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