Kentucky Experiences Record Year For Economic Growth

New and existing Kentucky companies announced the creation 18,000 full-time jobs, $11.2 billion in investment in 2021. 

In 2021, 264 private-sector new-location and expansion projects committed to invest over $11.2 billion and create over 18,100 full-time jobs in Kentucky, shattering the commonwealth’s all-time records for both measures.

Wages are also on the rise, as Kentucky’s average incentivized hourly wage for projects statewide in 2021 was $24 before benefits, a 9.4% increase over the previous year and the second highest mark of the past seven years.

(Credit: Getty Images/Oleksii Liskonih)

“The past year has included a number of challenges, from our continued fight against the pandemic to the tragic tornadoes that impacted so many lives in Western Kentucky,” said Governor Andy Beshear. “But it has also been a year of hope, with great reason to believe the future is bright in the commonwealth. This record year of economic growth means well-paying jobs for Kentuckians throughout the state and a vibrant, diverse economy that can support our workforce in the face of whatever challenges arise in the years ahead. I want to thank every company that has bet their future on Kentucky and our workforce. I look forward to continuing this record-breaking momentum in 2022.”

Since the start of the Beshear administration in December 2019, more than 570 new-location and expansion projects have contributed over $13.6 billion in new investments and more than 27,000 full-time jobs.

Kentucky’s record 2021 included the single largest economic development project in the state’s history. In September, Gov. Beshear, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chair Bill Ford, CEO Jim Farley and Dong-Seob Jee, president of SK Innovation’s battery business, announced a $5.8 billion investment to establish the BlueOvalSK Battery Park in Hardin County, which will create 5,000 jobs.

The record-breaking project is at the center of the state’s automotive industry growth, which in 2021 included more than 40 announcements totaling $6.7 billion in new investments and more than 7,200 full-time jobs, as companies within the sector continue to evolve and prepare for a future that will rely more heavily on electric power.

Manufacturers are a driving force behind Kentucky’s continued economic growth, contributing to 13,900 of the announced jobs over the past year with $10.5 billion in new investments. Manufacturing plays a vital role across numerous key sectors in the commonwealth, with nearly 5,000 facilities employing over 250,000 Kentucky residents.

Other key industry growth across the state includes the food, beverage and agritech sector, which saw more than $1.1 billion in new investments across 46 projects that will create over 1,200 full-time jobs. That includes 20 announcements by bourbon and spirits-related companies creating 371 jobs with $391 million in investments.

Metals-related operations announced 24 new-location or expansion projects in 2021 that will create over 1,700 jobs with $975 million in announced investments, while 43 business and financial services and headquarters operations will create 3,700 new Kentucky jobs behind $770 million in new investments.

Plastics and rubber (639 new jobs with $295 million in investments) and logistics and distribution (over 1,000 new jobs with $181 million in investments) round out the state’s top job-creation sectors in 2021.

Logistics and distribution also played a significant role in bringing numerous projects across multiple industries to the commonwealth.

Kentucky’s economic momentum includes small business and workforce initiatives as well. In 2021, 107 Kentucky businesses capitalized on the Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit (KSBTC), creating 339 jobs with $3.64 million in reinvestment. In fiscal year 2021, more than 110 facilities across the state were approved for approximately $6.1 million in funds and credits through the Bluegrass State Skills Corp. (BSSC) to support training for nearly 18,300 Kentucky workers. Through the first half of fiscal year 2022, an additional $4.8 million in BSSC training funds and credits have been approved to assist workforce development efforts for more than 10,500 trainees across nearly 40 facilities.

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