Snapshots: 60 Seconds With Terry Gill, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

Gill, Secretary, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, discusses the commonwealth's workforce revolution, distribution and logistics industry, STEM-related jobs, and Build-Ready Certification.

By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2017 Issue

BF: Braidy Industries announced earlier this year that it will build a $1.3-billion aluminum rolling mill in Greenup County, creating 550 jobs. What is your strategy to keep the momentum going for an economic revival in the eastern part of Kentucky?

Terry Gill, Secretary, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
Terry Gill, Secretary, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

TG: Eastern Kentucky offers a wealth of resources and opportunities for manufacturing, service and technology-related companies. Along with partners in and outside the region, our cabinet is assisting in development, positioning and marketing of those resources to interested companies across the globe. Economic development is a multifactorial business. Our partners and we are addressing infrastructure such as river ports, highways, workforce initiatives, community, sites and buildings preparation.

Braidy Industries Chairman and CEO Craig Bouchard recently said the region’s pool of available, talented workers ought to be seriously attractive for advanced-manufacturing employers. In the first 60 days after he and Gov. Matt Bevin announced the plant, the company received 3,500 applications from talented and qualified people across the job-description spectrum—that was for 550 jobs two years from now. Kentucky is in the middle of a workforce revolution. Initiatives include pipeline programs for high school students, skills training for mid-career employees, our innovative Justice to Journeyman program, full-tuition scholarships for in-demand careers, and large-scale reinvestments in training facilities. These and other highly effective programs help ensure businesses can hire the skilled employees they need now and into the future. Our cabinet works closely with a broad range of partners—communities, cities, counties, utilities, multi-county regions and other state and federal agencies—to prepare localities for development. For example, we recently announced a Build-Ready site for Ashland, the availability of which coincides with likely additional development Braidy Industries will generate.

BF: Amazon Prime’s decision to put its air-freight hub at Northern Kentucky’s CVG airport ensures that the Bluegrass State will be a global logistics leader for decades to come. Is KY’s leadership in logistics a major driver of growth in Kentucky?

TG: The commonwealth’s distribution and logistics industry absolutely draws additional corporate investment. UPS, which operates the Worldport air hub and Centennial ground hub in Louisville, tells us their presence has been a factor in locating 250 businesses in the greater Louisville area, representing more than 13,000 jobs and a $300 million-plus payroll. We expect to see the Amazon Prime Air hub in Northern Kentucky help draw new corporate investments in the same manner. Earlier this year, iServe Products Inc., a distributor of health, household, beauty, personal care and other products, announced a 100-job, $4.2 million distribution center in Northern Kentucky, specifically to be near Amazon Prime Air. The two UPS hubs, DHL’s international air-shipping hub in Northern Kentucky, Amazon Prime Air, and a substantial FedEx presence statewide collectively provide a level of logistics services nearly unparalleled anywhere. With Amazon’s buildout of its Prime Air hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, the state will at the top nationally in air-cargo shipment volume. A strong presence by the world’s most prestigious logistics companies means products manufactured in Kentucky can get anywhere in the world virtually overnight. That makes us a strong contender for investment by businesses reliant on shipping for materials, parts and finished products.

BF: Is Kentucky prepared to compete for STEM-oriented jobs, including in the emerging growth sector of cybersecurity?

TG: We know very well the increased need for a workforce that can fill STEM-related jobs, and our educational institutions are doing a great job in adjusting for those requirements. Education to prepare students for STEM positions begins before they even reach a college campus. High schools across the state recognize these opportunities and strive to provide students multiple career options and a head start in their preparations.

One of the latest examples of this is the Ignite Institute of Roebling Center in Northern Kentucky. Toyota donated the facility, which had served as the company’s Quality and Production Engineering Laboratory. The Ignite Institute goes even further by incorporating arts for a STEAM-based education. The center focuses on non-traditional educational methods that involve problem solving and teamwork. Enrollment is on pace to exceed 1,000 students when the institute opens for the 2019-2020 school year.

In Louisville, we have seen years worth of success from the Ford Next Generation Learning program, which helps prepare future scientists, inventors, public servants and entrepreneurs by providing real-world applications in classroom curricula. Now, the program is expanding statewide to include high schools in both rural and urban settings.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System, as well as our four-year universities, have greatly expanded that focus with a range of STEM and STEAM-based courses. The growth and success of engineering programs at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University reflect the increased interest and importance given to these areas.

BF: EastPark industrial park recently became the 14th location statewide to earn Kentucky’s Build-Ready Certification. What are the requirements for this certification?

TG: We began the Build-Ready program about three years ago and already have announced 15 locations statewide with a number of others moving toward certification. Build-Ready certification informs potential employers they can save significant amounts of time during the planning, design and construction process versus a typical new location project. Build-Ready assures that utilities, zoning, permits and even a building pad are all taken care of before a company has made the decision to locate. The program is one of the many ways Kentucky removes obstacles that stand between employers and putting Kentuckians to work. To qualify as Build-Ready, an application—typically on behalf of the city, county or economic-development authority—must be submitted, and the site must include a building pad at least 50,000 square feet (expandable to 100,000 square feet or more). Utilities—water, sewer, natural gas and electric—must also be in place and reach the property border. Permits including water, environmental, archeological and geotechnical are completed for all Build-Ready sites, as are cost estimates, preliminary building plans and schedule projections.