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Producer of America's Top Vehicles, Kentucky Uses Location and More to Outpace Auto-Industry Competitors

Area Development Online Research Desk (Automotive Site Guide 2007)
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Training assistance is another big draw. Kentucky's work force training programs have consistently ranked among the top 10 in the nation. One key Toyota supplier, Toyotetsu America, has saved more than $112,000 by using the Economic Development Cabinet's Bluegrass State Skills Corporation (BSSC) Grant-in-Aid program to help train nearly half its 1,300 employees.

Toyotetsu has been producing automotive frame structures and other parts in Kentucky for about a decade, starting with Somerset in April 1997. Since that time, the company has undergone multiple expansions at the Somerset plant and added a second plant across the state in Owensboro.

Herb Krase, Vice President of Administration for Toyotetsu America, says BSSC's assistance was critical - especially during startup: "This is a time when companies are always in a very vulnerable spot as far as potentially losing money."

But Krase says it's more than just the money. "BSSC is so versatile and flexible," he says. Production workers and team leaders alike underwent training, he says, and the curriculum ranged from equipment-maintenance training at a local technical college to in-house training at Toyotetsu's facilities.

The Cabinet's help is one reason his company has been able to expand a half-dozen times in its first decade. "So it benefits us, and the state benefits from it also," he says.

In March 2007, as a result of the passage of HB536, the BSSC received additional funding from the state legislature. As a result of the increase in funding, maximum grant size was increased from a flat $25,000 per company per fiscal year to a range of $50,000 to $200,000 (based on company size), and maximum grant amount for training consortia was increased from $75,000 to $200,000 per fiscal year. Allowable per-trainee costs for higher-waged jobs were also increased, and scoring criteria for determining eligibility was simplified.

Jim Medbery, senior vice president for the Binswanger Corporation in Atlanta and a man who has been involved in 40 major plant locations in Kentucky, says the Bluegrass state "always rates as one of the most pro-business states out there. From my personal experience, there has been very good, strong continuity among Kentucky's economic-development group. And the quality of service they provide is excellent. They're really intelligent, bright, pro-business people. They're just great to work with."

Toyota's Wiseman says Kentucky boasts something that's hard to put on a list. "It's a can-do spirit that you don't find everywhere," he says.

One major site selection magazine has consistently ranked Kentucky among the top states for overall competitiveness, most recently placing sixth for 2006, while Development Counsellors International ranked the Bluegrass State among the Top 10 business climates.

Sunroof maker Webasto Roof Systems says Kentucky's staff has continued to prove it can accomplish what the business executive wants. "Kentucky didn't roll out the red tape, they rolled out the red carpet," says Fred Olson, Webasto's president and CEO. "Their people are extremely cooperative, they provided a lot of assistance, and they helped us get a lot of things get done quickly."

That is why Webasto started with a plant in Lexington in 1998 and has since added an additional Lexington facility and one in Murray. "We've had nothing but good experience after good experience after good experience," says Olson. "The people there take economic development in the state of Kentucky extremely seriously. They don't pay it lip service; they work hard to make it a fact."


J.R. Wilhite, Commissioner, New Business Development
Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
Old Capitol Annex
300 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Tel: 800-626-2930
Fax: 502-564-3256
www.thinkkentucky.com
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