; and Darren Srebnick, chief trade officer at the World Trade Center Kentucky.