Kentucky's combination of nationally low business costs, robust supplier networks, a highly skilled workforce and world-class logistics capabilities make the state a national leader in manufacturing.
These advantages are major reasons why-even amid the global pandemic and all its economic strife-one of the world's largest packaging companies is building a $147 million, state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility in Bowling Green, KY.
Kentucky helped beverage can manufacturer CROWN Cork & Seal USA, a subsidiary of Crown Holdings Inc., move from the conceptual stage to breaking ground on the plant in record time. Company representatives first made contact with the state in mid-December and, a mere two months later, announced the project publicly.
In February, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear celebrated the high-quality opportunities the project will create for Kentuckians, while also laying out a few reasons why the state will help the company thrive.
"In choosing to build in Kentucky, Crown Holdings gains access to a variety of assets that will make this advanced manufacturing facility a success for decades to come," Gov. Beshear said. "With its first plant in Kentucky, Crown will have a skilled and ready workforce, a plentiful supply of beverage can stock, a location with quick access to key markets and a world-class logistics and distribution industry. Further, Kentucky's higher education and workforce development resources will assure Crown can build a pipeline of well-trained employees."
As the first major project to materialize under the Beshear administration, Crown promises to create 126 well-paying, full-time jobs for Kentuckians, and its 327,000-square-foot Bowling Green plant will initially produce 1.3 billion cans per year at a rate of 2,800 cans per minute.
In March, when the factory is expected to open, it will join roughly 4,500 other manufacturing facilities in the state, which employ about 260,000 people. With more than 13 percent of its workforce in manufacturing, Kentucky ranks well above the national average of 8.5 percent, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
Kentucky's aforementioned unique combination of advantages allow manufacturers to achieve optimal levels of success.
The Bluegrass State features some of the lowest industrial electricity rates in the nation, helping manufacturers increase their profit margins. Low-cost energy is one of many factors that help companies maintain a healthy bottom line in Kentucky, which is why the state ranked first nationally for cost of doing business in CNBC's 2019 list of America's Top States for Business. For the ranking, CNBC looked at each state's tax climate, available incentives for businesses, utility costs, the cost of wages and rental costs for office and industrial space.
Additionally, Kentucky's manufacturers benefit from easy access to input materials, including the state's abundance of aluminum and steel. The state's array of primary metals producers help to power a dominant automotive industry in Kentucky, which rolls out more passenger vehicles per capita than any other state and ranks third overall in the category.
Complementing these strengths is Kentucky' ideal central geographic location, propelling the state to become a logistics leader. The state's borders lie within a day's drive, or a two-hour flight, of more than two-thirds the U.S. population and buying power. It's also the only U.S. state with three major air cargo hubs (operated by UPS, DHL and the most recent addition, Amazon). These hubs give businesses in the state top-notch access to markets, enabling them to ship products virtually anywhere in the world overnight.
Manufacturers' commitment to investing and creating jobs in Kentucky has remained strong, even throughout the economic uncertainty prompted by COVID-19. Since Gov. Beshear took office in December, manufacturers have announced roughly $1.2 billion of planned investment expected to create nearly 4,000 full-time, Kentucky-resident jobs across the coming years.
As Kentucky works to build back stronger than ever in a post-COVID-19 world, manufacturing will remain a lynchpin in the state's economy, and leaders understand the importance of laying the groundwork for progress.
A number of initiatives are in place to create pipelines of trained, skilled individuals to fill Kentucky's advanced manufacturing jobs of the future. Among them is the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME), a partnership with regional manufacturers to provide apprenticeship-style training for students while preparing them for well-paying careers with the state's producers.
Additionally, Kentucky has over 330 available industrial sites, 16 of which are certified Build-Ready while over 200 are Shovel-Ready. The state also currently has 362 buildings available: 252 industrial buildings, 120 office buildings and 32 retail spaces. To promote Kentucky's available sites and buildings and attract new development, the state recently revamped its site selection platform, SelectKentucky.com, which now allows visitors to compare and assess properties, workforce information and communities, plus much more.