Op-ed: “Kentucky’s Winning Strategy:” A Unifying Vision for Our Commonwealth’s Economic Future

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

We live in a time where our politics and opinions are driving deeper divisions in our society than we have seen for generations. This is as true in Kentucky as it is across the nation, where we not only anticipate a divisive presidential election next year but a high-profile gubernatorial election in just a few months. Tensions between communities, neighbors, and even families are running high.

The intensity of our disagreements makes it all too easy to forget that we, as Kentuckians, actually agree on quite a lot. I’m talking about issues like good jobs, a strong workforce, healthy communities, a growing population, reliable infrastructure, affordability, economic growth, and quality education. These are priorities shared by most, if not all, Kentuckians. 

Uniting Kentuckians around these shared priorities is the primary goal of “Kentucky’s Winning Strategy” – a new report from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce that outlines a unifying vision for our Commonwealth’s economic future.  

This document brings together the ideas of Kentucky’s top business leaders for growth and economic prosperity in Kentucky and articulates a clear vision for how to make Kentucky one of the best states in the nation to work, do business, and raise a family.

“Kentucky’s Winning Strategy” lists ten focus areas and provides a vision for what success looks like in each area.

For example, one key focus area is our workforce. For decades, low rates of workforce participation have held back Kentucky’s economic potential, ranking the seventh lowest in the nation at just 57.8 percent. The business community’s vision for success in this area includes a workforce participation rate that is among the top ten states in the nation and a workforce growth rate that outpaces our competitor states.

Another key focus area is a competitive tax code that encourages population growth and business development. Kentucky has taken great strides in recent years to improve the competitiveness of our tax code, but we envision a future where nonpartisan organizations like the Tax Foundation rank our tax climate as one of the top ten in the nation. Our current ranking is 18th.

Other focus areas include growing the size of our population, building a high-quality K-12 and postsecondary education system, investing in world-class infrastructure, protecting Kentucky’s status as an affordable state, fostering a uniquely desirable quality of life, leveraging the economic potential of our signature industries, and strategically securing economic development and wage growth in all corners of the Commonwealth.

Bringing this vision for Kentucky’s economic future to life will be a journey, requiring investment and ingenuity from all Kentuckians, but especially our state and local leaders charged with making major policy decisions. Civil disagreements on how to get from point A to point B should be expected – and even encouraged! That’s how democracy is supposed to work in the first place.

What matters most is recognizing our numerous points of shared interests and agreeing on a shared vision for Kentucky’s future. That’s exactly what “Kentucky’s Winning Strategy” provides. 

As we head into the final months of Kentucky’s governor’s race and dive straight into the 2024 election cycle, my challenge to all Kentuckians – elected officials and constituents alike – is to ask yourselves, what is your role in turning this vision for Kentucky’s future into a reality? The business community stands ready to continue advocating for a stronger Kentucky. But “Kentucky’s Winning Strategy” merits a big-tent approach; and we look forward to a robust dialogue with our fellow Kentuckians on how to bring this vision for economic success and prosperity to life.

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