Kentucky's strength in manufacturing is no secret. With around 4,500 facilities spread throughout the state employing 260,000 people, manufacturing is clearly a driving force behind Kentucky's economic success.
What many may not realize, however, is the true diversity of the commonwealth's manufacturing base and how the sector's growth is building a better Kentucky. From automotive to primary metals to food and beverage to aerospace, Kentucky provides an ideal home for companies of most any size and specialty, as evidenced by a number of new location and expansion announcements throughout the first nine months of this year.
Since 2014, the Greater Louisville region alone has seen well over 600 new location or expansion announcements totaling over $9.8 billion of investment and more than 34,000 proposed jobs, including significant growth of manufacturers like Ford, New Flyer and GE Appliances.
"We still have a long way to go in our recovery from the challenges we have all faced in 2020, but economically, I could not be more confident in our state's ability to build back stronger than ever," Gov. Andy Beshear said. "That is because of the range of industries we have attracted to Kentucky over the past few decades - and even throughout Covid-19 - and our ability to consistently put companies in the best position to succeed. We've already seen a number of announcements this year that give us reason for optimism, and you're sure to see that continue in the months and years ahead."
Since Beshear took office last December, manufacturers have announced approximately $1.2 billion in planned investment, which could create more than 4,300 full-time jobs for Kentuckians in the coming years.
One of Kentucky's most substantial projects thus far in 2020 was announced in July at Louisville's Appliance Park with GE Appliances making public its plans to invest $62 million and create 260 jobs to boost high-end refrigerator production and upgrade its existing dishwasher line. Continued growth of the state's major manufacturers like GE Appliances is a reason 13% of Kentucky's workforce is tied to manufacturing, well above the national average of 8.5%, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
A top sector and one of Kentucky's greatest strengths, its automotive industry, grew significantly over the years to employ 100,000-plus people full-time. Kentucky produces the Chevrolet Corvette in Bowling Green, hosts two Ford Motor Co. assembly plants in Louisville and is home to the world's largest Toyota manufacturing facility in Georgetown. Collectively those facilities rank Kentucky as the No. 1 producer of cars, light trucks and SUVs per capita in the nation, according to data provided by Automotive News.
GE Appliances' latest expansion will increase high-end refrigerator production at the Louisville operation.
But there's much more to the state's automotive landscape. That includes more than 500 automotive suppliers, trailer and truck body makers and accessory and aftermarket equipment producers. This year, Kentucky saw projects announced by two dump truck body manufacturers.
Truck Equipment & Body Co. of Kentucky Inc. in June announced a $2 million investment to establish a 43-job custom dump truck body and truck equipment manufacturing operation in the Eastern Kentucky city of Stanton. TEBCO's expansion will not only allow it to better support its rapidly growing customer base, but also provides a great boon for the region, in which the company has operated from Richmond, Kentucky, for nearly 30 years.
A few counties east, dump truck bed manufacturer Logan Corp. in February announced a $1.2 million investment at its Magoffin County plant in Kentucky, setting the stage for improved workflow, greater employee retention and increased production volume. The former coal mining equipment producer pivoted to dump truck body manufacturing in 2015 in response to the coal industry's decline, an innovative move that resulted in strong growth and dozens of new jobs opportunities for Eastern Kentuckians.
Recent manufacturing growth also extends to the state's food and beverage sector, with Beshear joining T. Marzetti Co. executives in Horse Cave in February to announce the company's nearly $93 million expansion that would create 140 full-time jobs. The company's 184,500-square-foot addition will increase manufacturing space with new equipment for added production of dressings and sauces. T. Marzetti has operated in Hart County, Kentucky, since 2006 and is one of over 350 food and beverage facilities located in the state. In total, the industry employs more than 52,000 people.
"Our decision to expand here is a testament to our strong ties to the community, our skilled and hard-working employees and the consistent support from the local and state entities during our many years of operation here in Horse Cave," said Dave Ciesinski, T. Marzetti's president and CEO. "We truly appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the future growth of Hart County."
Another long-standing focal point of Kentucky's economy is primary metals, as represented by the 185-plus aluminum-related facilities and 43 steel and iron production operations. Combined, the primary metals facilities employ over 26,000 Kentuckians full time. Those figures are on the rise, as Chicago-based Feralloy Corp. announced in July it would locate its first Kentucky operation on the Nucor Steel Gallatin campus near Ghent. The steel processor is investing $17.5 million and creating 30 jobs at the facility to level and cut steel for customers throughout the Ohio Valley region with steel coils supplied by Nucor. The new location is expected to be operational before the end of this year.
Aerospace industry in Kentucky
Aerospace may not be the first industry rocketing to mind when thinking of manufacturing in Kentucky, but it too is significant and growing. Aerospace products and parts make up the state's top export category, with an all-time high $14.6 billion worth of aerospace products shipped from Kentucky around the globe in 2019. The sector continues to evolve in terms of manufacturing as well, with growth of companies like voestalpine Roll Forming Corp., which in July made public its plans to create 50 jobs at its existing Shelbyville location with a $5.2 million investment. Currently, Kentucky is home to nearly 80 aerospace-related facilities employing over 19,000 people.
Even during a time when many companies are uncertain of what will come next, manufacturers continue to invest in Kentucky at a high rate and emphasize the state's ability to support businesses from every sector.
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Team Kentucky helps businesses of all sizes select a location, grow and succeed. Offering low business costs, a central U.S. location and expertise in a range of industries, Kentucky can support any company's needs. Manufacturers looking to locate or expand in Kentucky can call 800-626-2930, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit CED.ky.gov