Advanced manufacturing is a key aspect of the Bluegrass Region’s economy and is a targeted industry for Lexington’s economic development. Advanced manufacturing uses innovation and technology to improve the manufacturing process, typically through the incorporation of computer technology, advanced robotics, clean technology, information technologies, automation, innovation, precision control of the manufacturing process, customization, sustainability, waste reduction, and eco-friendly technologies and practices.
Kentucky’s manufacturing industry is a vital part of our state economy and offers Kentuckians promising careers. According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, there are over 2,400 manufacturers in Kentucky employing around 245,000 Kentuckians full-time. Kentucky manufacturing companies not only provide jobs and economic prosperity, but also produce national brands such as Pop-Tarts, Dixie Cups, Jif Peanut Butter, Post-It Notes, Hot Pockets, Kentucky Ale, Tiffany & Co. jewelry, numerous brands of bourbon, and automobiles such as Toyota Camrys.
In 2011, Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington and Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville launched the Bluegrass Economic Advanced Movement (BEAM), an initiative to develop a joint regional business plan to support a leading advanced manufacturing sector with higher average wage jobs. Two years later, the Mayors in partnership with the Brookings Institution released a report — “Seizing the Manufacturing Movement: An Economic Growth Plan for the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky” — concluding that the Lexington-Louisville region has a promising manufacturing base, but will need to invest in more research, innovation, and workforce improvements to remain competitive. Since then, Kentucky has experienced record-breaking export growth, and exports in 2015 totaled over $27 billion. Kentucky’s top five exports were aerospace parts and products ($8.7 billion), motor vehicles and parts ($5 billion), pharmaceutical and medicines ($1.7 billion), resin, rubber, fibers, and filaments ($1.2 billion), and basic chemicals ($987 million).
In November 2016, the mayors unveiled the BEAM Trade and Investment Plan. Developed in collaboration with the Brookings Global Cities program, the plan examines the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) and proposes the way forward for metropolitan cultivation of FDI that helps build a resilient and growing BEAM economy. Foreign-owned firms in the U.S. make outsized contributions to the fundamental components of vibrant economic centers, accounting for significant innovation, research, and exports production, in addition to high-wage jobs. In the BEAM Region, foreign investments have contributed to performance in automotive, chemical, steel, and plastics manufacturing, as well as to the signature bourbon and thoroughbred horse industries. The BEAM project is ongoing as key regional partners investigate targeted strategic investments.
Lexington’s central location and excellent transportation system have been major factors in Kentucky’s growth and development. Lexington is located at the center of a 31-state distribution area and is within a 600-mile radius of the majority of the nation’s manufacturing employment, retail sales, and population. By virtue of this geographic location and Kentucky’s integrated system of roads, interstates, and parkways, Lexington is within overnight range of over half of the United States market.
Lexington’s workforce is one of the strongest regional benefits available to the advanced manufacturing industry. The 2015 Census data ranks Lexington among the most educated cities in the nation. In fact, Lexington ranks #11 for bachelor’s degree attainment with 41.6% of the population 25 years and older holding at least a bachelor’s degree and ranking #9 for advanced degree attainment with 18.9% of the population holding an advanced degree, among cities with populations of at least 300,000.
Specific to advanced manufacturing, the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering offers undergraduate, graduate, and PhD programs. There are 11 universities with significant engineering programs within 200 miles of Lexington, including the University of Kentucky, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Louisville, and the University of Tennessee. These universities provide an excellent workforce from which to draw talented workers in the areas of engineering, including biosystems and agricultural engineering, biomedical engineering, computer science, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, mining engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and chemical and materials engineering, to name only a few.
Another educational opportunity geared towards advanced manufacturing in the region is the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program. Operated by KY FAME, a partnership between regional manufacturers, the AMT program builds a sustainable advanced manufacturing workforce through an apprentice-based curriculum that combines learning with hands-on experience in an immersive environment. Students learn the knowledge and skills required to be advanced manufacturing technicians, such as electricity, robotics, fluid power, mechanics, fabrication, and industrial troubleshooting, and apply those concepts while working part-time for actual manufacturers in the region, such as Toyota and Link-Belt.
In January 2017, the new Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) in Georgetown welcomed AMT and Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) students for the first time. The 78,000 square foot building was designed to look, feel, and operate like a manufacturing facility to enhance students’ learning and skill development, while also including classrooms, offices, and computer labs. Classes at the AMC support BCTC programs in industrial maintenance, electronics, PLCs, industrial electricity, robotics, mechanical drives, fluid power, machining, and welding. The AMC also offers traditional general education courses for Georgetown, Scott Counties, and surrounding communities.
The Bluegrass Region has a population of 633,583 and a labor force of 330,126 people. We have a strong presence of occupations required for advanced manufacturing, such as engineers and technicians, as well as support staff occupations.
Click here to read Commerce Lexington’s Advanced Manufacturing White Paper.
Select Advanced Manufacturing Companies in Lexington
|Company||Services||Number of Empolyees|
|Toyota Motor Manufacturing||Auto Manufacturing||7,900|
|Lockheed Martin||Contractor Support||1,100|
|Trane Lexington||Air Handling Systems||800|
|Big Ass Solutions||Industrial Ceiling Fans, Lights||799|
|Webasto Roof Systems||Automotive Parts||760|
|Schneider Electric||Energy Machinery||500|
|Jif – J.M. Smucker Co.||Peanut Butter||280|
|Aventics||Electric Drives, Controls||245|
|Georgia Pacific||Paper Products||230|
|Ceradyne, a 3M Company||Ceramic Energy Parts||230|
|Tiffany & Co.||Jewelry||125|
Source: Commerce Lexington, 2016