One of the Commonwealth’s most famous authors, Jesse Stuart, once wrote that “if these United States can be called a body, Kentucky can be called its heart.”
He was referring to more than just our location, of course, but his words have proven prophetic in a geographic sense as well. It turns out that our literal place in the world is a great place to be when it comes to helping the world get what it needs.
To begin with, we’re home to the country’s population center east of the Rocky Mountains. In other words, no other state is closer to more people than we are.
Helping that along is the fact that we have 2,600 miles of railway, 1,100 miles of navigable waterways, nine parkways, five interstates and the world’s tenth largest cargo airport in Louisville.
The reason we’re ranked so highly in that category is primarily because of UPS, which will celebrate 30 years in the Commonwealth next year. What began with 150 jobs now tops 23,000, and the company has invested more than $2 billion over the last decade alone. That, of course, has made us much more attractive to other companies needing to move their product quickly; Louisville officials estimate that more than 12 dozen have come here as a result.
DHL Express, which operates out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, does substantial business as well when it comes to shipping cargo. It sends out 65 flights a day to 220 international destinations.
Having ready access to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers gives us another advantage when it comes to transporting especially heavy products. We have seven riverports and several others privately owned that make sure this process operates smoothly. That’s no small task, given that Kentucky is 10th among the states in the raw weight we ship.
When you take all of these factors into account, it’s easy to see why so many companies look to us when it comes to getting their product from the factory to the store. Tractor Supply, for example, is building an 840,000 sq. ft. distribution center in Franklin, and Sportswear Inc. said this past winter it would open one in Louisville. Amazon.com and Walmart are two other companies with a major presence here, and it’s certainly worth noting that three of the world’s leading auto companies and several hundred auto-part manufacturers also chose Kentucky in part because we are so close to so many. In an era of high fuel prices, that fact should help us build on these gains.
Worldwide, Kentucky has already established a major foothold. We actually doubled our exports over the past decade, and the $19.3 billion we shipped in 2010 put us 19th among the states when measuring the value of the goods. These exports are directly responsible for 47,000 jobs, according to the state’s Cabinet for Economic Development.
Transportation equipment, chemicals, machinery and computer and electronic products were our top four exports last year, and Canada was our biggest customer. The United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan and Germany rounded out the top five.
Just as we ship a lot to other countries, other countries provide us a considerable amount of work as well. This foreign investment generated 95,000 jobs in 2008, with Japan and Germany being the top two investors here. Switzerland, which has less than eight million people, is fourth in this category.
While our location in the heart of the country certainly helps our economy, none of this would be possible without the heart of a highly trained workforce bringing it all together. It’s that quality that Jesse Stuart was writing about, and it’s a key reason why we’re poised to exceed these gains in the years ahead.
If you have any thoughts on this issue or any other affecting the state, please let me know. My address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.
State Representative Rick Rand