The following is an op-ed piece authored by Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts
Kentucky finds itself at a time of incredible economic opportunity and challenge. On the one hand, business investments are pouring into the state like never before, leading to new jobs and community revitalization. On the other hand, population growth in the Commonwealth is stagnant, and the state’s workforce participation rate remains one of the lowest in the nation. How can we make sense of these contrasts and contradictions? More importantly, what are the most effective policies to ensure Kentucky is favorably positioned to capitalize on these opportunities and overcome these challenges?
Providing answers to these key questions is at the core of the new Kentucky Chamber Center for Policy and Research. While the Chamber is well known for pro-business advocacy and, through the Kentucky Chamber Foundation, programmatic solutions to major challenges facing the Commonwealth, it also has a long history of ideation, raising important questions, and bringing forth business-led policy solutions. With the launch of the Center for Policy and Research, led by Executive Director Dr. Charles Aull, the Chamber is solidifying that history and paving the way to build on it.
Kentucky’s business community is optimally-situated to provide innovative solutions to major policy challenges. After all, innovation and creative thinking are the bread-and-butter of the private sector. The business community has continually contributed to transformative state policy solutions and ideas in many areas, including competitive tax reform; transforming Kentucky’s unemployment insurance system to support rapid reemployment; implementing business-led child care policy; addressing systematic issues surrounding racial inequality and combating the substance use disorder crisis through second-chance hiring initiatives and programs like the Kentucky Transformational Employment Program.
The mission of the Chamber’s Center for Policy and Research is to build on this work and take it to new levels.
Through original research reports, the Center will seek to drive conversations around key challenges and inform policy conversations in Frankfort and Washington with data, reliable research and analysis, and solutions. Over the last year, the Chamber released two key reports: 20 Years in the Making: Kentucky Workforce Crisis and Why Tax Reform – Kentucky’s Opportunity for Growth. Looking ahead, the Center will produce more reports and analysis like these on issues such as tax and economic policy, criminal justice and substance abuse, changes to Kentucky’s workforce, and more.
The Chamber is well-known as a convener – bringing together different voices and perspectives to reach consensus. The Center will leverage that reputation by convening academics, researchers, think-tank analysts, policymakers, advocates, and business leaders to constructively debate and discuss key policy questions in Kentucky.
Finally, the Center will serve as a vital resource to lawmakers, policymakers, and other stakeholders in both Frankfort and Washington. Whether through data, original research, or policy analysis, decision-makers can depend on the Kentucky Chamber Center for Policy and Research for high-quality, honest information, and perspective.
At the heart of this new initiative is Kentucky’s business community and its commitment to making our state the best place in the nation to live and do business. A board of advisors, made up of key industry leaders from all corners of the Commonwealth, will serve to guide the Center’s research agenda and embed the business community’s perspective in the Center’s work.
Ensuring as many voices as possible are at the table is always a positive development. The Chamber is the authoritative voice of advocacy for Kentucky’s business community and is a leader in business-led programmatic solutions. The Kentucky Chamber Center for Policy and Research will serve to drive the Chamber’s leadership in policy ideation and quality research.