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Kentucky Poised to Pass Crowd in Challenging Market

The automotive industry has encountered some well-documented speed bumps these past few years, but Kentucky is solidly positioned to keep the ride smooth.

Automotive Site Guide 2008
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Despite unprecedented challenges facing the auto industry, Ford announced in July of this year that both Louisville plants remained firmly ensconced in the company's long-range plans. In fact, Ford said, the Louisville Assembly Plant will be retooled for production of smaller, more fuel-efficient passenger cars now popular in Europe.

"When it comes to Ford Motor Company, Louisville has had more lives than most cats," said Governor Steve Beshear after the announcement. "Ford is making it perfectly clear that the company is betting its future success in the automotive industry on Louisville, Kentucky."

Ford's history here began in 1913, when Henry Ford himself started a small factory near downtown Louisville. Two years later, Model T's and other vehicles began rolling out of what was then a cutting-edge industrial facility on South Third Street near the University of Louisville. Ford operations moved to a new facility on South Western Parkway in 1925, surviving the devastating flood of 1937 and a temporary conversion to military manufacturing during World War II.

The South Western Parkway factory closed in 1955, replaced by the much larger and more modern Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road near the Louisville airport. Fourteen years later, Ford opened the Kentucky Truck Plant on the east side of town, at Westport Road and Chamberlain Lane. Production continues to this day at both the Fern Valley Road and Chamberlain Lane plants, with total employment of around 6,000. The Kentucky Truck Plant, now 4.6 million square feet, is the second-largest Ford assembly plant in North America.

GM's New Beast Breaks Free

General Motors (GM) has a major plant here too - and exciting news as well. In 1981, GM moved production of the Chevrolet Corvette from St. Louis to Bowling Green, Kentucky, which remains today as the exclusive home of the iconic sportscar. The plant's 1,100 employees also build the Cadillac XLR luxury roadster.

This summer, GM unveiled its most spectacular Corvette ever, the limited-edition, supercharged 2009 ZR1, which has been wowing automotive writers and has set gearheads on a frenzied search for new hyperbole. We know of at least one writer who has already ranked the new ZR1 among the 10 greatest American cars of all time, and company officials promise the new 'Vette can outperform anything on the market, including whatever prized supercar you'd care to name.

The Corvette has such a devoted following that each year, 140,000 sportscar enthusiasts from around the world visit Bowling Green to experience the National Corvette Museum, located just a quarter-mile from the assembly plant. The museum is undergoing a $9 million expansion to accommodate the crowds.

Other Kentucky Advantages
Our manufacturing partners say Kentucky offers important advantages over most other states:

• Central location. Besides greatly reducing the shipping costs of its products, Kentucky's location also puts it smack-dab in the heart of the auto supply industry. This allows manufacturers to rely on just-in-time delivery of parts and saves money.
• Low energy costs. Year after year, coal-rich Kentucky offers some of the lowest industrial power costs in the nation - in many cases, less than half what it might cost to operate elsewhere.
An administration that goes out of its way to accommodate manufacturers. Kentucky has an experienced economic development staff that understands business and works hard to reduce the red tape.
• Training assistance tailored to the manufacturer. One key Toyota supplier, Toyotetsu America, said using the Economic Development Cabinet's Bluegrass State Skills Corporation (BSSC) has saved the company more than $112,000 training many of its 1,300 employees. A state assistance package also allowed Toyotetsu to create a training center at its Somerset facility that is used by other North American plants.

Check under the hood yourself for Kentucky's many advantages.

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

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