Op-Ed: Opportunity Thrives in Kentucky

the flag of the US state of Kentucky waving in the wind with the American stars and stripes flag blurred in the background. Kentucky was admitted into the Union as the 15th state on June 1, 1792

The following is an op-ed piece authored by Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts

Our Commonwealth is known for a number of great things, including our bluegrass, our thoroughbred horses, our world-famous bourbon, and most importantly, our grit. Kentucky grit is what makes business across the Commonwealth grow and thrive. It’s also what allows, through hard work and dedication, Kentucky businesses to stand toe-to-toe with (and I’d argue, head and shoulders above) businesses around the world. I’m so proud to see this month one of our Kentucky Chamber members, Rubicon, become publicly listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

With its listing, Rubicon becomes only the ninth Kentucky company in history to be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Among the others include Kentucky Chamber members Brown-Forman, Humana, Valvoline, and Kentucky Fried Chicken (now part of Yum! Brands). It elevates Rubicon to a whole new level, and provides a stage to replicate the efforts of another of our Chamber members, Kentucky Utilities (now LG&E KU), from over half a century ago. KU’s president and chairman at the time, Floyd Fairman, influenced many NYSE public companies to locate facilities in and around Central Kentucky, including IBM, Proctor & Gamble, and General Electric, an effort which resulted in half a billion in yearly wages coming into the region. Rubicon’s Chairman & CEO, Nate Morris, has a bold vision to make Kentucky into a hub for waste and sustainability manufacturing and innovation, and attract other companies to similarly locate and operate here for that reason.

Morris founded Lexington-based Rubicon, the world’s largest digital marketplace for waste and recycling, with $10,000 on maxed out credit cards. Today, Rubicon is worth almost $2 billion, with operations in 20 countries and all 50 states. 

Kentucky has a long history of innovation. At the Kentucky Chamber, we are part of highlighting this work through the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, which recognizes those in the Commonwealth who, through grit and determination, achieve great entrepreneurial success. Notable inductees include Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Harland Sanders and Governor John Y. Brown, Outback Steakhouse’s Chris Sullivan, Alliance Resources’ Joe Craft, Humana’s Wendell Cherry and David Jones, Dollar General’s Cal Turner and Cal Turner, Jr., Rubicon CEO Nate Morris, Tempur Sealey’s Robert Trussell, Thorntons’ James Thornton, Texas Roadhouse’s Kent Taylor, Long John Silvers’ Warren Rosenthal, and Brown-Forman’s George Garvin Brown—just to scratch the surface! The mission of the Hall of Fame is to raise awareness of the impact entrepreneurship has made in the Commonwealth by recognizing these homegrown success stories and encouraging other Kentuckians to pursue similar ambitious endeavors in our own backyard.

Through innovation and entrepreneurship, any Kentuckian can build a company that becomes a key driver of economic growth, providing jobs and opportunities for Kentuckians of all stripes. The Chamber is committed to ensuring that opportunity thrives in the Commonwealth and recognizing those who contribute to the Commonwealth’s greatness.

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