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Photo: Kentucky Cabinet For Economic Development

Kentucky received a 2017 Gold Shovel award from Area Development magazine, recognizing the commonwealth’s success last year attracting corporate investments that create jobs and grow the economy, Gov. Matt Bevin and the publication’s editors announced earlier this week.

The honor, a first for Kentucky, follows the recent announcement that, in only five months of 2017, the state shattered its all-time, full-year record for corporate investment.

“This Gold Shovel award brings additional national attention to the fact Kentucky is a serious economic development contender, both in our recent achievements and for what we have in the pipeline,” Gov. Bevin said. “We’re making changes to improve Kentucky’s business climate by cutting red tape, revolutionizing our workforce development and building our reputation internationally as a top choice for engineering and manufacturing projects, tech investment and service-related businesses. We’re honored to receive this award and are moving forward with focus and urgency to bring investment and new jobs to communities across Kentucky.”

The annual Shovel Awards by Area Development, a leading trade publication, recognize state economic development agencies that drive significant job creation through innovative policies, infrastructure improvements, processes and promotions that attract new employers and investments in new and expanded facilities.

Area Development invited each of the 50 states to submit information about its top-10 job creation and investment projects initiated in 2016. Based on the number of high-value-added jobs per capita, amount of investment, number of new facilities and industry diversity of the 10 submitted projects, Kentucky qualified for the Gold Shovel award among states with populations between 3 million and 5 million. The top-10 projects and associated job creation figures are listed here and a full report of 2016 corporate investment is available here.

“The states and communities receiving 2017 Shovel Awards have compiled impressive lists of new and expanded facilities,” said Geraldine Gambale, editor of Area Development. “They have found the right recipe for success and deserve to be recognized for winning high-impact economic development projects.”

Commenting on Kentucky’s award, she noted “the state’s economic growth is broad-based, as evidenced by new projects under way in a diverse range of sectors, including automotive, distribution, biotech and food processing.”

Terry Gill, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development secretary, said he expects the performance to continue throughout this year.

“This Gold Shovel award not only highlights policy achievements at the state level, but also recognizes the dedicated work of our Cabinet staff and our partners,” Sec. Gill said. “Without enthusiastic participation from regional, county and city economic development organizations, the state’s business community, utilities, non-profits and educational institutions, the recent successes that drew this award and those that are propelling our current record-breaking performance wouldn’t be possible.”

Kentucky previously received Silver Shovel awards in 2007 and 2011–2016.

A full review of this year’s Gold and Silver Shovel award winners will be published in the Q2/2017 issue of Area Development and posted online at in early June.

This year’s corporate investments in Kentucky – at nearly $5.8 billion – already topped the 2015 record of $5.1 billion.

Those investments also put Kentucky on pace this year to create the most new jobs in a decade. To date in 2017, more than 9,500 new jobs have been announced. And the numbers for both jobs and investment are increasing daily.

Kentucky’s low costs of housing, innovative workforce-training and pipeline programs, and its ideal location within 600 miles of 60 percent of the U.S. population all make it a top choice for new business locations and expansions.

Nineteen interstates and highways, major rail networks, barge traffic on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, five commercial airports and dozens of regional airports all serve Kentucky businesses. As well, electricity costs for industrial use are nearly 20 percent lower than the national average.

Kentucky holds a leading position in air cargo capability, offering the UPS Worldport and Centennial ground hub in Louisville, DHL Americas hub and Amazon Prime Air in Northern Kentucky and several large FedEx facilities throughout the state. This strong distribution logistics presence allows products to move anywhere in the world virtually overnight.

The commonwealth’s geographic advantage as a gateway between the Midwest and South, make it an ideal location for engineering and manufacturing operations including steel and aluminum-related operations. A strong automotive, appliance and aerospace presence – including factory systems designers and integrators – provide new and expanding businesses with ready sources of raw materials, finished components, expertise and customers.

Other core and high-growth sectors include food and beverage production – which encompasses the bourbon and spirits industry – technology, healthcare research and development and chemicals and rubber production.

Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion on Facebook or follow on Twitter. Watch the Cabinet’s “This is My Kentucky” video on YouTube.