Kentucky: Putting Expansion On The Fast Track

Companies looking to hit the ground running in the recovery are flocking to the Bluegrass State, where red tape is cut so ribbons can be cut.

By the BF Staff
From the November/December 2020 Issue

Although the U.S. continues grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic’s unprecedented impact, several companies looking to hit the ground running in the Bluegrass State with new facilities and job creation are pointing the way toward a better Kentucky.

For businesses like Chapin International, Kentucky’s ability to match a company’s desired timeline helped land the new facility. In late September, the manufacturer of metal compressed air sprayers announced its plans to locate a production operation in Mount Vernon, Kentucky, a nearly $5.5 million investment expected to create 100 full-time jobs in the coming years.

University of Kentucky Coldstream Research Center

Chapin’s announcement of its first Kentucky location came just over a week after the project came to local and state economic developers’ attention, a speedy turnaround that impressed company leaders.

“There were many moving parts that included purchasing this 175,000-square-foot facility,” said Jim Campbell, Chapin’s president and CEO. “The town, county and the State of Kentucky did an amazing job in bringing the project to conclusion in just under 10 days. We look forward to our part in growing American manufacturing in the great state of Kentucky.”

Kentucky’s ability to win fast-moving projects like Chapin illustrates how the state is paving the way for a brighter future through creation of high-quality, high-paying and sustainable jobs, a core mission for Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and his administration.

“This is another example of people coming together to build a better Kentucky and create an even stronger economy,” Gov. Beshear said when he joined the company in announcing Chapin’s plans. “This project came together incredibly quickly, and I want to thank everyone, including our state and local economic development teams, who quickly worked to meet Chapin’s needs in such a short period of time and bring these jobs to Rockcastle County. We welcome Chapin International to Kentucky.”

In addition to Chapin, another renowned company successfully launched a keystone project earlier this year, thanks in part to Kentucky’s swift approach with expanding businesses.

Company representatives of beverage can manufacturer CROWN Cork & Seal USA, a subsidiary of Crown Holdings Inc., contacted the state’s business development team in mid-December 2019 about the potential project. A mere two months later alongside Gov. Beshear, Crown’s leaders announced their selection of Bowling Green, KY, for its $147 million, state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility. The building is under construction and set to open in the spring.

Kentucky’s emphasis on speed complements a host of business-friendly provisions making the commonwealth an ideal landing spot for industry. The state’s roughly 4,500 manufacturing facilities benefit from low business costs—particularly industrial electricity costs that are among the lowest in the nation—and an ideal central geographic location that provides significant distribution advantages in speed and cost-savings. As the logistics center of the Eastern U.S., the commonwealth is located within 600 miles of two-thirds of the nation’s population. Kentucky is home to three global air-cargo hubs, with 20 interstates and controlled-access parkways, over 2,600 miles of freight rail and more than 1,900 miles of navigable waterways.

“In Kentucky, our team of business development professionals recognize the fact that, for companies planning an expansion, the adage ‘time is money’ looms large,” said Jeff Taylor, business development commissioner for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. “From finding the perfect site or building to obtaining the necessary permits and everything in between, we aim to lower companies’ lead times to the greatest extent possible. Businesses are continuing to learn how this approach, along with Kentucky’s abundance of business-friendly traits, make this state an ideal landing spot for organizations seeking growth.”

These advantages, combined with several initiatives to make communities throughout the commonwealth more attractive to new industry, position Kentucky for economic growth in a post-pandemic world.

Through Kentucky’s Build-Ready program, for example, the state and its partners highlight that time is money. The Cabinet currently lists 16 Build-Ready certified sites, locations that stand ready to slice months from the schedules of companies wishing to quickly locate, start construction and open a new industrial building.

Build-Ready sites include a pad sized to accommodate a building up to 100,000 square feet or more, and utilities extending to the site’s edge. The designation also means the applicant—usually a city, county or economic development group—already filed the necessary permits, including water, environmental and geotechnical, as well as preliminary building plans, cost estimates and schedule projections.

Additionally, throughout the year communities across the state received—and continue to receive—potentially transformative funding. A recent example is a $36.5 million grant to support economic development projects, infrastructure upgrades and job creation in 54 Eastern Kentucky counties. Announced in late October, the Appalachian Regional Commission grant is the organization’s largest investment in a single state in decades, and it stands to diversify the economy for regions grappling with the country’s shifting energy landscape.

Another effort to help Kentucky communities win projects, the Product Development Initiative (PDI), saw nearly $3 million in Economic Development Fund grants awarded to eight Kentucky communities, selected by an objective, third-party consultant. This collaborative program between the Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Association for Economic Development and major utilities across the state supports the grant recipients’ plans to upgrade existing sites and buildings, making their Kentucky communities more competitive nationally. Examples of such projects include:

  • University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research Campus, the gateway to the high-tech, higher education corridor in Lexington, Kentucky, approved in September for $500,000 for construction of an office and laboratory building;
  • City of Bowling Green, approved in August for $250,000 to offset costs associated with CROWN Cork & Seal USA’s aforementioned $147 million project to construct a new advanced manufacturing facility; and
  • Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Authority, approved in April for a $500,000 grant for site leveling and grading, construction of a regional detention basin and to ensure utilities are available at the TJ Patterson Industrial Park.

Through these and numerous other initiatives and programs, tens of millions of dollars awarded to cities and counties throughout Kentucky will support upgrades of industrial sites and buildings, utilities infrastructure, roads and other improvements helping to prepare the state for future economic development.

These efforts further set the stage for a stronger, more resilient economy in Kentucky. Businesses considering an expansion are encouraged to contact the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development at (800) 626-2930 or visit to learn more about how the Bluegrass State helps companies grow.

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