LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — "An economy on fire." That's how Governor Andy Beshear is describing the economic state of Kentucky.
The Commonwealth is adding thousands of new jobs as the rebound continues from the lows of the pandemic.
On Tuesday afternoon, the governor was the keynote speaker of the day's luncheon at the Kentucky Association of Economic Development's conference.
The conference was at the Mariott City Center in downtown Lexington. This was not Beshear's first time at the hotel.
He was in his second month as governor when he participated in the ribbon-cutting to open the complex. The pandemic hit Kentucky less than two months later.
"How good does it feel to be here in person," said Beshear to the crowd of hundreds.
As he approaches his third year as governor, the pandemic has dominated the focus of his administration, the economy, and the news cycle.
Beshear also took a moment to point out the human toll the virus has had on Kentuckians.
"One that has now taken almost 9,700 Kentuckians from us," said Beshear.
After the surge of hospitalizations due to the delta variant over the latter part of the summer, Beshear says the positivity rate is in a decline once again.
"It has been a test of our humanity, and in large part, I believe that we have passed. And while we still have a ways to go, things are looking a whole lot better," said Beshear.
He said that starts with an economy that is not just reopening but adding more industries to the state's portfolio.
Beshear: “if anybody wants to make fun of our accents, we’ll steal their jobs too.” Says he is encouraging companies to make investments in the state, including recent ones by Ford and Toyota @LEX18News— Conroy Delouche (@ConroyDelouche) November 2, 2021
"Just at the end of last week, we were able to announce a record $10 billion of new investment here in Kentucky," said Beshear.
More than half of the $10 billion in new investments is from the automotive industry. That includes a recently announced $460 million expansion project for Toyota in Georgetown and the $5.8 billion Ford plant coming to Hardin County.
More businesses and jobs arriving is good news. But what about the companies in Kentucky already struggling just to fill their staff?
"We've hit a moment in time where the different factors that are hitting the workforce are growing and have not been addressed for decades. Things like child care, retirement of the boomers, too many folks who have worked in the gig economy who are asked to do the same thing every day. Too much disability, people too unhealthy to work," said Beshear. "Part of what we're focused on is the next generation of workers. Not losing one person, whether they want to go into a career out of high school or community and technical college or out of the university, that we get them the moment that they graduate. We have enough talent right here in Kentucky. We just have to better connect them to the employers."
As the economy continues to rebound from the pandemic, Beshear says he's optimistic that even more companies will invest in Kentucky's future.
"We are folks that get things done. We have a strong workforce. We have a tradition of working in industries where you show up, you put in hard day's work, and you believe in that company and help that company move them forward," said Beshear.