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Kentucky jobs bill would drive state into 'the future economy,' supporters say

Final vote expected Thursday
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Posted at 7:28 AM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 09:16:26-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. — State lawmakers slated part of their special session this week to discuss ways the commonwealth can attract more major manufacturers — and good-paying jobs — to Kentucky.

Committees in both General Assembly houses Wednesday readily approved two identical bills that would allocate $410 million in economic incentives to lure those companies to the Bluegrass State. The package would include forgivable loans and $20 million in job training grants, among other perks. In return, the state hopes, those companies would spur economic development and create job opportunities for workers in the Bluegrass State.

"Anytime you see a state taking on special incentive legislation like this, (that) there is a deal or deals that they are working on...they need to strike immediately so they can address the specific challenge that client may face," said Lee Crume, CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, a local company that works to attract businesses to the state's northernmost region.

Crume said that, even if these contracts land in other parts of the state, Northern Kentucky would still see some benefit.

"You know, we might be able to win one of those projects and see that activity land in Northern Kentucky," he said. "But if it lands in other parts of the state...we have a very strong presence in those industries, and certainly we're going to see the supply chain for that big deal grow in our community."

Crume expects the incentives to appeal mostly to the auto, technology or life sciences industries, and Gov. Andy Beshear's advisors said he introduced the bills with the hope of bringing emerging, evolving and growing manufacturing sectors like these to ensure the jobs created are here for the long haul.

"If you look at agri-tech, if you look at aerospace, if you look at automotive, if you look at all of the opportunities floating around out there, where the future has to be and where the future economy is going to be for that workforce," said Rocky Adkins, senior advisor to the governor.

"This puts us in the game," he said. "This puts us in the future workforce, the future economy."

Since no deal has been finalized, no one will say yet what companies are in talks with the commonwealth. Several lawmakers and state officials said they have signed non-disclosure agreements as part of the negotiation process, but they could say they expect stiff competition from several other states.

The legislature is expected to vote Thursday to approve the measure.