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Kentucky governor pushing for changes to lure mega projects

Kentucky State Capitol Building
Posted at 4:08 PM, Sep 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-05 22:58:13-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Tucked into the pandemic-heavy agenda for a special legislative session is a request to strengthen Kentucky’s negotiating hand in trying to reel in mega-sized economic-development projects.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday that he would ask the GOP-led legislature to give the state’s recruiting team more flexibility in offering incentives for investment projects topping $2 billion.

“As we sit here today, we have at least five potential projects that would be that size,” Beshear told reporters. “In other words, the largest in our commonwealth’s history.”

The Democratic governor announced Saturday that he’s calling lawmakers back to the statehouse for a special session that begins Tuesday. The session will be dominated by coronavirus-related issues. After winning a legal battle against Beshear, lawmakers will take the lead in crafting policies to respond to a recent surge of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, fueled by the delta variant.

But Beshear is hoping the work on economic-development policy helps put the state at the front of the pack in trying to land $2 billion-plus projects. Such a massive development would be certain to create loads of new jobs, with plenty of spin-off opportunities for even more job growth.

As is customary when states pursue industrial projects, the governor didn’t offer specifics about which types of companies are being pursued by Kentucky’s economic development officials. And he didn’t offer details about the legislation that lawmakers will be asked to consider.

But the governor said it would strengthen the Bluegrass State’s negotiating position.

“Other states have tools in their toolbox to make offers for those projects that we don’t have,” Beshear said at a news conference. “And so this asks the General Assembly to help us be competitive, but to keep the same spirit we have in our current incentive package.”

The proposal also would enhance Kentucky’s position in promoting a site at Glendale just off Interstate 65, the governor said. That site — about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Louisville — was offered two decades ago when Kentucky was trying to land a new Hyundai auto manufacturing plant. Hyundai ultimately selected Alabama for the project.

Beshear has touted Kentucky’s economic resurgence even as the delta variant has sparked record numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions in Kentucky.

So far this year, Kentucky has landed more than $2.8 billion in new investments from companies locating operations in the state or expanding existing sites, Beshear said recently. That total exceeds business investments made in all of 2020 in the state, he said. Beshear projected that this year’s total could end up at least doubling total investments from the pandemic-stricken 2020.

The governor routinely promotes the latest economic development projects at his pandemic-dominated news conferences.

“We see more potential right now,” Beshear said recently. “We see investment sizes that we could have only dreamed of. The future is right here in front of us. This opportunity is ours to grab to never be a fly-over state again, and to be a leader and never again a follower.”